Almost one third of NIRSA’s institutional member schools are community colleges or campuses that serve fewer than 5,000 students. The NIRSA Board of Directors appointed the Small Colleges & Community Colleges Task Force in late 2014 to engage with members from small campus rec programs and take a deep dive into their needs. The Task Force’s work over the past year and a half has helped move the Association forward in reaching its goal of being “a thriving, progressive organization with diverse membership that finds participation relevant and valuable.”
The Task Force made incredible strides
The Task Force began by formulating guidelines for what constitutes a small program—it’s about more than simply enrollment numbers or two-year vs. four- year schools. Instead, staff size as well as the tenure of recreation programing on a given campus plays a defining role. Next, the Task Force focused on conducting a needs assessment of small programs to identify relevant issues as well as the population’s resource needs.
The process began by conducting phone interviews with individual NIRSA members. The responses guided the development of an electronic survey, which had a strong response rate. There were over 300 participants representing nearly 150 schools, including responses from some non-members. The Task Force analyzed the survey results and presented the findings to NIRSA members at the 2016 NIRSA Annual Conference and to the NIRSA Board as part of the final report last fall.
Based on the needs assessment and input from members at NIRSA 2016, the Task Force developed recommendations, and presented to the NIRSA Board, on how NIRSA can better serve and engage this constituency of membership. The recommendations focused on five key areas:
- Continue to support a volunteer group in addressing the needs of small program members.
- Improve visibility of small programs so that they see themselves in NIRSA.
- Expand cost effective professional development opportunities for small programs.
- Increase financial support for small programs.
- Create a plan to address the needs of members at two-year institutions.
The NIRSA Board accepted the Task Force’s report at their mid-year meeting and endorsed focusing additional resources on this segment of membership. To that end, the Board embedded several elements of the recommendations in the 2017 tactics of the NIRSA Strategic Plan.
The Board thanks the Task Force for their thoughtful, thorough, and diligent work. Stacey Hall shared that “the depth and breadth of the Task Force’s analysis is to be commended and was very helpful to the NIRSA Board as we considered our options to expand NIRSA services and grow membership. The excellent work of our volunteer leaders is the lifeblood of NIRSA, and the work of this Task Force underscores continued success in this area.”
Looking to the future
The Task Force is happy to report that work has already begun on the tactics. For example, a 35% Annual Conference registration discount was offered for small program attendees, a small programs preconference workshop is slated for the 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference, and the Association is planning to highlight members from small programs in the NIRSA News this coming year.
To be mindful of the time constraints members from small programs face, the NIRSA Board has formulated a new model for a volunteer group: an advisory council. The purpose of this council is to act as thought leaders for small program initiatives. Rather than carry out several tasks as NIRSA committees do, they will vet projects and programs and provide feedback to Headquarters staff who are tasked with implementing the work.
The six-member Small Programs Advisory Council is to be populated this spring with a diverse set of members representing the various aspects of small programs. Members interested in this volunteer opportunity can learn more by reading this post in the Small Colleges & Community Colleges Community of Practice. To apply, members must submit a completed application and resume by Tuesday, March 28.
It’s been years in the making, but now solid groundwork has been laid for NIRSA to fully lean into addressing many of the needs of small program members. The Association looks forward to celebrating this segment of membership so that these members truly find participation in NIRSA relevant and valuable. Thank you to everyone who added your voice to this work! Stay tuned as several more elements will be rolled out in 2017.
- For more information, please contact NIRSA Director of Membership Christine Haluzak.