Stevie Kisty: Serving smiles one resident at a time


Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Stevie Kisty was inspired to become an RA by his own first-year RA, Lejla Suljevic.

By Erica Guthrie, Senior Staff Writer

Living in a university residence hall can be a hectic experience for some first-year students. However, floor nine of Sutherland West has a resident assistant armed with good humor, great listening skills and a griddle to help them get through it.

“We just had a program where we all had breakfast in one of the lounges on Sunday morning. Stevie brought in a griddle and made pancakes for us,” Deirdre Nuebel, a first-year floor nine resident said. “He will listen to us and do his best to cater to our needs and wants, and it was a great time.”

Pittsburgh native Stephen Kisty, known to his residents and friends as Stevie, is a sophomore biology and economics major spending the academic year as an RA in the first-year Honors Living-Learning Community in Sutherland West. His welcoming nature and love for his job are part of what earned him the title of Best RA of 2018.

As a first-year himself, he was a resident in that same LLC. His RA then, Lejla Suljevic, is who inspired him to to apply for the position for his second year at Pitt.

“My RA just made [my first year] such a great experience,” Kisty said, “I wanted to do that as well for someone, so that’s why I got into it.”

Pitt RAs are expected to put on programs for their floor and residence halls regularly to get residents involved and help form a community. One of Kisty’s favorite programs that he helped plan was actually thrown together quite hastily.

“Originally, we had the idea that we wanted to do a ‘painting with a twist’ night, but a lot of different things happened along the way … so it kind of fell apart, but in the two days leading up to it, we pulled something together and did a Bob Ross painting night, where we followed one of his painting tutorials. It was so much fun and we had 40 people come,” Kisty said.

One of Kisty’s residents, first-year mechanical engineering student Warren Lester, said his transition from a small Midwestern private school to a large state university was difficult, but having Kisty as his RA helped make the process much smoother.

“Stevie is one of the most personable people I have ever met,” Lester said. “He’s a very inclusive person, he’s very down-to-earth and he helped me feel more comfortable in an entirely new group of people.”

When it comes to making connections with residents who may not share the same interests as him, Kisty said the best way to build relationships is through having conversations about the resident’s passions and on-campus involvements and trying to find activities that suit everyone.

“So, remembering where they’re from or all the different clubs that they’re in, that’s the easiest way I found to connect, and also through programming and hitting stuff that everyone wants to do,” Kisty said.

Nuebel said Stevie works hard to connect with all of the floor’s residents, whether it be through uplifting messages in the floor’s GroupMe chat, listening to their program ideas and making them a reality or leaving kind messages on every resident’s door for them to find upon returning from Thanksgiving break.

“I think one of the best words to describe Stevie is committed. He is the type of person that never does anything half-heartedly and his job as an RA is definitely a good example of that,” Nuebel said. “I think it’s all of those small things that Stevie does that makes him well liked and trusted by everyone.”

The job of a resident assistant isn’t only about making connections with residents on their floor, but also creating programming and enforcing the rules of the residence halls. Kisty said as a first-year resident, he hadn’t realized how much work RAs had to do.

“I would say I wasn’t expecting to do as much behind-the-scenes stuff. There’s a lot I didn’t realize last year about the process. We don’t want our residents to see us dealing with stuff and a lot of the administrative stuff,” Kisty said.

Despite this, Kisty said he still loves being an RA. According to him, the job was as fun as he anticipated it would be, especially because of the people he has met.

“It’s definitely a weird relationship, because on one hand, they’re all such great people and I want to be their friend so much,” Kisty said. “But I have to keep that professional boundary, because I am still in charge of them, so it’s definitely a fine line between being friends with them but also being able to be the authority figure on the floor.”

In addition to working with first-year students, Kisty also works alongside the rest of Sutherland’s RAs to create programs for the residents. Prior to Orientation Week, when resident assistants were moving into their halls, returning RA Alexis Harold met Kisty for the first time. Kisty had sent a message in the Sutherland RA group chat inviting others to stop by and introduce themselves after he moved in. Harold, a junior studying biological sciences, decided to pop in for a visit.

“During RA training week, we’re supposed to write notes to other RAs or like, pro staff that help you through the week. He wrote one to me, he was like, ‘Oh, it meant a lot that you stopped by my room that day,’” Harold said. “I think from that point on, we became really close, and it’s really nice.”

Harold said Kisty has a very strong sense of work ethic, both as an RA and a student. As students in the same class during the fall semester, she said he was consistently making sure his friends understood the content and offering to help them study.

“He’s very hardworking, and you can see that in his pursuit of studies,” Harold said. “He’s very much ahead of the game as far as he’s planning ahead and having it all together. It’s something that I wish I had.”

After his positive experience this year, Kisty aspires to work in Residence Life again next year. He said he is applying to be a lead RA for a whole residence hall, meaning he would be in charge of the other RAs in the building and serve as a liaison between the RAs and the building’s residence director.

Despite winning best RA, Kisty remains adamant that his success is not only due to his work, but because of the residents on his floor and the support system he has in his friends and fellow RAs.

“I’ve had such an amazing group of people behind me and such an amazing group of residents that I haven’t even had to work that hard,” Kisty said. “Everything has turned out great because of all of the people that supported me and the great situation I’m in.”