By Heather Shaffer
Most students who live on the UIS campus probably know Brad Ward. He is that guy you see at almost every campus event, whether he’s rooting on the Prairie Stars at a home basketball game or attending a Housing Residents Council meeting. However, Brad is probably most well-known for his job as a resident assistant for the Two South wing of Lincoln Residence Hall.
According to Brad, he didn’t even consider becoming an RA until Emily Eskridge, a former RA in LRH, approached him and told him she thought he would be good at the job. After applying and interviewing, Brad was put on the alternate list and was later asked to fill Emily’s spot when she transferred to another university.
“Being an RA has been a blessing for me, and I truly mean that. The staff I work with is amazing, and we overcome so much together. And, honestly, you do get burnt out at times but when someone comes to your door at the end of a long day and needs someone to talk to or thanks you for something you did, big or small, it really makes the time and effort worth it,” he said.
Brad said that being an RA has brought him many opportunities and helped him learn many skills that will be useful when he is looking for a job after college. For example, he thinks the experience has sharpened his interpersonal skills as well as his skills in communication, crisis prevention, time management, community building, and programming.
As an RA, Brad also has had the opportunity to serve on the Illinois State Resident Assistant Association. He -- along with Blair Brown, Jen Davis, John Kelly, Dan Collins, and Loni Oehlwein -- serves on the executive board of the statewide organization. Brad said that while it is a lot of work to stay in touch with RA’s across the state to plan conferences and recruit new schools, it is nevertheless a great experience.
Besides being an RA, Brad is also the president of the Blue Crew, a group he calls one of the most active groups on campus. “The amount of commitment some members put in amazes me. They really don’t get the appreciation they deserve. Seeing kids come to 45 to 50 athletic events in 27 weeks of school...That’s two nights a week that they could be doing something else, but there they are, right on the front row, yelling until they have no voice, for our blue and white. Then they take a day off, get their voice back, and go out to do it the next night,” he said. Brad added that he expects the Blue Crew to be even bigger this year, with many incoming freshmen ready to “shake things up” on the sidelines.
Brad’s other activities include the Christian Student Fellowship, the executive board of the Housing Residence Council, and the Springfest Committee. He also works as a photographer for UIS Campus Relations, which allows him to attend almost every campus event.
But the largest part of Brad’s satisfaction comes from being an RA for Two South. “My residents have taught me a lot, and I am excited to get things rolling again in the fall. We have another spectacular group of kids coming in, and the campus should be excited about that,” he said.
In his spare time, Brad developed twosouth.com, a website dedicated to the residents of his wing. He started the site as a way for the students to get to know people around them, but the site grew and in the past two years has gotten hits from all over the world. twosouth.com contains information about each of the residents of Two South, along with pictures and videos about happenings on campus. “This year twosouth.com brought 5,653 pictures and 39 homemade videos to the UIS community, and we hope to put up higher numbers this year if time, space, and funding will allow,” said Brad.
Overall, Brad said that his favorite aspect of UIS is the amount of interaction he gets with so many people on campus, including professors. “Coming from a small town and a graduating class of 70, I knew that UIS would be a good fit for me. Being able to talk on a personal level to anyone from a building service worker to the chancellor just is not something you get at other campuses,” he said.
Brad said he first decided to attend UIS because of Raymond Barnett, whom he calls the “unsung hero of Admissions,” and, after three years, he is confident that he made the right choice. “I cannot believe that in December I will have my Bachelor’s of Business Administration, but I don’t regret one day of the journey,” he said.
Brad’s advice for incoming students -- whether they are transfer students, Capital Scholars, or commuter students -- is to get involved in as many campus activities as they can. He suggests that students should network with everyone, because in the future you never know who will be sitting on the other side of the interview table.
This summer, I am interested in learning about other people's experiences at UIS. If you’d like to share your campus experiences, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.