Lessons Learned: How to Avoid the Biggest Mistakes Made by College Resident Assistants, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Lessons Learned

How to Avoid the Biggest Mistakes Made by College Resident Assistants, 2nd Edition

By John D. Foubert


218 pages

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The college years can be some of the most vibrant and transformative in an individual’s life, but they are also fraught with uncertainty. The resident advisor or assistant (RA) not only confronts these decisions for him or herself but must also help his or her residents navigate the world of important decisions which the undergraduate experience presents. Lessons Learned is the definitive volume for training RAs to become comfortable with their roles as student leaders. Over four dozen common RA mistakes are discussed, chapter-by-chapter, in the form of individual letters written by experienced RAs to new staff members. Each chapter includes thought-provoking discussion questions, a list of internet and media resources, and additional tips related to each situation.

Now in its second edition, this updated volume provides a new overview of student developmental theory and covers a host of new topics, including evolving thought on 21st century predicaments such as social media, texting and the Internet. This is an important text for beginning and experienced RAs, as well as for the university staff who train these crucial pillars of the university community.


"How do you build community? What promotes inclusivity and civility in residence halls? And how can RAs avoid common mistakes that may compromise their role or violate campus policies? Lessons Learned, 2nd ed, answers these and other prescient questions. Future RAs will be indebted to Foubert and the ‘informants’ who authored letters for each chapter, as they lay open their mistakes for the benefit of others. I only wish this book was available when I was an RA at the University of Virginia working with then-associate dean John Foubert. Fitting that he'd go on to write this important edition!"

—Terrell L. Strayhorn, associate professor and director of Center for Higher Education Research

at the Ohio State University

"Once again, John Foubert has done a wonderful job outlining the issues, challenges, and rewards our student staff face while working in residential life. Dr. Foubert's style is easy to read, but it also captures the level of detail that helps to provide true learning for the reader. There's plenty in here to benefit both new and returning staff. Should be required reading for all staff members in our field!"

—Julie Weber, director of housing and residential life at New Mexico State University

"Lessons Learned is a critical resource for valued leaders on our campuses. The format of the book is accessible, practical and situated in a student-development framework. Faculty, supervisors and students will learn together via interactive learning opportunities and reflective practice. Add this important text to your reading list, now!"

—Patricia A. Perillo, PhD, vice president for student affairs at Virginia Tech

"Foubert has filled the covers of Lessons Learned, 2nd ed, with a training model that incorporates the new scale-up classroom teaching technique. Balancing resident assistants’ peer education with exposure to real-life cases maximizes their learning in a manner that no current training program provides and captures the attention of resident assistants page after page. Every page that a resident assistant reads will increase their preparation to work with residents. Supervisors have a great training resource at their fingertips.

—Norbert Dunkel, associate vice president for student affairs at the University of Florida

"Lessons Learned provides a foundational and engaging learning experience for student staff. It incorporates examples from actual situations and helps readers reflect on their response to each story. The issues explored in the chapters are not only comprehensive but cutting edge, and the questions and tips at the end of each chapter spur the kind of thoughtful interaction that leads to excellence."

—Jeff Doyle, PhD, dean for student learning and engagement at Baylor University

Table of Contents

About the Author Preface Acknowledgements 1. Applying Student Development Theory to the RA Role Part I: Building Community: The Basics 2. Being Away too Much During the First Week of School 3. Waiting Until the Second Month of the Year to Do Programming 4. Not Staying on Top of Facilities Issues 5. Doing the Work for Your Hall Council 6. Seeing Conflict as Harmful to Community 7. Jumping Into Service Without Learning 8. Cults on Campus Part II: Building an Inclusive Community 9. Assuming "They" Don’t Want to Be Included 10. Trying to Help, Making Things Worse 11. Ignoring Racist Comments 12. A Case of Religious Discrimination 13. The Facebook Nightmare Part III: Resident Support 14. Ignoring Homesick Helen 15. Forgetting to Support a Superstar 16. Serving Until it Hurts 17. Not Reaching Out to a Lonely Resident 18 Telling a Parent He Can Call You 19. Texting Residents When You Should Talk Face to Face 20. Keeping Your Relationships With Residents in Balance 21. The Role of an Alternate RA Part IV: Policy Enforcement 22. "If I Can’t See It, It Isn’t There" 23. Enjoying Policy Enforcement too Much 24. Enforcing Policy Selectively 25. Being Passive About Noise That Interferes With Others 26. Ignoring Escalating Domestic Violence 27. Ignoring a Serious Drinking Problem 28. Mistaking Intoxication for Alcohol and Instead of Drugs Part V: Helping Students With Psychological Difficulties 29. Misinterpreting a Student With Asperger Syndrome 30. Sharing Prescription Drugs 31. Keeping Promises 32. Assuming a Resident Is "Just A Little Thin" 33. Ignoring a Suicidal Comment 34. Confusing Cutting Behavior 35. Surviving a Panic Attack Part VI: Things That Can Seriously Compromise Your Role 36. Stifling Freedom of Speech in Your Community 37. A Conflict Between Co-RAs 38. Being Careless About Spending University Money 39. Deciding What To Do Based on What Everyone Else Does 40. Dating a Resident 41. Dating Another RA 42. Drinking Alcohol With Underage Residents 43. Dealing With a Slacking Staff Member 44. Dealing With Parents Part VII: Safety and Security 45. Not Getting Everyone out During a Fire Alarm 46. Trying to Help a Rape Survivor but Making Her Feel Worse 47. Dealing With Someone Who Is Not a Student 48. Excusing Violent Behavior as "Just Blowing Off Steam" Conclusion: Reflecting on the Importance of the Work We Do What Is Your Story? Bibliography Index

About the Author


John D. Foubert, PhD, began his career in residence life as an RA at the University of Richmond, where he was assigned to the most difficult floor in the wildest hall on campus. He has worked for over two decades as an administrator and professor at several colleges and is the president of One in Four, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rape-prevention programming.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Counseling / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / Counseling
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / Group