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News . Feature Stories . CIA RAs, Student Life + Housing takes home top honors


February 10, 2023

CIA RAs, Student Life + Housing takes home top honors

CIA at NEOHO. Front, from left: M Dailey, Ivy McCombs, Skye Vanh, Andrea Spect. Middle, from left: Giovanna McLean, Maddie Shilt, Thea Tsardoulias, Mei Peraza, Kate Stehle, Cordy Wright. Back: Cullen Williams-Freeman, Matthew Smith, Karl Edwards.

By Michael C. Butz

Two Cleveland Institute of Art resident assistants earned top individual awards, and CIA's entire Student Life + Housing team was presented with a spirit award at the Northeast Ohio Housing Officers' 2023 Mike Corr RA Conference.

Matthew J. Smith, PhD, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at CIA, said it was gratifying to see his team’s hard work recognized and rewarded by their peers.

“I am extremely proud of all of them for all of the work that they put in, and the deserving accolades they received at the conference,” Smith said following the February 4 conference at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio.

Illustration senior Skye Vanh, RA on the fifth floor at CIA's Uptown Residence Hall, was named Resident Assistant of the Year. After her initial shock, she was “extremely honored” to receive the award.

“I am very grateful for the support of my supervisors and coworkers, especially my direct supervisor, Graduate Hall Director Ivy McCombs, who nominated me for this award,” Vanh said. “Without my coworkers, I would not be the RA I am today. It has been such a wonderful experience being an RA, and I am proud to have represented CIA at the NEOHO conference.

“The most valuable part of serving as an RA is being able to connect with so many different people, whether that means connecting with my coworkers, supervisors, or most importantly, my residents,” she says. “It means a great deal to me to be able to support these residents as they go through their journeys as artists and individuals. I purposefully requested to work at the freshman dorm to provide them with any support they may need as the first year of living independently can be challenging.”

Painting and Sculpture + Expanded Media double-major M Dailey, RA on the third floor at CIA's Euclid 117 Residence Hall, was recognized for delivering the top presentation of the conference as determined by evaluations from those who heard it.

Dailey’s presentation, “Neurodiversity in your hall,” offered attendees an opportunity to learn how to help neurodivergent residents feel comfortable on campus. It also provided truths about commonly believed myths related to mental health and developmental disorders and presented tips on how to create successful and inclusive programs.

“Neurodiversity in your hall” was chosen as the top offering from a total of 17 presentations. Dailey considers the recognition to be a “great honor.”

“As someone who is neurodivergent, I wanted to advocate for something that I find to be often overlooked, and more so, misunderstood. It is satisfying to have my efforts as an RA recognized,” they said. “The presentation was about how to best accommodate residents in the residence halls who may be neurodivergent or have sensory issues. It also spoke to how these residents’ needs are consistently overlooked in higher education.”

“I think that as an RA, I really value the connections that I make with my residents,” they said. “Even the small conversations go a long way. Having the resources to support my peers through the many challenges of college is fulfilling.”

The other CIA RAs who presented at the conference were Karl Edwards, Giovanna McLean, Maddie Shilt, Kate Stehle, Thea Tsardoulias, Vanh, Cullen Williams-Freeman and Cordy Wright.

Lastly, the CIA housing staff as a whole was presented with the NEOHO Spirit Award. The NEOHO executive board remarked on the energy and enthusiasm the CIA staff brought despite being small in number.

Smith acknowledged it can be difficult for CIA’s relatively small staff to be seen when compared to staffs of 20 to 80 people at other colleges and universities.

“Much like the CIA community, our staff is a close-knit group,” Smith said. “During RA training in late summer, we not only work on the nuts and bolts of being an RA, but we work on elements of teamwork and leadership. This has a tremendous impact on the kind of collaboration and spirit our staff ends up having. They are enthusiastic, motivated and love helping the students on their floors.

“When we interview RA candidates, it is their RA that they always point to as motivation for wanting to serve as an RA,” Smith continued. “To me, regardless of the award, our RAs exhibit and maintain the type of spirit we want in our staff. It is icing on the cake that they were recognized by their greater fraternity of students and professionals serving similar roles across all the schools in Northeast Ohio.”

In addition to CIA, the NEOHO includes resident-assistant staff members from Ashland University, Baldwin Wallace University, Cleveland State University, College of Wooster, Hiram College, Kent State University, John Carroll University, Lake Erie College, Notre Dame College, Oberlin College, Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute, University of Akron, University of Mount Union, Walsh University and Youngstown State University.

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