NACURH Winner
Month: August 2017

NACURH, INC.

Residence Life Professional Staff of the Month

School: Texas State - San Marcos Region: SWACURH
Nominee: Aja Rodriguez Nominator: Reba Fuggs

On-Campus Population: 6800 Chapter Size: 60

Please explain the outstanding contributions of the nominee during the month of nomination

Aja Rodriguez is a Residence Director (RD) for the Department of Housing and Residential Life (DHRL) at Texas State University. She served on the Residential Curriculum Team, who is tasked with creating a unified curriculum structure that enhances the learned experiences of students and utilizes assessment and tracking tools to verify student learning or address gaps in student learning. Aja also served on the Student Staff Training Committee tasked with the planning, preparation, coordination, and facilitation of topics for over 200 Resident Assistants (RAs). Those RAs utilize imparted knowledge and skills to impact the lives of over 6800 residents. Aja, herself, participated in numerous presentations and energizers that were lauded by most.

Residential Curriculum Basics for new RAs was an introduction to RA responsibilities. Aja covered the section on Resident Conversations where she collaborated with two coworkers demonstrating the difference between a bad Resident Conversation and a good one. In the bad version, she was the resident. The RA stops by to talk during a tight timeframe. The RA rushes the conversation, displays disinterest and negative body language, accepts responses like “okay”, “fine”, and “good,” and rushes off to the next thing on her to do list. Through a discussion of the pros and cons, RAs identified flaws in the interaction and equated the failures of the RA to negative experiences for the student. In the good example, Aja was a student with issues and concerns. The RA probes Aja for more information, provides resources (the RA included), uses open body language, and demonstrates true interest, care and concern. Again, RAs picked up on the positives of the experience. This activity is a crucial means for RA staff to interact, gather information, and report to their RDs who can provide necessary assistance to residents in need. It also revisited and reinforced the nonverbal communication and body language ice breaker presented previously.

Background, Binaries, Biases was a presentation spearheaded by Aja’s passion for social justice and critical reflection. RAs and RDs were invited to explore themselves and how their identities intersect. This was then applied to the ways in which we interact, perceive, and connect with others, particularly the residents in our respective areas and those we interact with in our everyday lives.

Aja collaborated with the organizers of the Common Experience which is “a yearlong initiative that cultivates a conversation on a theme, enhancing student participation and fostering a sense of community throughout the campus and beyond” (http://www.txstate.edu/commonexperience/). This year’s theme is A Search for Justice: Our Response to Crime in the 21st Century. It directly coincides with her passion for social justice and advocacy on and off campus.

Aja motivates me to grow and challenge myself. She is ambitious, uninhibited, vivacious, and authentic. These are characteristics that I admire. She is loved by many within our department and across campus, challenges her students to push beyond boundaries, and lives her truth. Aja integrates cultural and sexual awareness into the fabric of her being and is unapologetically “woke”. She advocates for humanity and challenges the status quo. This has permeated the student staff, professional staff and the residents that she interacts with. Without Aja, social justice and diversity would have been missed in training meaning that our minority majority institution would have been ignored in training.

August is an important preparatory month for DHRL with RA training and move in occurring consecutively. Aja’s time, dedication, and passion for student success created an environment conducive for learning and critical thought. Though her impact was primarily departmental, RAs interactions with others across campus will result in sharing components of her influence.

Word Count: 600


Date of entry into database: 2017-09-10 08:42:15

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