So, awhile back they (whoever they are is, I am not sure) came out with a revised food pyramid. Instead of servings it has amounts that someone who eats 1,800 calories a day should eat. Here is a link to the new chart. The different amounts are; 6 oz. of grains, with at least half being whole grains, two and a half cups of vegetable, one and a half cups of fruit, three cups of dairy, and 5 oz. of meat and beans. There is also a tiny silver for fats, oils, and sugars.
How does this relate to student affairs or housing? Well, just like your body needs various amounts of food to be healthy, RAs need various amounts of different skills to be successful in their job. For myself, what I want my RAs on staff to have in their pyramid goes something like this. RAs need to have a good grasp on their schoolwork and need to be academically focused. After all, they are students first and foremost. I am gonna call this academic focus their vegs, so two and a half cups. Next they need to be focused on community building, a big part of being an RA is creating community. Having a good community can affect a lot of things, it can reduce policy violations, improve programming performance, etc. I am going to call this the meat and beans, 5 oz. there we go. RAs also need to be able to create good programs. This can also be grouped under community building but I think it is important enough for its own piece of the pyramid. Good programming helps to build community, increases satisfaction, helps students develop and grow, and many more things. I am going to call this the fruits piece, one and a half cups.
If you look at the new pyramid, the two biggest pieces are grains and dairy. I think RAs also need to have a personal life, personal development, and time to themselves. Yes, they are on call. Yes, they need to interact with residents. Yes, they are students. But, they are also young adults. Everyone in our field recognizes the importance of work/life balance, or at least you should. RAs need it too. Therefore, I am calling personal life the dairy section. If you don’t get enough dairy your bones become brittle and can break. The same thing happens with work, if you don’t balance it out then you burn out. Three cups of personal life. In terms of grains, I see that as teamwork in my staff. Without teamwork, we can’t do our job appropriately. There are 24 RAs on this staff, if they don’t communicate issues, problems, programs or collaborate and help each other no one would know what is going on. Now I know this isn’t really an RA skill but it is one of the hardest things to teach. We always try to teach it, but also always come back to trying to improve it. Teamwork is important, housing professionals and student staff members can not do it alone, they must work together. Just like whole grains and white bread (or empty grains?) some types of communication and teamwork are better than others. Make sure you are getting 6 oz. of the good type of teamwork.
So, where is policy enforcement? Its the small sliver reserved for fats, oils, and sugars. Unlike the pyramid, it is very important to my RA staff. It is something that needs to happen and happen correctly when appropriate. However, it is not something I want my RAs to been known for. I want them to be known as community builders and role-models, not the police. But when it is needed they know how bring out the skittles, just like when you have a craving for something sweet.
Maybe I left something out, maybe I should’ve include role-modeling in my pyramid. What would your RA pyramid look like?