Awaiting O-Week


Although first-years won’t start Orientation Week for another eight days, housing staff is busy preparing for their arrival. Many Resident Heads—the adult couples living in each of the 38 houses—moved in weeks ago, and the last of the third- and fourth-year Resident Assistants arrived Tuesday. Now the bunch faces intense training and planning for the thousands of students who will soon crowd campus. “Once the O-Aides come,” says Johanna Gray, ’05, Vincent House’s RA, “it all happens really fast.”

This is Gray’s second year in Vincent House, but for 27 RAs and 17 RH couples, housing work is a new experience. “I’m really less freaked out than I was last year,” laughs Gray, while first-time RH Sacari Thomas-Mohamed admits her excitement is tinged with worry that her residents will dislike her. Katie Callow-Wright, director of the University housing system, says she focuses on training new RHs for O-Week, which she describes as “a critical time to get to know first-years individually.”

The schedule for new and old housing staff alike reads like alphabet soup: presenters come from relevant campus offices including SCC (Student Care Center), UCPD (University of Chicago Police Department), SCRS (Student Counseling and Resource Service), CPO (College Programming Office), RSVP (Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention), and OMSA (Office of Minority Student Affairs). But Callow-Wright is the first to point out that the training isn’t intended to be comprehensive. Rather, it aims to acquaint staff with resources that will help them build communities, develop relationships, deal with emergencies, and handle administrative responsibilities.

Tonight the housing staff will hold a banquet, a welcome respite from days of 9 to 5 training. Activities such as the banquet, ice-breakers, and snack times, Callow-Wright says, are ways for the RAs and RHs to foster a community of colleagues “who are in the same boat.” “It’s the last chance to focus on ourselves as a group,” Gray says from her empty dorm, “before we turn to our houses.”

Leila S. Sales, ’06

Photos: resident heads and assistants take a snack break from training week (top); the group settles in for a two-hour training session on planning house activities (bottom).

September 10, 2004