Scores of students hoping for free room and board next year are aiming to join the ranks of the Office of Residential Life & Housing resident assistants for the round-the-clock job.

A series of informational sessions began last week for the 2008-09 resident assistant selection process. The meetings are intended for RA hopefuls, and will cover such topics as employment conditions, expectations and logistical issues such as housing and salary.

Interested students must attend one of the two remaining sessions – either Jan. 14 from 7:30-8:40 p.m. in Santa Catalina’s Linda Vista Room or the final meeting on Jan. 16 from 10-11 a.m. in the MultiCultural Center.

The application process, which spans seven weeks, requires an online form and references from two faculty members and one previous employer. Applicants must have at least a 2.3 GPA for consideration. In addition, applicants must undergo a “carousel” interview, which includes a two-on-one and group interview.

Meanwhile, Assistant Director of Housing Linda Croyle said other qualities are taken into account in discerning a student’s RA potential, including personal values.

“We look for people who have self-awareness and who are responsible, who want to help other people,” Croyle said. “We want people with willingness to learn and open-mindedness, people who are approachable and flexible.”

According to Croyle, selecting the right people for the position is crucial due to the ability of RAs to affect the lives of their residents.

“I think the RAs have a fair amount of influence in their community,” Croyle said. “They can get in there right away and help the students establish norms of behavior. They can build a community where students can approach one another.”

First-year psychology major Jessica Lynne Cope is an RA applicant who said she also believes that RAs have a significant role in the lives of their residents.

“I definitely think if the RAs are upbeat, residents are going to be happier and nicer towards each other,” Cope said. “If they bring a bad aura with them, their residents aren’t going to want to be around to hang out or socialize.”

Last year, approximately 250 to 300 applicants competed for 90 RA positions. Croyle said this estimate is consistent with the number of applicants this year, although a precise figure will not be disclosed until Jan. 17.

Selected RAs will be announced Feb. 25, and will begin training during Spring Quarter. Next year, those chosen to be RAs will receive full room and board, as well as a monthly stipend of $65.

However, Cope said she believes the monetary benefits of an RA position are peripheral to what RAs gain through interactions with their residents throughout the year.

“It’s more [about] the experience of being an RA, kind of having that responsibility and shaping the residents’ first year of college,” said Cope.