Ten Job Descriptions in One

I have a complicated job. I am a residence director (RD) at a college. I live on campus. In a residence hall. As an adult.

I’m wrapping up my first year as an RD and I still struggle to explain what I do. Most people assume I am an adult babysitter. This is false. I work hard to create experiences that develop students and challenge them to grow socially, emotionally, spiritually, and even academically.

An RD fulfills a strange compilation of roles. The position comprises at least ten job descriptions in one. I’ve given up on generating a 60-second version and will hereby refer anyone that asks about my job to this blog post.



First and foremost, I am a supervisor. I have a staff team of nine female resident advisors (RAs) who, in turn, serve the 250 residents I also oversee. I think this means my job is similar to that of a hotel manager–I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine that we have a lot in common. The ceiling is leaking? I’ll send someone over immediately. Your TV channels aren’t working? I’ll make a phone call. There is mold in your shower? I’ll have that taken care of as soon as possible. The washing machine is full of standing water AGAIN? I’m on it. Building Supervisor, at your service.


I am an emergency first responder. Every couple weeks I get to look like an outdated tech nerd by carrying two phones in my purse. One is my personal phone and the other is the “on-call” phone which becomes an extension of me for seven days. I sleep with it under my pillow. I watch TV with it. I do pilates with it close to my mat. I keep the volume on high. I am that old lady in a restaurant with the obnoxiously loud ringtone, except I’m not losing my hearing. I simply have a job to do and that job is not to miss a call. It rings for lockouts, late night ER trips, flooding, fire alarms, missing and suspicious persons. The list goes on. First Responder, how can I help?


On occasion, I serve as a conflict mediator. Freshmen, I have learned, do not yet know how to live together. I mediate lots of conversations about sleep and shower schedules and desk lamp wattage and music volume. Have you even talked to your roommate about this??? The answer is almost always: no. The solution is almost always: compromise. Need mediation? Step into my office.


I am a disciplinarian, at times. Though definitely not my favorite part of being an RD, I am required to meet with students who fail to uphold university policies. Sometimes I have difficult and awkward conversations with students about their behavior. Sometimes I have redemptive and thoughtful conversations about poor choices. They write me papers reflecting on said choices and behaviors. Then, we meet again. Sometimes we become friends. Sometimes we do not. Your choices affect your community. Let’s discuss how.


I am also an educator. Part of being an RD involves planning and implementing programming that fosters community, develops identity, and encourages civic and global responsibility. Sometimes that looks like serving 400+ scoops of ice cream, other times that looks like hosting a lip sync battle. Sometimes it involves research and lesson planning, and other times it means helping a student write a resume on my couch at one o’clock in the morning. Yes, I would love to help you with that. I am a teacher, it’s what I do.


I am an event coordinator. I pick out flowers and tablecloths and centerpieces. I frequent Target for things like hot pink tissue paper and twine and mason jars for creative decor. I make weird decisions like what gift cards to purchase for giveaways and what flavor of buttercream to order on the vanilla cake. I walk around Party City selecting ribbon colors and determining how many clusters of balloons are needed to transform the stage. It’s random, I know. Party Planner, because the best parties are the beautiful ones.


You could call me a health inspector. I perform routine health and safety inspections in student rooms and issue fines for any falling below the standard. It’s not hard to pass inspection. It’s also not hard to fail. My favorite failure conversations go something like this:

Me: “Did you know health & safeties were today?”

Resident: {Nods head.} “Yes.”

Me: “Do you have a vaccum cleaner?”

Resident: {Points to the corner of the room.} “Yeah.”

Me: “Interesting, because there is glitter and dirt all over your floor.”

Hello, it’s time for inspection.


I am an administrative professional. I send an insane amount of e-mails. To residents. To my staff. To other departments. To my supervisor. To myself. My calendar is color-coded and my inbox full of folders. I do my best to keep up with the influx of text messages I receive on a daily basis. I prioritize the importance of messages received and I may or may not answer in a timely fashion. I have a collection of databases bookmarked and various post-it notes and screenshots of all the usernames and passwords I need to access said databases. Yes, I can get you that information, let me check my notes.


I am a temporary mom. I feel a lot like my own mom when I make a pan of brownies and feed them to my residents. I also feel like a mom when I check on students who aren’t attending class, or when I walk students to the counseling center, or when I find myself in a hospital waiting room. Need a shoulder to cry on? That’s what I’m here for.


Finally, I am a mentor. This is my favorite part of my job. It’s an honor to walk alongside my RAs – nine strong, beautiful, and talented women – and watch them grow as leaders. My days are full of meetings, it’s true, but they’re also full of coffee, lunch, and shopping dates (I know you’re jealous). We have conversations about anything and everything: boys, books, food, fashion, family, anxiety, depression, and theology, just to name a few. Sometimes I ask hard questions, sometimes they ask me hard questions, and sometimes we simply laugh so hard we cry. Ask me anything; I am a mentor.


I was warned in grad school that working in student development would require I know a little about a lot of things. I had no idea this warning would ring so true. Every day is different. Every task encompasses something new. I am always learning because my job is so many things. It’s complicated. It’s exhausting. It’s wonderful. And I love it, I do. 


One thought on “Ten Job Descriptions in One

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  1. Beautifully written, Sarah! And you wear each of those “hats” with excellence and grace. So very proud of you :)


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