Meet the 2020-2021 resident assistants

Aug 25, 2020
resident assistants

Newman students living in residence halls have access to a built-in support system through their resident assistants (RAs).

A designated number of RAs live in each residence hall to help guide students through their year.

RAs take on a multitude of responsibilities including taking care of any housing issues, hosting fun activities for residents, aiding students with any college-related questions, and helping students overall have a positive experience in the residence halls. On top of all of that, RAs are working toward their own degrees and some are also part of an athletic team or involved in other activities, keeping a very busy schedule.

Turner Middendorf is serving as the interim Residence Life Director for the 2020-2021 academic year and on move-in day said he was excited to see students on campus again.

The eight RAs at Newman this year are:

Colton Shaw

  • Senior
  • Biology Major
  • Carrocci Hall
  • Second year as an RA

“I became a RA to be a role model for other young freshmen coming to Newman. I’m looking forward to just seeing people come back and see a lively campus,” Shaw said.

Tip for residents: “The best tip is just to be yourself and don’t be afraid of showing that off. Even though this year will be constraining in some aspects, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so.”

Rebecca Ortiz

  • Sophomore
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography
  • Carrocci Hall
  • First year as an RA
  • Chorale, Jets for Life club member

“I wanted to become an RA because I really enjoy meeting new people and helping others. The free room and board was an extra incentive as it helps my family financially.

“I am most looking forward to meeting all the new students and the returners that I have not had a chance to meet. I am also looking forward to helping make this year positive and productive,” she said.

Ortiz has many activities planned including a scavenger hunt, outdoor movie night, self-defense classes and more.

Tip for residents: “I recommend that students regulate how much time they spend on their phones and other electronic devices and instead use that time to make friends and spend time outside. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to me or your hallmates. Everyone is just as confused and stressed about the start of the school year as you are, and it’s easier to go through it together than it is to do it all on your own.”

Rylee Meloy

  • Senior
  • Biology
  • Carrocci Hall
  • First year as an RA
  • Women’s Basketball

“I wanted to be an RA to get to know more people and to be a helping hand,” said Meloy. “I’m looking forward to seeing how people adapt to this crazy world we live in now.”

As far as resident activities go, Meloy has plans for a chips, salsa and study night.

Tip for residents: “Don’t let the pandemic cause you to not be social. There are still ways to get involved and make the most of your college experience.”

Hayden VanDepol

  • Junior
  • Accounting
  • Beata Hall
  • First year as an RA
  • Baseball

“I became an RA because I felt that it would be a great way to become more invested with the Newman community,” said VanDepol.

“I think I am looking forward to being able to go watch sporting events and watch all of our athletes compete again. I know that it might not happen right away but I continue to have hope that it will so we can all enjoy our respective sports.”

VanDepol has an event planned for his residents where they’ll take part in Amazing Race-inspired activities around campus and the teams who finish first will be given prizes.

Tip for residents: “Even though we have to go through certain guidelines and even though it is annoying, it is something that everyone is asked to do and the best way to get through it is to just go with what we are being asked to do. We all wanted to be back on campus this fall and we the students are the ones who decide whether we stay open or get shut down based on our actions.”

Ivan Balavage

  • Junior
  • Nursing
  • Beata Hall
  • 1.5 years as an RA
  • Wrestling, Fellowship of Christian Athletes

“I became an RA to build better connections with students, along with reaching out to make more friends with students I usually wouldn’t talk too,” said Balavage.

He is looking forward to talking to people he hasn’t seen in awhile as everyone returns to campus, even with physical distancing guidelines in place.

Tip for residents: “It will be different than past years but still try to make the most of the situation that is given to you.”

Katie Sullivan

  • Senior
  • Biology – pre-physical therapy
  • Fugate Hall
  • Third year as an RA
  • Cheer and Dance Team, SAAC, Campus Ministry, Journalism

“I wanted to become an RA after one of my good friends suffered from some health problems freshman year. After helping her out, I felt that I could have something to add to the staff,” said Sullivan.

“I am looking forward to having life back on campus. The residents make our lives 10 times more interesting, so it will be nice to have a bit more excitement around here.”

Sullivan is looking forward to creating fun physical-distanced activities like outdoor movies and games.

Tip for students: “I would recommend that students take time for themselves this year. It is going to be very different and more challenging, but I know that we can all get through it if we take care of ourselves. With that being said, don’t be afraid to have fun, but just be safe about it.”

Gabby Altenor

Photo credit: Jaden Powell
  • Senior
  • Biology — minors in Spanish and pre-law
  • Fugate Hall
  • Second year as an RA
  • Honors Program, Student Government Association president, Future Legal Professionals of Wichita club member, Black Student Union member

“I became an RA for many reasons. However, the biggest is that being an RA allows me to branch out and meet more people on campus, instead of staying comfortable knowing the people I’ve grown up with since I’m from Wichita. This job has gifted me the ability to truly build relationships with many different people in our campus community,” said Altenor.

“I’m looking forward to being here for students in this new normal. My job as a RA on campus has always meant providing a safe space for students to grow and live, and I think that will be even more so during a year like this. I’m also excited to be able to see everyone in person rather than on Zoom meetings.”

Altenor said this year has forced the RAs to be even more creative with their activities than in the past. “That said, I definitely have tons of surprise plans and I can’t wait to put them on for the students,” she said.

Tip for residents: “Attend hall events where you can get to know and spend time with your neighbors and friends. You never know when the privilege to pass this time in person can go away, and you’ll miss it when it’s gone or when you graduate. Take full advantage of the opportunities you’re given every day.”

Jon Coufal

  • Senior
  • Biology
  • Fugate Hall
  • Third year as an RA
  • Baseball, Jets for Life club, Student Alumni Board member, SAAC secretary, Campus Ministry

“I am looking forward to just seeing people again and being able to slowly return to college. It’s not going to be the same as it was before, but it’ll be way better in my opinion to just be back into the school setting rather than doing everything online,” said Coufal.

Tip for residents: “Returning to campus with COVID still being a thing, we need to make the most of the situation. It is not ideal and not as awesome as normal, but keep a positive attitude and be thankful for the opportunity to be back in person again rather than being at home. If we all keep positive, it’ll be a very fun year. We are working hard to try and make the experience as enjoyable as possible so just keep a positive attitude and it is what you make it.”