Issue #20– October 17, 2011
Student Staff Spotlight: Community Advocate Janai Hawkins
by: Sharon Kompalla, Associate Director - Center for Residence Life - Apartment Area
Janai is currently serving as a Community Advocate and specifically works with residents in University Commons. She is currently enrolled in the educational leadership masters program at the University of Rochester but is a RIT alum who graduated in the Winter of 2008-2009 with a Bachelors degree from CAST in Applied Arts & Sciences.
Interviewer: You're a Community Advocate in University Commons, but you're not currently a RIT student - can you share with us the story of how you've come to work at RIT?
Janai: After graduating from RIT in May of 2009, I worked for a year in human services before beginning a graduate program in educational leadership (Higher Education/ specializing in Student Affairs) at the University of Rochester. At a RIT event, my old Unity House RA , Daniel Rabess and I started talking about masters thesis topics and assistantships. Knowing that I was looking for student affairs assistantships, he informed me about the student affairs graduate assistantships opportunities at RIT. He told me that all of the positions are organized on one website (www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/SAGraduateAssistantships) and that I should check it out. A few weeks later, I submitted an application for the Community Advocate position and then attended an Information Session. I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in Assistantship Interview Day in April and then I got invited to come back for a second interview. When I was notified that I was being offered the position, I was shocked because I knew the candidate pool must have been filled with a diverse array of highly-qualified graduate students. After doing my happy dance, I accepted the position!
Interviewer: Why did you want to be a graduate assistant in Residence Life?
Janai: I wanted to be a graduate assistant in Residence Life because I believed the professional staff in the Apartment Area was as committed to working with the diverse RIT population and as dedicated to student development as I was. I thought it would be a great place for personal and professional growth and it would be an awesome opportunity to gain practical experience in Residence Life. I also thought it would be a fun and worthwhile experience.
Interviewer: You were an undergrad at RIT, but you are now a graduate student at the U of R. What are the biggest differences you see between the two campuses?
Janai: The biggest differences would have to be in the culture. The University of Rochester has a more “traditional Ivy-league” feel and tradition plays a big role at the University. RIT on the hand is more modern, distinctive and career-oriented. The RIT student body is very different and eclectic.
Interviewer: How is your time at RIT as an undergrad different from working as a graduate assistant now?
Janai: As an undergraduate, I had more “free time”. I didn’t have as many responsibilities as I do now and I spent more time on personal growth. I am now more focused on developing my professional identity.
Interviewer: What do you enjoy most about being a Community Advocate thus far?
Janai: I really like doing my Personal Contacts. The one-on-one interaction is really awesome because I get to talk to students about what’s going on in their lives, their interests and hobbies. I even learned about Humans vs. Zombies, a game I didn’t find much interest in when I was a RIT student. After talking with a resident, I realized just how serious and fun it really is.
Interviewer: What are some skills you have, or hope to gain in this position?
Janai: I hope to improve my communication, counseling and mediation skills. I also hope to become more intentional in my programming.
Interviewer: What would you like to accomplish while you’re here?
Janai: If I am able to make an impact on one resident, either by getting him or her go to a program that might be outside their comfort zone or introduce them to a person they might not have thought of talking to before; then I think I have done my job.
Interviewer: How do you de-stress?
Janai: I am a big fan of Korean dramas so when I’m really stressed, I like to escape into that world.
Interviewer: What is a random fact about yourself that no one could guess?
Janai: I love Star Trek Voyager and collected the book series when I was in high school.
Interviewer: What is your ultimate career goal?
Janai: To be in a senior leadership role (Director or Vice President) of a student affairs unit that will still allow me the opportunity to interact directly with students.
Interviewer: Do you have any advice for RIT students living in the apartments after working on campus for the past 2 1/2 months?
Janai: Make sure you take full advantage of all that RIT has to offer outside the classroom. There are so many opportunities available for you to grow not only professionally but personally. Say hi to your neighbors. Go outside your comfort zone and try new things. Check out the Apartment Area Virtual Board (http://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/reslife/publications/aptvbb/) frequently to see what is happening on campus. Make sure to stop by the Apartment Area offices (East, West and RIT INN) and say hi. We, in Residence Life, are a friendly bunch and the offices always have free goodies! And finally, there is nothing wrong about seeking help when you need it
For more articles from this issue, click here