As a resident assistant (RA) at the University of Illinois Springfield, liberal studies major Benita Ekwonwa has learned many lessons about leadership. Every day she successfully juggles a full academic schedule and her duties as an RA.
“Being an RA really helps you to learn how to time manage and also communication skills because you have to learn to talk to your residents and they are from different backgrounds, they are different people who have different interests,” she said.
As an RA, she’s often on call 24 hours a day and responds to resident lock outs, fire alarms and noise complaints. However, she says the best part of her job is planning community engagement events which helps her to get to know residents better. She recently hosted a “Warm Up Wednesday” event where she fixed hot chocolate and tea for her fellow students.
“I think a big important part of being an RA is getting to know your residents, knowing their interests, dislikes, just knowing that they can come to you for anything,” she said. “I think it’s really important.”
On campus, Ekwonwa is president of the Catholic Student Association, a member of the African Student Association and the Afrobeat Dance Crew.
“I really like the small campus feel, just knowing that you can go talk to professors and they know who you are,” she said. “Being more than just a number was really important to me. Also, it was pretty inexpensive and being from the suburbs it’s not too far from home.”
Following graduation from UIS, Ekwonwa plans to attend medical school and plans to become a family physician. She feels well prepared by her UIS education.
“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met different people. I think I’m growing every day and I think it’s just a great experience being at UIS,” she said.