Resident assistant crafts close-knit community for first-year students

Ellie West
April 18, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Julia Montevechi, junior in criminology, Italian language and literature at Penn State, is well-versed in all aspects of the campus community. As the resident assistant for the College of the Liberal Arts’ Special Living Option (SLO), Montevechi translates her expertise into this multifaceted role which serves as an important resource for first-year students as they acclimate to their Penn State home. 

The Liberal Arts SLO floor is a living and learning program available to first-year students who are interested or enrolled in programs offered by the college. Located in McKean Hall in the East Housing Area, residents of the SLO can explore liberal arts majors and minors, learn about professional development and receive guidance from staff members to prepare them for success going forward.

“The best advantage of living on the SLO floor is that you have access to opportunities that no other liberal arts students have,” Montevechi said. “We search for specialized and personalized events depending on the residents' majors, and they can even schedule one-on-one time with advisers and staff.”

As the program’s resident assistant (RA), Montevechi serves as an adviser, mentor and role model for all students. “I’m here to create a community among the residents, make sure they always have someone to talk to and really just be a resource for them if they need anything,” she said.

One of Montevechi’s most important goals entering the year was fostering a close community among her residents.  She has certainly been successful thus far, implementing ice-breaker activities, sharing countless opportunities for involvement and encouraging passing conversation in the halls, which all have contributed to a safe and comfortable atmosphere on the floor.

“I think we have a community here where everyone respects each other and can easily work out any problems that might come up,” Montevechi said. “Even though it's a professional development floor, the environment is still super comfortable and casual.”

Montevechi was inspired to pursue an RA position after her own experience living in the SLO Life House, where she served as the floor’s social chair her sophomore year.

“I lived in Life House for two years and really liked it because it was almost like a club,” she said. “I quickly realized this was something I wanted to continue. I knew I enjoyed planning events, arts and crafts and bringing people together, so I figured I would pursue becoming an RA.”

Having two majors within the college and considerable knowledge of programs and opportunities it offered, Montevechi knew she would be a good fit for the first-year Liberal Arts SLO program.

She has planned a variety of events this semester, including upperclassmen student panels and vocational workshops for career day preparation. She is also planning to organize an event with the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program to help students stay engaged as they progress forward into their college careers.  

On top of complimenting students’ experiences in the classroom, the SLO floor also seeks to provide extra-curricular opportunities and activities for students. But with COVID-19 providing a unique challenge, Montevechi said she had to get creative with the activities she planned.

“It has definitely been difficult at times to keep students interested because no one really wants to get on the computer after a long day of Zoom classes,” she said. “One oddly successful virtual activity we had was with an online game called ‘Rat Bachelor.’ It was so weird and random that a lot of people were intrigued to see what it was. It ended up being a lot of fun.”

Despite the unique circumstances, Montevechi is happy with how the semester has been going and is hoping to organize more in-person outdoor events this spring as the weather gets warmer. Next year, she plans to carry on her role as a resident assistant for the Liberal Arts SLO and continue to help cultivate a sense of community among students.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 19, 2021