Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Dr. Leonard Newman
Dr. Lisa Szafran
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Psychology | Social Psychology
The purpose of this study was to determine students’ misconceptions about the resident advisor (RA) role and to further examine the effects of those misconceptions on attitudes toward RAs. The research also aimed to shed light on stereotypes about RAs and ascertain the implications of those stereotypes. Typical misconceptions about RAs include the notions that they lack time for social activities and lead lives that revolve solely around their duties as resident advisors. Stereotypes have consequences, and the possible consequences of these misconceptions include lack of appreciation for the position, displays of disrespect, negative perceptions and judgments toward RAs, and a reluctance to consider becoming an RA.
There were two primary subject pools for the study. One consisted of Syracuse University undergraduate students who had lived in a residence hall for at least one semester in college. The second sample of participants consisted of students who are currently resident advisors. All non-resident advisor participants completed a seven-page assessment with a variety of measures. Part one sought to determine students’ overall attitudes toward RAs. Part 2 consisted of a questionnaire in which participants provided their estimates of how much time RAs spend on their duties as RAs relative to other aspects of their lives, such as socializing with friends. Participants were then asked to directly indicate their interest in serving as resident advisors. They were also presented with four scenarios that are typical of a resident advisor's experience and were asked to explain how they believe the RA would react to the incident. The final page of the assessment requested demographic information. The assessment for resident advisors consisted of one chart in which resident advisors indicated the percentage of time they spent on various activities, as well as the four scenarios and demographics page that was also included in the non-resident advisor assessment.
The results indicated that students do not perceive RAs in an overwhelmingly negative or stereotypical light. Students did not believe that RA duties and responsibilities crowded out any other aspect of their lives in particular. Students also believe most resident advisors would respond to potential infractions in the residence halls by first issuing a warning rather than immediately documenting the student for the behavior (indeed, they seemed to under-estimate the extent to which RAs would document students). However, most students indicated only slight interest in the position, and overall attitudes toward RAs predicted their level of interest. Such findings suggest that negative stereotypes of resident advisors are tempered by relatively positive views of individuals about the position that are generated through positive personal experiences. This information could inform future research in residence life and student affairs departments at a number of universities.
Porter, Shyneice C., "Exploring Student Perceptions of Resident Advisors" (2014). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 803.
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