Staff Bonding 101

by Christopher Wood

In my last post, I discussed the concept of building a close-knit community within your residence halls. I believe that a close-knit community starts with the staff in that community.
If you have ever worked in housing, you know how important it is to make sure that your student staff starts off the year strong. This begins the moment that training begins, because as we all know, our student leaders are very busy once the school year starts, and getting them all together beyond a staff meeting is next to impossible. Here are some tips and ideas that I think can help any staff, whether in housing or another functional area, become close from the beginning.

1. Eating together. In my opinion, a great way to get a new staff talking to each other is to make sure you take time during training to have your staff eat together. I truly believe that some of the best conversations occur over food. So far during our Resident Advisor training, I have heard students talking about a multitude of things, ranging from the happenings of their summer to their goals for the year. The other day, I actually heard a group of my student leaders discussing a controversial political topic, and even though they did not all agree, I was happy and proud to hear them talking in such a respectful way to one another.
2. Community Service. This weekend, our building staff volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House of Columbus and had a great time! We baked cookies and put together treat bags for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. The Senior Staff in our building decided early on to search for a community service event for our staff to engage in. We were worried that our students might not be thrilled about taking time out of their free Saturday during training, but they were all really happy about volunteering. Even after our trip, many of our RAs were asking if we could make this a regular occurrence throughout the school year.
3. Social activities. Make sure to have times where your staff can have fun together and not talk about work. Plan a staff outing, whether it is watching a movie or going somewhere fun like Magic Mountain. It is important for the staff to become friends outside of their job, especially since they are going to be spending the whole next year living together in the same building.
4. Plan time to get to know people individually. This wasn’t as much of an issue at my undergraduate institution because our Hall Directors had a one on one meeting with each RA of the building every week. In my current building, we have one Hall Director and two Assistant Hall Directors, and we each directly supervise between 5 and 8 of the 20 RAs in our building. Since none of us supervise the whole staff, we are planning to take time to get to know the RAs that we do not supervise. Personally, I am planning on having the RAs that I do not supervise, a few at a time, come to my apartment for a meal (something simple like a spaghetti dinner or taco bar).

There are many other ways to get to know them, too, if you are weary of inviting them to your apartment.

What are ways that you create a close-knit student-staff, whether or not it is in housing?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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