Think back to the events in your life that have led you to pursue a career in collegiate recreation. I’m not a betting man, but I’d put money on the notion that most of us found our way thanks to mentoring from a professional in the field. As students, it’s a beautiful thing to have at our convenience collegiate recreational professionals who know the way, go the way, and are willing to show the way.

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
John C. Crosby, American politician

The opportunities I have as the NIRSA Student Leader to collaborate, learn from, and grow with leaders from across the country who serve as mentors on their campuses are some of the most valuable aspects of my position.

I’ve quickly gravitated to one professional in particular thanks to his kind spirit, innovative mindset, and willingness to mentor students like myself: Earl Cabellon, the Member Network’s Region I Representative and Assistant Director for Student Personnel at the University of Maryland.

Pat Shank and Earl Cabellon in Washington, DC at NIRSA Summer Leadership Meetings

Pat Shank and Earl Cabellon in Washington, DC at NIRSA Summer Leadership Meetings.

Pat Shank, Facilities and Management at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, says that “Earl has been a true mentor thus far into my year as the Region I Student leader. From the first time I spoke with him, he has been guiding me as opposed to telling me what to do. Earl always gives me pointers and tips about how to do things, but always gives me a tremendous amount of freedom with what I can do with my position. I’m looking forward to working the rest of my term under his guidance.”

Given that he is both an outstanding mentor to the Student Leadership Team and a member of the NIRSA Mentor Program, I jumped on the opportunity to highlight Earl’s relationship with his mentee Ryan Holbrook, Graduate Assistant of Facility Operations from the University of Utah.

Ryan and Earl were paired through the program one year ago and so far have transitioned through some important life events. These include, among others, Ryan’s first-year transition across the country to become a GA and Earl’s journey through his newest adventure of being a father.

Check out a little more about their story as well as their reasoning for why you should join the NIRSA Mentor Program:

So if you’re looking for a mentor like Earl or you’re interested in developing students like Ryan, the NIRSA Mentor Program is for you.

According to Region II Student Leader Kelsey Jones, Competitive Sports Graduate Assistant at the University of Florida, “Working with the Mentor Program allows me to set up two people dedicated to challenging each other and growing together. Being able to have a mutually beneficial relationship that allows students to feel comfortable to ask questions and learn from someone who they look up to in this environment is truly amazing.”

Students, young professionals, and seasoned veterans alike, I’ll leave with you this challenge in the form of a quote:

“I encourage all of you to seek out teachers and mentors that challenge you to think for yourself and guide you to find your own voice.”
Renee Olstead, American actress and singer
Graduate Assistant for Marketing & Social Media at James Madison University |

William Trent, NIRSA Student Leader, is currently the Graduate Assistant for Marketing & Social Media at James Madison University.