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In the Discipline

Being a Residential Leader (RL) has contributed to my understanding of interpersonal


communication, group processing, and leadership applications. Interpersonal communication is
the process by which people exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and
non-verbal messages (1).
In my interpersonal communications course, I learned about the process of
communication and the importance of using person-centered messages to be able to be more
approachable. As an RL, I am able to implement those skills in my interactions with residents
because I interact with residents on a daily basis. There are four core contexts that one must
examine in interpersonal communication. These include: psychological, relational, situational,
environmental, and cultural. When interacting with residents, I have to be aware of my own
mental well-being, as well as theirs. I also have to be aware of the nature of our relationship, the
situation (where we are communicating and what is happening is critical, especially when
dealing with incidents and confidentiality), the environment (the atmosphere of the community
often affects how well residents are able to perceive information), and the cultural context.
The cultural context has been the most significant aspect that has affected my interactions
with residents. I have residents with very different backgrounds, and I have learned to
acknowledge how this affects behavior. For example, I have residents who are very close to their
families and had a harder time making connections because of their upbringing. I also had
residents who use insults towards their friends to show affection, which was perceived as rude by
other residents who did not understand the concept. In addition, I had the opportunity to
strengthen my understanding of the Chinese, Sudanese, and Kenyan culture to aid in creating a
community without barriers caused by cultural misunderstanding. Efficient interpersonal
communication can be taught well in a course, but it is a skill that must be practiced with face-toface communication. I have definitely been able to practice and improve on this skill with this
experience. As I have grown in my ability to communicate effectively with each resident
individually, I have also grown in my ability to understand group formation as I have connected
concepts from my group processing to this experience.
In group processing, the structure and stages of group formation are explored. In this
course, I learned that as groups form, they move from stage 1, full of apprehension and collective
agreement, to the last stage, which allows for comfort, civil disagreement, and new ideas. I also
learned skills to build a cohesive group, which increases productivity. Several methods to
increase cohesion is writing down everyones ideas, and creating a social-task balance. As a
member of a staff, I have had the opportunity to use the social-task balance skill the most
heavily. It is not difficult to become absorbed by tasks, which makes it difficult to form
relationships with other RLs who can essentially be the primary support system. As I developed
in my role as RL and learned more about groups, I began to be able to build better relationships
within my staff, and felt more comfortable sharing ideas to benefit the staff and their residents.
One prime example is when I decided to partner with Sierra, a fellow RL, to combine residents
to participate in Round-Up. Having the task-social balance will be beneficial for Sierra and I, and
will help our residents build more connections. In addition, the meaning behind the term

newcomer was explored in my group processing course. As an RL, I experienced changes in


the staff and with my residents. In the course, I learned techniques to make newcomers feel
welcome, such as inviting them to social events and asking them for input if they are reluctant to
share their voice.
I have also used skills learned in technical writing and document design. In my position, I have
had the opportunity to create a professional E-portfolio with a resume drafted using skills from
Technical Writing (my minor). I have also used skills obtained from Document Design to create
promotional materials for programs I have put on to build community.

Beyond the Discipline


Beyond the discipline, I have been able to use skills gained in an elective course I took titled
Leadership Applications. In this course, I learned about servant leadership and time management.
I have definitely used skills from this course in my experience. In this course, I studied from the
book, Leadership for a Better World: Understanding the Social Change Model of Leadership
Development. I learned about the important Cs: change, citizenship, common purpose,
controversy with civility, consciousness of self, congruence, and commitment.
As an RL, I have been able to recognize the importance of citizenship or, a group identity
in my hall. I have also had the opportunity to handle conflict/controversy with civility and
professionalism. When I had a division in my hall, I spoke individually with my residents and
invited to RC to follow up on the meaning behind civility in its relation to community standards.
As an RL, being able to effectively handle conflict with civility is important, especially during
times of high stress and incidents. Although I am unable to disclose information about specific
incidents, I know that I have been able to implement civility into my position. The most valuable
skill I have been able to utilize if consciousness of self. As an RL, I constantly interact with
residents, while maintaining a second job and school work. I have been able to recognize when I
am at my best, and when I must practice self-care so that I may better serve others. During my
one-on-one meetings, I have been able to reflect on my own strengths and development. I have to
be conscious of the way I present myself to residents, especially on social media. I have used this
technique especially when I established boundaries during training week. I am always conscious
of what topics are not appropriate to discuss with residents.

Beyond Academics
Beyond academics, I have become skilled in diversity training from my position as an assistant
intern in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. From this experience, I have been able to learn
how to host discussions about inclusion. This connects directly with what I have learned about
cultural context perception in intercultural communications. As an intern, I have been responsible
for speaking about injustice, privilege, and ethnocentrism. I have also been able to become more
aware of using more culturally-sensitive language. As an RL, I have been able to use these skills
to have guided conversations with residents using a video from CTAD about micro-aggressions.
I have also been able to have discussions with two residents about the use of the word retarded
and its negative impact. From these conversations was able to follow up with the Words Matter

initiative hosted by RL&L. My own experience as an intern has enabled me to carry information
I have learned to my community.
In addition, I have also gained skills from my previous position as a Supplemental Instructor. As
an SI, I became knowledgeable about Academic Support Services overall and am now able to
answer questions about SI and tutoring for residents.

Interconnectedness
The interconnectedness of knowledge and skills is essential to the success of this position. There
are 3 keys to competence outlined in group processing: knowledge, skills, and motivation. One
can have the knowledge of how to handle conflict (such as in Behind closed doors during
training) but it takes experience through real-world application for one to become skilled. I
understand that the communication skills I have learned within and beyond my discipline have
become intertwined as I was able to interact with residents and express my role as a leader on
campus. My role as an RL has enabled me to better understand the importance of relationship
building, group processing, and mentorship. I have had the opportunity to use communication
skills learned inside the classroom with techniques also learned through other ALE experiences
and positions on campus.
The leader never stops seeking new information and learning from his/her surroundings. I
am able to embrace what I have learned prior to this role, and I what I have learned about myself
and others while currently in the role. One of the greatest connections I have been able to make
was between skills gained in my current Intern 2 Learn position, leadership course (outside the
discipline), and group processing. All of these skills are interconnected because one has to be
able to recognize how groups function to reach residents. During the RL training course, I
reflected on myself and noted that I am someone who prefers one-on-one interactions. However,
I was able to connect skills from group processing and my leadership courses to develop myself
into someone who is able to lead large hall meetings (where I was initially uncomfortable doing
so). The core concept behind ALE is the word applied. During this experience, I have been
able to apply techniques from every course to see the bigger picture and answer the question of
how my time here at Tarleton training me to become a better leader.

Global Awareness
Within the RL position, I had to be aware of my own perspectives, especially when it came to
politics. I consider myself to be very liberal, whereas I had residents who were very
conservative. Although I did not engage in the conversations, residents would talk about tough
topics such as religion, abortion, and LGBTQ issues. As an RL, I had to be aware of my own
biases. For example, I am a Tarleton Ally, which means that I offer support to members of the
LGBTQ community. One of my residents is strictly against LGBTQ rights and let me know that
overall, in Kenya (where she is from), LGBTQ rights are not accepted. This position has enabled
me to become more aware of issues we are facing in the United States and their connection to
other countries. I have also explored my assumptions about those in differing socio-economic
classes. When I met some residents from the upper-middle class, I assumed monetary support

would be coming from their parents, and that this would affect their behavior towards others. I
was able to discover that my assumptions were wrong.
I have also explored my assumptions of acceptance in other cultures. I have a resident whose
fathers side of the family is from Hong Kong, who felt like an outsider when she went there for
Christmas. From the interactions with her, I was able to understand the development of sub
groups in cultures where the family has grown up in a country different from a parents country
of origin. In addition, this role has enabled me to become more aware of how connected the
world is.
The most significant aspect about this position that diminished my pre-conceptions was my
interactions with two residents from Africa. I assumed that although these residents are from
different countries in Africa, they may have a similar look on culture. However, it was revealed
that while one resident likes music from her country and rap, the other resident hates rap and
listens to only Christian rock and classical music. On the other hand, while one resident
identifies as Black, the other resident does not identify as Black, because of its connotation as
American. It was very interesting having a conversation with these two residents. I was able to
learn from the second resident about the implications of Black vs. African-American. This
experience has enabled me to become more aware of my own assumptions and the conversations
that need to be conducted.

Broader Implications
This experience has equipped me with skills necessary for the workforce. As a future social
worker, I need to be skilled in problem-solving, interpersonal communication, and observing
behavior. As an RL, I have been challenged to grow not only in leadership but in recognizing the
needs of residents, as I wish to do in the community. The short-term implications of this
experience is the development of new leaders on campus. RLs are not only leaders but role
models that can inspire residents to also become RLs. As an RL, I was able to develop new ideas
(such as for programing or establishing relationships) that can be implemented after I graduate
by future RLs. These ideas do not have to stay on this campus either, as they can be shared with
RLs all over the country. This experience has affected not only me but also everyone on the staff
and all of my residents, because we are all a team.

1.

Interpersonal Communication Skills. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from


http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/interpersonal-communication.html