Beautiful weather? Sure. Beaches? Of course. Living on the USD campus in residential housing his freshman year? OK. Martin knew plenty about the first two, and he also knew he could live off campus, even at the beach if he wanted, after his first year. The latter was an option, but three years later, the junior Honors Program student who is an international business major and Spanish minor, is quite happy with his decision to live and stay on campus.
“I think once you’re living off-campus, you’re more disconnected from the campus. They might say, ‘I go to school and then I get to have a normal life,’” Martin stated. “I get that, but I believe the real college experience happens on campus.”
Martin, after his first year, inquired about the resident assistant (RA) program and applied. Although he did take the Spring 2012 semester off to travel to Spain for six months, he learned while he was in Madrid that he was accepted as an RA for the fall.
He’s now in his second year as an RA for Missions B’s San Juan Apartments. He oversees 30 freshmen students and one commuter student for the Honors Program’s Living-Learning Community — one of nine different USD LLCs — and is, along with a preceptorial assistant, the theme coordinator for Honors LLC group-event planning.
“I really enjoy my role, especially because I get to work with the freshmen,” he said. “They are the future leaders at USD. I’m seen as a guide for them and many are coming to campus and it’s their first time living away from home. They don’t quite know what to expect or what opportunities are available. I think it’s great that, as an RA, I can help them adjust to the campus environment and be their first contact and a great resource right away.”
Martin relishes being an RA and it seems to fit his personality as a creative and active person. He’s got an entrepreneurial spirit evidenced by launching two USD student clubs — the Origami Club and SMILE (Students Making Initiatives to Love Everyone) — and he has a business venture, Undercover Mugs, last year’s Venture Vetting (V2) competition. He is a self-taught guitar player, too, picking it up quickly this past summer.
“Being an RA helps me develop my leadership skills, understand how to work, motivate, inspire and communicate with others,” he said. “Freshman are coming in from all different areas and backgrounds and they have different ways of communicating. I have to be adaptable. Adjusting and communicating effectively are very important.”
The RA role isn’t easy. While there are perks, including on-campus housing and a meal plan, there’s still the juggling act of his leadership and responsibilities as an RA while still being a college student.
“You do have to plan your time well because this is on top of your studies, your own social life and everything else you’re doing,” Martin said. “Being an RA isn’t like taking an extra class, it’s more like being part of a special organization of students. Student clubs work toward objectives, but an RA is part of a club where a group of people come together and try to make the experience for residents the best it can be and give them support in whatever way they can.”
The Honors LLC is slightly different than others, Martin said, because the students in the Honors program run the gamut rather than a USD LLC with a specific topic such as sustainability, social justice or globalization. Honors students are spread out in their academic focus, Martin said, and that puts special emphasis to plan more social events that bring them together.
“Our theme this year is connections, because it’s important to build the connections between all Honors students. They are similar-minded people and they’ve demonstrated their work ethic in high school to get their GPAs and SAT scores. But while academics is important, they need to know USD has more to offer them than just the academics.”
Martin has connected with his freshmen residents through sports, both USD’s official athletics teams and club sports programs. He’s helped organize a tailgate party before a Torero football game and had students help with the menu choices. From there, it was a spirited group that went to cheer the Toreros on to victory. Martin, who plays intramural soccer and basketball, said some of his teammates are residents from Missions B.
Though he’s a busy person and each day brings something new, Martin reiterates that he’s happy living on campus and that he plans to be an RA again as a senior.
“Life can be insane at times, but somehow it all works out,” he said. “My advice to those thinking about becoming an RA: You have to be willing to sacrifice your time to be there for others. For me, if you care about something, you’ll find a way to make it work.”
— Ryan T. Blystone