Abstract: The resident assistant (RA) position at higher education institutions is a position of great influence. RAs have the opportunity to impact many students’ lives through the various roles that they engage in as a RA. The most common roles that RAs are expected to perform include developing community, serving as a peer helper, being a friend to residents, and enforcing policy. The very nature of a multi-role position presents challenges for RAs in understanding how to effectively enact all of their roles.
This study aimed at developing an understanding of the ways in which RAs engage in identity management strategies with residents. To accomplish this purpose, 143 RAs were surveyed using an identity management strategies scale designed for this study. In addition, a previously designed self-monitoring scale was also administered to test the relationship between identity management strategies and self-monitoring. These scales were applied to situations representing each of the four primary roles of a RA: community developer, peer helper, friend, and policy enforcer.
The results indicate that RAs are more likely to engage in avoidance strategies during the policy enforcer role than any other strategy. In addition, first-year RAs generally use more effective identity management strategies when developing community than returner RAs use. First-year RAs’ identity management strategies also appear to be more influenced by the RAs’ desires to be friends with residents than returner RAs’ identity management strategies. The results also indicate that female RAs are more effective in the community development role than male RAs. However, male RAs are more effective than female RAs in the policy enforcement role. A result that was supported throughout the study was the finding that RAs with upperclassmen residents are not as actively engaged in communicating their roles to residents than are RAs with freshmen and upperclassmen residents or only freshmen residents. Finally, the relationship of perceived self-monitoring to RAs’ choice of identity management strategies was not supported. The results of the study, interpretation of the data analysis, study implications, and directions for future research are discussed in detail.