An interview with residence advisors Katherine and Alexis who go out of their way to build an inclusive community at Marine Drive.
When meeting Katherine and Alexis, you could immediately feel warmth radiating from their wonderful personalities. This sunny demeanor perfectly reflected their role as summer Residence Advisors (RAs) at the Marine Drive student residence, where alongside their peers, they work to create community among residents. One of the many ways in which they facilitate this is through throwing events where residents of their buildings can come together and meet in an inclusive and fun way!
Katherine applied for the Inspiring Community Grant to fund a project idea for Pride month that would bring her residents together to celebrate the occasion: Tie – Dye for Pride! The event took place on Monday the 19th of June, in the Marine Drive commons block, and students gathered to make T-shirts, connect, and show support. I had the immense pleasure of speaking to Katherine and her team member Alexis about the project, as well as their roles as RA’s and what it meant to them.
Shivani: Tell us a little bit about yourselves! What are you studying and what do you hope to do in the future?
Katherine: “Hi! My name is Katherine, and I am pursuing a second-degree in computer science. I finished my first-degree in biopsychology and am not too sure what I want to do in the future yet.”
Alexis: “Hey I’m Alexis, I'm an international relations major with a commerce minor, I was born in Vancouver but raised in Michigan state, and I want to go into public relations or community work.”
Shivani: Awesome! So, what made you decide to apply for the role of RA?
Katherine: “I wanted to be part of a community again after COVID, especially since it was my second degree. In my first degree living in residence was monumental for me. I was a floor rep at the Totem residence but didn’t become an RA until my second degree now.”
Alexis: “My second year RA encouraged me to apply, and I felt it was a great way to be a part of the UBC community!”
Shivani: Could you tell us about your project and what inspired Tie - Dye for Pride?
Katherine: “So I Summer RA’d last year, and we wanted to have a program for Pride, but it just didn’t happen due to funding and timing concerns. This year, having the UTown grant really accelerated the process for us. I know that two summers ago, there was a Pride-themed program in Marine when Alexis was a resident and she felt that she had gotten a lot of value out of it, so it was something our team members discussed early on into the summer, and something we really wanted to put our efforts into.”
Shivani: I am told this is not your first time applying for the Inspiring community grant – what other projects has this grant helped fund, and how has the availability of this grant helped you achieve your goals as a community leader?
Katherine: “So, I’m the project lead that wrote the Grants for Diwali in Residence, Deck the Halls, Green Clean, and now this, Tie Dye for Pride. Alexis, and Kevin, who is unfortunately not here, have been handling those projects alongside me. Marine Drive is actually the largest upper-year residence, and so it’s difficult because as just a few RA’s, we have limited funding, and the projects that we are interested in and reflect the different identities of our residence are really important to us. That is why we are open to applying for these grants – and it is not an obligation for RAs to do that but it’s just something we feel very passionate about.”
“We also try to do programs that are on the affordable end, such as speed friending, that require very little planning and is more of just talking to each other, but there are events such as Pride month, or cultural holidays that we would like to also put on and so it’s nice to have a little bit of funding to do that”
Alexis: “I think that also we often have an idea of what we want these events to look like and the funding really helps bring it to life. Especially in the cultural sense, it’s very important to have like the correct food – because I think there's a big difference, say at Diwali for example, just giving out chips and sodas instead of something more representative, which may cost more.”
Shivani: As you know, this grant is to help inspire community at UBC and bring people together – what do you personally think is important for people to feel a sense of community here at UBC?
Katherine: “As RA’s, we get to facilitate unit visits with our residents, and I think that gives us an idea of who is in our building, so instead of just sending out surveys and being like “hey what are you interested in?”, it's easier to connect to what our residence are looking for. But also because we can actually be in their space, we can see what's on their walls, their musical instruments, and pictures, and spark that conversation of interests so that if I see someone is in engineering I can say “Oh, did you know your next door Neighbour an engineer!” and you start noticing certain things that keep coming up in conversation and we can see what to do that reflects our community and help connect others”.
Alexis: “I think also the programs itself really help build communities because there are so many residents that live in different buildings, and they might've never otherwise interacted and then they end up connecting over shared interests and I’ll overhear conversations like ‘Oh - I didn’t realize we’re from the same hometown! So, that’s really great.”
Shivani: As a repeat grant recipient – do you have any plans in the work or any ideas brewing for future community projects? How does your team work to come up with inspired community events?
Alexis: “I feel like sometimes we have ideas for a while and sometimes we are very proactive but it’s a give and take. So, one person will have an idea and then another and we kind of combine them and brainstorm together.”
Katherine: “I think as a team we often talk about “is this something we would go to”:– like putting events on that we actually like is really important. I think the success of a project is often how Interested you are or how passionate you are about the project.”
Shivani: What do you hope to see improved regarding inclusivity, acceptance, diversity, and community at UBC?
Katherine: “I think, especially on our team, it just so happened we had two individuals of Indian ancestry so, we felt more confident with planning Diwali, but I think that in terms of programs that are cultural or with specific communities, I think it's hard to know how to navigate cultural holidays in a respectful way if no one on our team is a part of that culture.”
Alexis: “I also think there is an important element of keeping things anonymous when making space for feedback from residents themselves. I think unit visits are great to have that face-to-face connection, but people may not be comfortable doing that or express themselves to us directly. So, I think that’s important, so we can get that feedback that we want.”
If you have an idea to create connections in the community, learn more on how the Inspiring Community grant can fund your ideas here: Inspiring Community Grants