It was Sep­tember 2014 and Kristin Rouleau was working as a res­i­dent assis­tant at 337 Hunt­ington Ave., a five-​​story apart­ment com­plex directly across from the Krentzman Quad. Rouleau, BHS’16/​DPT’17, was respon­sible for more than three dozen second-​​year stu­dents, including an intro­verted phar­macy major who was expe­ri­encing some school-​​related stress.

She and the phar­macy major got to talking often, dis­cussing study tips and relax­ation tech­niques for coping with her aca­d­emic work­load. But as the semester wore on, she real­ized that she could do more to help her new friend.

In October, Rouleau hit on an idea, orga­nizing a canvas-​​painting pro­gram aimed at alle­vi­ating pre-​​exam anx­iety. It was dubbed “Paint away your stress” and drew scores of stu­dents, including the phar­macy major.

I picked up on one of my resident’s needs,” Rouleau said on Wednesday, National Res­i­dent Assis­tant Appre­ci­a­tion Day, “and then pro­vided an avenue through which she could over­come her stress.”

‘Galentine’s Day’

This is just one example of the care, com­pas­sion, and matu­rity that Northeastern’s 220-​​odd res­i­dent assis­tants bring to the job. As para­pro­fes­sional employees of the Depart­ment of Housing and Res­i­den­tial Life, they mon­itor the safety and well-​​being of approx­i­mately 9,000 stu­dents living in more than three dozen res­i­dence halls and apart­ment com­plexes across campus. They orga­nize edu­ca­tional pro­grams and foster com­mu­nity engage­ment. They mediate room­mate con­flicts, walking the fine line between friends and rule enforcer, and hone their lead­er­ship acumen in the process.

I appre­ciate how ded­i­cated our RA staff is when it comes to being there for their res­i­dents and helping them with what­ever they need,” said Dave Grimes, assis­tant director of res­i­den­tial life. “The RA job is not an easy one, and our RAs go above and beyond to make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of their residents.”

Some­times RAs make a big impact on the stu­dents they serve, whether it’s by helping them cope with anx­iety or finding venues in which they can express their true selves without fear of reper­cus­sion. Other times, the impact is more subtle but no less heartfelt.

Take Anika Krause, SSH17, a pop­ular RA in Speare Hall. On Sat­urday, Krause led a “Galentine’s Day” event inspired by the TV show Parks and Recre­ation, in which char­acter Leslie Knope and her girl­friends leave their sig­nif­i­cant others back home on the day before Valentine’s Day and “kick it breakfast-​​style.”

At Krause’s ver­sion of the pre-Valentine’s Day event, the female par­tic­i­pants had to name three things they loved, including one thing about them­selves, their room­mates, and their friends. After­ward, Krause noticed that one of the par­tic­i­pants had cre­ated a Galentine’s Day Snapchat story in which she called her “the best RA ever.” As Krause put it, “That was one of the great, little moments that come from being an RA. You can see how much the stu­dents appre­ciate what you’re doing and the impact you’re making.”

A friend and a mentor

Krause is good friends with her Speare Hall charges, to be sure, 25 in all. One of them is Mara Tazartus, DMSB’20.

For Tazartus, Krause is a con­fi­dant, a voice of reason amid the chaos of col­lege life. When she’s feeling stressed and over­whelmed, working hard to bal­ance class with extracur­ric­ular activ­i­ties, she seeks the wisdom of her RA.

Anika always reminds me that life goes on after a rough day or a low quiz grade and makes me remember all that I have accom­plished since I got to campus in August,” Tazartus said. “She inspires me to be a more caring person and is part of the reason why I applied to be an RA.”

At North­eastern, Tazartus’ expe­ri­ence is the norm. Just ask Bryan Peng, DMSB’19, a first-​​year stu­dent living in Speare Hall.

Peng’s RA is David McDe­vitt, SSH’18. He’s a role model, Peng said, a slightly older and wiser stu­dent from whom he seeks advice on every­thing from co-​​op to time-​​management. “It’s really cool how I can just email him or knock on his door if I ever need help,” Peng explained. “Not only that, I don’t feel intim­i­dated or scared to talk to him because it’s always so casual.”

Nicole Hays, S’17, is another Speare Hall RA from whom Peng seeks guidance.

A fourth-​​year biology major on the pre-​​med track, she draws par­al­lels between her desire to become a doctor and her work as an RA. “I’ve def­i­nitely learned that I really enjoying working with people,” she said of the expe­ri­ence. “It’s some­thing I could do every day for the rest of my life and be so happy.”