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Practical Leadership Skills in Residential Life

What’s Involved. D-Prep is excited to offer a three-part series on the topic of Practical Leadership Skills in Residential Life. Each 90-minute course is aimed at residential life hall directors, training, and orientation staff to ensure they have quality access to the latest research, guidance, and advice from our subject matter experts.

Why It is Needed. After listening to several of our community partners, we confirmed that many schools across the country are facing experienced staff shortages in resident director positions. This means hiring staff with less experience, often with bachelor’s rather than master’s degrees, and placing an increasing demand on their leadership skills in management, supervision, crisis counseling, mental illness awareness and administrative and educational programming abilities.

Part I: Building the Toolkit

Our presenters review the importance of the residential life program and how it is vital, now more than ever, in student retention, academic progress, social growth, mental and physical disability support, crisis de-escalation, student conduct, BIT/CARE referrals, supervision, RA development, documentation, and community building. Few positions on campus have such a wide and deep set of job duties and this session offers practical advice and guidance on how to balance these responsibilities, grow a team and ensure your own mental and physical health stays on track.

  • An overview of the full range of responsibilities residential life leadership staff must undertake

  • The importance of being prepared before the skills are needed (referrals, forms, documentation)

  • Keeping your cool: A practical guide to crisis de-escalation skills

  • Working with community partners

  • Understanding stress reactions and burnout prevention from the start

Part II: Building Community and Supervising the Staff

Building a community is no easy task. We will discuss how building a community for your resident advisors becomes a parallel process for helping them build their own community. Drawing from Fitch and Van Brunt’s book Leading Across Generations, the presenters share with you some practice advice about building a community and how to set up supervision with your staff in a way that works.

  • Importance of community building

  • Themed housing, counselor-in-residence

  • From throwing FISH! and moving cheese

  • Myers Briggs and Gallup Strength Finder

  • Choosing your approach to supervision

Part III: Building Readiness to Respond to Supervision Challenges

There is a saying: every ship at the bottom of the ocean had a map. Sometimes, the best laid plans don’t go as planned. We will review how to approach seven difficult scenarios that come up for resident directors and residential life leadership staff. The presenters draw from concepts introduced in previous courses and discuss the importance of addressing problems early and often, what is required for good documentation, and review ten common RA challenges.

  • Early addressing of behavior and consistent meetings

  • Identifying common RA problems: overachieving/committed, need for constant praise, checked out of the job, home problems impacting work performance, argumentative and contrary, lacking inertia and initiative, strong start/bad follow through, boundary problems, and overzealous rule enforcement.

  • Developing performance improvement plans

  • Having hard conversations and termination

  • Clear documentation

More details on our Residential Life Page

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