Residence life resource officers strive to foster connections with students living on campus
March 15, 2021
Whether sharing their curated 1980s playlists over the WUVT airwaves, engaging students in Virginia Tech Police Department programming, or passing out candy – and jokes – in residence halls, a hardworking trio of residence life resource officers are a fixture on the Blacksburg campus.
The officers’ consistent presence in student spaces has been a key ingredient in deepening a culture of safety, support, and communication at Virginia Tech.
Launched in 2011 by the Virginia Tech Police Department and Housing and Residence Life, the Residence Life Resource Officer Program seeks to build interactive and educational relationships between Virginia Tech Police officers and students in campus residence halls.
To achieve this mission, a dedicated team of three — Cpl. John Tarter, Officer Micah Pasquarell, and Officer Ian MacInnis — lead a host of residence life resource officer programming and community engagement activities. All continue to be held in physically-distanced settings. They include:
Walk with a Cop: For about 45 minutes each week, resident advisors get the chance to get outside and walk with a resource officer. Both parties get to engage in frank discussions on topics impacting the campus community and ask questions.
Cops and Candy: On an ongoing basis, resource officers distribute candy and have conversations with students and residence life staff. During this time, officers also share important information on university alcohol and drug use policies.
Rape Aggression Defense System (R.A.D. for Women) and Resisting Aggression with Defense System (R.A.D. for Men): The resource officers help host these courses that cover aggression and violence awareness, prevention, risk reduction, and avoidance. They also offer the basics of hands-on defense training and more.
RLRONation Radio Show: Each week, the resource officers interact with the Virginia Tech community – and beyond – over the airwaves. The show airs on Wednesdays, from 3 - 5 p.m. on WUVT 90.7 FM or can be streamed online. Each show also includes a top-notch 1980s playlist.
Gotcha Program: The officers make rounds with resident advisors, locating unlocked doors and placing security reminders on them.
Resource officers also meet daily with students and assist with other Student Engagement and Campus Life events, First-Year Orientation, the Virginia Tech Police Department's annual Hot Dog Luncheon, and the department’s Student and Employee Police Academy.
“Residential life resource officers continue to make strides in opening up new lines of communication and collaboration between the Virginia Tech Police Department and residential students. I am proud of the culture of safety and support we have helped advance since the program was introduced in 2011,” said Tarter.
Tarter also recently started serving as a pod coach to a group of students called the Mangoes. Learn more about how pod networks are helping to support healthy social interactions on campus.
Partnership is central to resource officers’ abilities to connect and build trust with the university community.
“Student Affairs and Housing and Residence Life remain top partners. We interact with them on a daily basis; attending staff meetings, checking in with resident advisors, and helping mentor students referred through the conduct process,” said Pasquarell, who was recently named 2020 Virginia Tech Police Officer of the Year.
“We know we’ll continue to work closely together — especially in raising awareness around the mental health resources available at Virginia Tech through the Better Together campaign. As resource officers, we’re aware of the unique chances we have to bring light to these resources in all of our campus interactions,” affirmed Pasquarell.
MacInnis, who recently joined the residence life resource officer team in February on a rotational program with the police department, encourages all university members to reach out and say hello.
“We are a resource for the entire Blacksburg campus and always here to listen. Don’t be afraid to stop and talk to us when you see us,” MacInnis said.
Interested in connecting with a resource officer? Throughout spring 2021, the resource officers will hold open office hours on Fridays between 2 – 5 p.m. in their resource center on the first floor of New Residence Hall East. Students can contact officers by phone at 540-231-6102 or via the RLRONation Facebook page.
Written by Christy Myers and Alexa Briehl