By Paige Lusczyk, Contributing Writer.
An on-campus role typically reserved for upperclassmen has been offered to first-semester freshmen this year as the University of Maine at Farmington faces a shortage of student employees. Four freshmen joined the Community Assistant training earlier this semester, with only a campus tour and Summer Experience under their belts.
Typically a full CA staff would need 36 positions. When COVID-19 struck campuses nationwide in March 2020, many UMF residents had already applied and accepted CA positions.
Director of Student Life and current Scott Hall Professional Staff, Brian Ufford, explained that when Dakin Hall closed to become the allocated quarantine building, many applicants were brought into the other halls as extra help instead of firing a large group. That is the reason the third floor of Scott Hall North had three CAs for the fall 2020 semester when the number historically has been two.
When the spring 2021 semester started, many former CAs decided not to return. When asked, Ufford replied that the CA shortage is “a product of COVID more than anything.”
Ufford said the job was “not nearly as rewarding” due to COVID-19 restrictions and less on-campus resident interaction. As of right now, Scott Hall is short five CAs that will hopefully be filled before the fall 2021 semester ends. A few residents have already applied including more freshmen.
Hannah Levy is currently a CA in Mallet Hall and feels “very confident in [her] ability to be a CA.” She, like the other three current freshmen CAs, was approached during Summer Experience.
“Brian [Ufford] had mentioned in a big group that they were looking for CAs and that this was the first time that they were allowing freshmen first semester to apply,” Levy wrote in an email.
Levy has had a bit of experience already because she was an RA in high school and loved it “because [she] was able to be a part of people’s lives and hopefully make an impact on someone.”
Although Levy admitted to feeling nervous and intimidated at the beginning of the training week, she still exclaimed, “I am excited to take what I have learned from my high school and CA training and incorporate it into my hall.”
Hunter Kemp, who is currently a CA in Scott Hall, shares similar thoughts. Kemp also admitted a nervous feeling about the position. Fortunately, his confidence has continued to grow with more experience. He mentioned that in the beginning he “was nervous about becoming a resource figure on campus, mostly because [he] didn’t know the campus yet.” Kemp added that everyone has been helpful.
Both Kemp and Levy said they believe that they’ll be able to connect to first-year students on a more personal level than the upperclassmen CAs since they would be going through the same experiences other first-year students go through; newly found independence, real college classes, self-care, and time and financial management.
Ufford said he has full confidence in the freshman CAs, explaining that in his opinion all high school graduates have the skill sets for many jobs similar to the CA position. Coming into the job they just lack the “familiarity with campus resources, but [Ufford] thinks [UMF staff] did a good job [during training].”
As the Fall 2021 semester goes on, Professional Staff plan on interviewing and hiring potential candidates. As predicted by Ufford, the new applicants will start by being placed in Scott Hall and will most likely go through a mentorship process, on top of regular training, where they will be able to continue learning with returning CAs.