Being a Community Advisor: A Major Leadership Opportunity

The House Model at Carnegie Mellon University is built around close-knit communities, professional staff, exceptional student leaders and engaged residents.

Community Advisors (CAs) provide a vision for how daily life can be run in each of the housing communities. They make every resident feel at home, foster positivity and inclusiveness in the halls and lead by example, balancing their personal academics with 24/7 mentorship and teamwork. It’s a challenging but immensely fulfilling role, one that prepares students for post-graduation by instilling leadership, supervision and administrative skills that are invaluable to any future occupation.

The Office of Residential Education will be posting CA applications for 2019-2020 on November 1.

 

Let’s learn more about the CA role from James Biltz, a current Community Advisor for the Intersection.

 

What are the main traits that you think a CA should possess?

This may be a cop-out answer, but I don’t think there are any main traits. One of the greatest things about CA-ing is that you get to design how you want to create community, so I think everyone does this in a way that plays to their best traits.

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“One of the greatest things about CA-ing is that you get to design how you want to create community.”

You have to be a flexible, of course, because you’re creating a vision for a housing community with your housefellows and the RAs. So, you also have to keep in mind their traits and strengths and modify your method to help them do the best job possible.

I-Staff-18-19-Fun

The Intersection 2018-2019 staff with James Blitz (far left in front).

Why did you want to be a CA?

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for a lot of the mentoring my previous CAs gave me.  I wanted to become a CA to contribute to the RAs professional development, because RA-ing is such a powerful learning opportunity, too.

 

What are the best parts of the job and what are the challenges?

My favorite part of the job is meeting with RAs for one-on-ones.  That’s time where I catch up with the RAs, ask them how they’re doing, and talk through any issues they’ve had inside and outside the role.  I think this is where a lot of professional development happens, but it’s also just fun conversation!  I like to get to know people and learn about what they like, and one-on-ones are a built-in opportunity to do that

Challenges would be the times where you need to have difficult conversations (because you are a supervisor in the role).

West Wing and Resnik House Staff Portraits

The 2018-2019 staff of West Wing and Resnik.

 

How is a CA different from an RA?

CAs are there to help the RAs handle resident situations, rather than handling the situations themselves.  As a CA, you’re the one thinking ahead for a lot of staff things.  As an RA, I just got to walk into staff meetings, but now I have to spend a bit of time coming up with an agenda beforehand. I still plan events, though a little less than the RAs, and take duty.

 

How does the application and interview process work?

My year, we first had to attend one info session before applying. Then, we submitted a personal essay and resume in late November.  A week or so later, we each had to give a 10-minute presentation to all the housefellows about our values and how they relate to the residential curriculum. The presentation can be whatever you want (format-wise), so you’re given a lot of freedom to just talk about yourself.  They’ll ask a few questions pertaining to your presentation. Then you have a more traditional, behavioral interview with two housefellows. Finally, you have a 15-minute or so meeting with a housefellow on ResED leadership to reflect about the process and bring up any concerns you have with it. So, you can mention at the end if you thought one part of your application felt weak, or something, and explain it. It’s a long process, but it feels very rewarding!

 

 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a CA?

It’s a learning experience for you, too, so don’t be afraid to mess up and refine whatever you’re doing!  Even though you’re a leader, you don’t have to be perfect.  Just know your strengths and use that to your advantage in the process.

 

If this sounds like a rewarding experience, learn more and apply to be a CA.

 

What do you think about the CMU House Model? Let us know in the comments!

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