The road to networking: ERSL and the Region III Student Lead On

By | 2017-07-16T07:51:33+00:00 March 6, 2017|Categories: Blogs, Student Leader's Notes|

The road to student networking in January was quite an adventurous one to say the least. ERSLC2017 and the Region III Student Lead On fell within a week of each other, and I was grateful to be able to attend both. For the sake of review, I’ll share with you the five Ws of each conference as well as a testimonial from some NIRSA students, aka #HumansOfNIRSA.

ERSL: Emerging Recreational Sports Leader’s Conference

When and Where?
January 18-21 in Jackson, Mississippi. This was significant because the first ERSL was held 25 years ago at Dillard University. At the time, the conference—called the Emerging Minority Leaders Workshop—served the purpose of providing minority students with the opportunity to connect with leaders in the industry on an HBCU campus. Fittingly so, Jackson State so wonderfully hosted this conference and the 25th ERSL returned to an HBCU campus.

Who?
Around 200 students and professionals participated in “idea and information exchange,” as J. Michael Dunn once put it. It was eye-opening to see how many prominent directors and figures in our Association took the time to attend. The conference is not bound by region, so members from Florida to Washington and everywhere in between made the trip. It provided an immense amount of student-to-professional interaction, and allowed me to meet so many professionals in the field I had hoped to connect with this year.

What (did I learn)?
Hosted at the Walter Payton Center, sessions were held on the topics of professional development, preparing for the next step, refining skills, and so much more.

One of my personal favorite moments took place during mock interviews. With a speed dating-style, students rotated and were interviewed by various professionals. There was a five-minute period for interviews followed by a few-minutes review period. It felt great to be on the professional side of these in order to really get a glimpse of the passion and excitement the participants brought with them.

Mirum Washington-White, Associate Director for Program and Assessment at the University of Houston, and Dr. Kevin Marbury, Director of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Oregon, presented a session about strategic leadership. In that session, I learned one of the coolest acronyms ever—I know I’ll take it with me forever. It’s all about why it’s okay to fail in certain situations because often times it is your:

F – first
A – attempt
I – in
L – learning.

Attendee and student employee at Western Kentucky University Xavion Price took the time to share with me some of the things he learned at ERSL as well:

Why (should you attend in the future)?
After reflecting on the experience, it really was the interactions that made this conference so memorable for me. Conversations like an hour-long candid sit down with Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University. Comparing sock styles with Mirum Washington-White, Laurie Braden, Director of University Recreation at Louisiana State University, and Demitri Lahanas, Facility Manager at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Meeting Mamma Wasson and singing Happy Birthday to Horace Moody Jr. at our social. Being roommates with incoming NIRSA Student Leader Corbin Ross, Strength Training & Conditioning Graduate Assistant at the University of Nebraska, and really getting the chance to know him. Hearing about how Jackson State’s Director Seneca Wilson’s come-up began at ERSL thanks to the leaders who were present at seemingly all 25 ERSLCs. Again, you have to be there to experience for yourself the love and care that is present at this conference!

Region III Student Lead On

When and Where?
January 26-28th at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.

Who?
418 attendees, 310 of which were students. There were 294 first-time attendees at the conference, and I was delighted to be one of them. This conference is student-planned, student-led, and student-focused. It’s made as affordable as possible—this includes the opportunity to spend the night at the RPAC (recreation center). While it is catered to Region III, there were quite a few folks who joined from other regions.

In attendance was “NIRSA Grandpa” himself: Greg Jordan, the Director of Campus Recreation at Oakland University. Making his first public appearance since it was announced that he would be crowned the 2017 NIRSA Honor Award recipient, he was greeted by a standing ovation during the opening session. Included in the panel that Greg spoke on were a number of NIRSA leaders: Vicki Highstreet, Associate Director for Recreation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Moe McGonagle, Director, CENTERS, LLC at DePaul University, and Stan Shingles. It was fitting that Moe was in attendance as she was the beautiful mind that presented the idea of having the first Student Lead On 30 years ago.

What (did I learn)?
I learned how to Capitalize My Potential, as the theme of the conference read. “I learned that Region III is the place to be.” I learned that Columbus is the 15th largest city in the United States and that (even as a Virginia Tech alum) I would love to attend a football game in the Horseshoe. I learned that creativity is a skill, not a trait, and we can enhance the ways we bring creativity out of our student staff members every day.

Why (should you attend in the future)?
In its purest form, this conference is an investment in our future. By allowing a student planning committee to take ownership of an entire regional conference, Region III is providing its students with the best possible student development opportunities. Andrea Collins, Graduate Administrative Associate-Member Services at The Ohio State University, Margie Wallington, Fitness and Wellness Programming at Ball State University, and their team of planners did an outstanding job of creating an environment for students and professionals alike to grow together. One of those planning committee members, Laney Cherveny, Graduate Assistant – Ice Arena at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, had some things she’d like to share about her experience:

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.