Inspired To Get Involved
One steady presence throughout Ng’s first year in Page-Emmet made a lasting impression. Her name is Ali Verster and she served as the resident adviser of Emmet 3L hall during Ng’s first year at UVA. Ng watched how she kept a level head and supported the new students, resolved conflicts, encouraged others and gently enforced dorm rules.
Slowly, she began to see herself in that role. And eventually, Ng decided to apply to become an RA – a curiosity that grew into a passion through her experience here. It led to Ng serving as a co-chair, along with fellow fourth-year student Holly Sims, of the Resident Staff program, which oversees approximately 280 student members consisting of vice chairs, senior residents and resident advisers.
“I really like that experience and I like that interaction,” Ng said of her time as an RA. “Being able to empathize with your residents and to support them, whether they’re going through tough, challenging times in their lives or just even the best of times, their little victories. I really grew to love that.”
You can forgive Jerry Ng for smiling at this outcome. That wasn’t exactly the Karissa Ng he and his wife, Julie Zhu, dropped off that day in 2019. Jerry Ng, in a Zoom interview from Virginia Beach, said the couple’s only child was somewhat reserved and introspective growing up – even if she was an overachiever academically and in other pursuits. Through her experiences as a college student and in the residence life program, another side emerged.
“She was more of a private person before,” he said. “So, she’s just bloomed.”
‘One of the Best RA’s’
One person who got to know Karissa Ng well during her time at UVA has also enjoyed watching Ng change during the past four years.
Megha Kalyan was a UVA fourth-year student and a senior resident in Housing & Residence Life in 2020 when Ng applied to become a resident adviser. Senior residents live in apartments in the dorms and supervise the various RAs staffing each residence hall. When Ng served as a Page-Emmet RA of Emmet 3L – yes, her old first-year hall – in 2020-21, Kalyan served as her colleague and supervisor.
“She was amazing,” said Kalyan, who graduated in 2021 and now works full-time for Housing & Residence Life as a Residence Life coordinator. “She was literally one of the best RAs I’ve ever seen.”
Kalyan said Ng demonstrated and continued to develop the traits that seem to be prevalent in the most successful RAs. She was meticulous, organized, fair and empathetic. But Kalyan said she believed Ng matured the most as an RA and leader when her confidence grew that her own, low-key approach could be just as effective as more outspoken styles.
“Karissa is not the loudest person in the room. I don’t think she was ever the person who would be the first to assert her opinions or what she was thinking. And I think that’s hard at this University to be that kind of quiet leader,” she said.