Anne Hutchinson/The Siskiyou
Senior Resident Assistant for Emerald Hall, Kacie McGee, gives instructions to her staff during a meeting last Wednesday night.
In a room with white-washed cedar block walls adorned with poster’s of Incubus, James Dean, and a bright yellow poster with a stick figure running around in their “underoos,” senior resident assistant Kacie McGee sits at her crowded maple wood desk fidgeting with various papers.
She is preparing for her weekly staff RA meeting. McGee is the senior RA for Emerald Hall in Cascade Complex, a wellness hall that bans substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, within the building.
Looking out her open window at the adjacent dorm, she laughs and says a resident from across the way can see her from her room and says she’s “always sitting at her desk.”
McGee, originally from Bend, Ore., has a shy, calm demeanor and beyond shoulder length blonde coils framing her petite figure. With her legs tucked under her green computer chair, she timidly talks about how she came to be in the walls of the senior RA apartment.
“In sixth grade I took a field trip [to Ashland] and had a lot of fun,” said McGee. Ever since, McGee knew this was the place she wanted to attend for her university education. She said her desire to be a teacher and Southern Oregon University’s graduate teaching program had a big influence on her decision. McGee’s dorm journey began in Greensprings on a quiet floor, and says she became good friends with Monique Teal, her RA.
“She’s the reason why I’m an RA now,” she said. McGee said Teal encouraged her to get involved in a lot of resident programs despite her lack of “stand there, cheer and be peppy all the time” attitude.
For the past three years, McGee has roamed the residence halls, planned programs and orientated freshmen with the “dorm experience.”
McGee says RA hopefuls go through a long application process called “the carousel” to determine whether or not they are fit to handle the onslaught of new freshmen every year.
She said every year about 20 to 30 applicants are asked to attend a class to learn how to be an RA or inter-resident counsel. After the classes, each person receives a letter informing them of whether or not they have a position.
“I was on an all-girls floor my first year,” said McGee, recalling her experience as a novice RA. “I had boys on a floor with no RA and the girls wanted to party a lot.” She said despite their rowdiness, they had a lot of respect for her, making her job easier.
“I was thankful because I had my first year challenge. It prepared me for the future.”
About 10 minutes before her 8 p.m. meeting, RA staff member Kingsley Crabtree bounces into her room hurdling herself at the couch, eagerly asking if it is 8 p.m. so she can watch “America’s Next Top Model.” Settling into the couch she grumply explains she is having a bad day and asks if she can leave by nine to finish homework due at midnight.
Casey Housen, is the next to mosey in for the meeting, and settles next to Crabtree on the couch, and the two burrow themselves between a giant orange fleece. Next saunters in Eddie Agricola carrying a carton of orange juice under his long lanky arm, and at eight o’clock on the dot, Evin McHill rushes in and plops down on McGee’s purple exercise ball.
The meeting begins, and McGee explains that tonight they will be working on cutting out decorations for the senior party Casino Night.
Placing a room length piece of black butcher paper on the floor and laying down on top of it, McGee explains that her staff members can cut out her figure to make a life size “Bond girl.”
Housen jumps down from the couch, crouches on the floor, and begins to trace McGee.
Giggling, McGee asks, “Should I change my pants?”
“Should I take off my pants?”
Housen finishes tracing McGee’s figure, and she bounces up and begins instructing the rest of the group to begin constructing slot machines and other casino-like objects.
The group works quickly, cutting, pasting and coloring the paper cut outs they have made, except Crabtree, who is glued to the TV commenting every once in a while about the models on the screen.
“Kingsley, if you want be out of here by nine, you need to be more productive than that,” says McGee eyeing her on the couch.
Crabtree lets out a gusty sigh saying she doesn’t know what to do and reluctantly picks up a Crayola marker and paper and begins drawing.
McGee stands up from her corner by the desk and announces she is going to do a hall check.
Whirling through the first floor of Emerald, McGee weaves her way through the three-story dorm back down to the basement, winding her way over to Diamond Hall and then returning to her apartment.
The staff meeting lasts for about 30 more minutes. Luckily for Crabtree, she has done enough “casino cut outs” to satisfy McGee, and she is released. The rest of her staff quickly finishes their work and leaves to return to their respective halls.
McGee begins gathering all the paper cut outs and scraps scattered on the floor and talks about her responsibilities as an RA.
“You have to stay really organized,” McGee says, noting for her that it is not too difficult because she is used to juggling many activities at once, but some RA’s have a difficult time. Despite having its obvious setbacks: rambunctious freshmen, noise and uncomfortable confrontations, McGee says her experience has been a positive one.
“I like how many people you get to meet,” she says. “I’ve been able to make a ton of friends.” Every once in a while she wonders what it would be like to live off-campus. She worries a little bit if she will be able to cook for herself next year at graduate school in Arizona.
As an RA, everything is provided, including housing and food, so the experience of being a renter will be a new adventure for McGee.
Kacie McGee does not quite have to worry about that yet. She still has one more term before graduation and is focused on surviving finals and the end of the term. She says this year has been a good year to end her RA experience, because her hall is pretty calm, and she hasn’t had to write up anybody yet.
McGee says this year has been lucky that all of the RA’s get along with each other and have a good time being friends.
“For the most part we’re one big happy family.”