“Close-knit, honest and introspective” is how Resident Assistant (RA) Dana Yeater ’18 describes the Hiram community.
“We are a really diverse group, but are focused on making sure everyone has a place to fit in,” says Yeater, referring to the force that drives Hiram’s RAs. She adds that while she and her fellow RAs have had many recent successes with new programs within residential education, they are always striving to improve. Turns out, Yeater isn’t the only one who recognized the efforts of the Hiram residential staff. Last month, at the annual Northeast Ohio Housing Officers organization’s conference titled the Mike Corr RA Conference (recently renamed in honor of Hiram’s own Mike Corr, retired senior associate dean of students and director of residential education), Hiram was awarded the Spirit Award.
The Spirit Award is the most prestigious award presented each year and is earned based on points colleges collect by participating in events during and leading up to the conference, according to Yeater. Enthusiasm, teamwork and dedication are key to garnering such accolades. Activities in which Hiram RAs engaged this year included a philanthropic trivia game called Free Rice, which generates rice donations for the World Food Program. Hiram led the competition with the most trivia questions answered correctly.
With the help of graduate assistant Melanie Tousley, the RAs also earned spirit points by creating and submitting a video on the conference’s theme, “The NEOHO Jungle.” Starring RA Abigail Stevenson ’19, the video showcased Hiram’s campus and also featured Residential Education Director Ed Frato-Sweeny, along with Corr, the Hiram Terrier and RA staff members, as well as a cameo appearance by a neighborhood squirrel.
Hiram RAs showed up in full force to the conference wearing matching Hiram sweatshirts, ready to share ideas and network with the residential staff of the other colleges in attendance. Hosted this year at Ashland University, the conference welcomed RAs from Baldwin Wallace College, Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University, Youngstown State University, Oberlin College, John Carroll University and other institutions.
Three groups of Hiram RAs presented during the conference panel sessions. Sam Martinek ’17 and Brandon Eddinger ’19 presented “Hello! I am Baymax,” a program about RA self-care and how to avoid burnout. Melissa Johnson ’18 presented “Campus-Wide Programming” and discussed the collaborative efforts required to host major campus events, such as last year’s Haunted House in the Quad. Dana Yeater presented “How to Serve the Queer Community on Your Campus: A Discussion on All-Gender Housing.” Yeater spoke about being an RA in Hiram’s all-gender housing community during its pilot program year.
“We are the changers in culture,” Yeater said in her presentation, encouraging students and educational institutions to challenge boundaries and make changes to become more inclusive and serve the entire student body. On a personal level, Yeater says that her position as an RA has given her greater insight into all parts of the Hiram community as she connects with the residents on her floor. After the conference, Yeater admits she was surprised when Hiram won the Spirit Award.
“It amazed me that we won and that we were really appreciated. We were the underdogs, in a good way,” Yeater says. She adds that attending the conference and interacting with other schools made her realize just how close and hard-working the Hiram residential staff is.
These humble “underdogs” have surely earned their bragging rights—and of course, the giant, gleaming Spirit Award trophy.