by Charlotte Burcham
In July of 2018, I was packing up a moving truck and relocating from my home in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Cedarville, Ohio, to begin work as a Resident Director (RD) at Cedarville University. I was excited, nervous, and thankful for a job opportunity that would allow me to focus my time and energy on discipleship in a university context.
As I began my time as a Resident Director in Willetts Hall, I was thankful to see that Residence Life represents many of the things I want my life to be known for: love for Jesus and His people, purposeful relationships, and fun in all of it. Being a Resident Director and now the Dean of Women at Cedarville University has given me the opportunity to walk alongside students as they also navigate their own questions about faith and life, and it is a true joy! Little did I know that when I stepped onto campus as a Resident Director, I would be signing up for five years of fun, laughter, memories, and all kinds of shenanigans.
Willetts, or any residence hall for that matter, wouldn’t accomplish what it does if it weren’t for the Resident Assistants (RAs) who truly bring the fun to residence life.
Every Monday night I welcomed the Willetts RAs into my apartment for our weekly meeting. Snacks were always present as we shared about our weeks, studied the Word together, and planned the next Willetts event. And we always made space for laughter.
One evening during this meeting I received a knock on my door. We were greeted by a group of girls, Bluetooth speaker in hand, dancing. And we promptly joined in. And that wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Living in the apartment connected to Willetts gave me a birds-eye view of what fun community looked like. More than once I’d get the frantic phone call from a student asking for a 10-minute curfew extension (I’ve learned the Taco Bell drive thru notoriously takes longer than expected.).
I’d see the awkward first encounters between the “brother” and “sister” halls turn into fruitful friend groups that spontaneously took trips to Young’s Dairy for ice cream or hikes at John Bryan State Park.
On any given day I found myself meeting with students at Rinnova, the campus coffee shop, to discuss life with all its ups and downs — that first date, the camping trip they are planning, the job they are applying for, or what they are learning about the Lord.
Every day brought new conversations and opportunities to walk with students and provide counsel as they navigated their lives. The desire of Residence Life is to cultivate this culture by leading others well in our conversations and actions as well as providing space for people to laugh, have fun, build relationships, and glorify God through all of it. I have watched the impact of Residence Life in the lives of students as they grow in spiritual and emotional maturity as well as expanding their social spheres.
These aspects of a student’s life are deeply impacted by living in a residence hall on campus, getting meals with others, and enjoying all aspects of campus life as they live in community.
The RAs provide multiple opportunities for fellowship by planning weekly events and several all-residence hall events throughout the school year. HalloWilletts is an annual event where students are encouraged to use their creativity by dressing up in costumes, eating candy, and dancing. Every year the Willetts residents show up and have loads of laughter and fun just being together and acting silly.
Students who take advantage of these opportunities are always grateful for the relationships they build and the sheer amount of fun they are able to participate in! A few other all residence hall events the RAs and I planned included Willetts Water Wars, dodgeball tournaments, worship nights with our “brother” residence halls, Bagels for Finals, and many more.
Residence halls at Cedarville make it difficult to not have fun. Lawlor and Printy Halls are famous for their Gridiron Classic flag football game as they go head-to-head with The Hill and Maddox Hall.
Deck the Halls, an annual event at the end of the fall semester, is another all-residence hall, all-campus event that allows residence halls to decorate their space to tell a story. The themes I’ve seen still make me laugh. Whether it was the story of a wrestler or a Cinco de Mayo party, I’ve never been disappointed by the creativity my girls and other residence halls produce.
While fun is a top priority in the residence halls, they wouldn’t have the profound impact that they do if it weren't for the spiritual investment of the RAs and RDs across campus.
Students grow in their spiritual and emotional maturity as they live their life in proximity to one another. RAs take special care to facilitate hall Bible studies, prayer nights, and worship nights and engage in intentional discipleship conversations in hopes of fostering relationships between students.
I recall countless stories from RAs of how they witnessed the encouragement of the Lord as they engaged in spontaneous worship nights in their halls or had spiritual conversations during hall dinners. As students actively engage in these moments, they are being shaped by the Word and their interactions with others to more faithfully pursue Jesus and apply His Word to their lives.
Living in close proximity to hundreds of people in a similar life stage presents an array of opportunities for fun and laughter as well as frustration and difficulty. Many of the most encouraging conversations I have had with students are based on their living situation and how they are dealing with the newness, and sometimes difficulty, of sharing their space, maybe for the first time. Learning how to engage with people who are different from themselves provides students with the opportunity to help others follow Jesus.
These types of conversations help students navigate how to have healthy relationships, how to cultivate selflessness, and, ultimately, what it means to love another person the way Jesus loves us. These everyday moments help shape a person’s thoughts and reorient them toward the truth of the Gospel for their own lives.
All of the little moments and big events focus on providing outlets for fellowship, laughter, spiritual formation, and a little friendly competition. Each residence hall is unique in its opportunities for students, and it is a joy to see the creativity the RDs and RAs put into planning events for their particular halls.From pancake breakfasts to relay races to writing notes of encouragement to shaved ice trucks to sharing bagels and coffee together. Residence hall leaders are purposeful in their planning and seek to engage with students and provide avenues to build lasting and meaningful relationships. God does amazing work in the hearts of students during their time at Cedarville, and those mundane moments, fun activities, and deep conversations that happen when students live 24/7 in community become rich soil for inspiring life change, creating lasting memories, and forging lifelong friendships. What a privilege to be a part of Residence LIFE at Cedarville!