Please provide a statement of your personal views on the role and contributions of collegiate recreation in higher education. In your response describe how collegiate recreation has influenced your development.
When I reflect on my time as an undergrad, I often wonder what it would have been like without the Department of Recreational Sports at the University of Florida. Would I have met the mentors I needed in my life? Would I have gotten the experience I needed to be successful? When I was struggling mightily, would I have stayed in school? I can honestly say that I am not sure I would have. I was blessed to receive the people, the development, and the opportunities I needed, at the time I needed, to become the person I am today.
Looking back with the knowledge I have of higher education now, I realize my growth was no accident. There are intentional systems in place and a focus on developing students to succeed. Collegiate recreation gives students a low-pressure, low-stakes environment to actively practice conflict management, interpersonal skills, as well as professional skills. I did not realize it at the time, but my interview to become a supervisor, enforcing policies with a disgruntled patron, and creating trainings for my students were all giving me the skills I needed to thrive in my future endeavors. These are all skills that students need in order to obtain the job they desire after graduating.
Because of this, the role of collegiate recreation in higher education is imperative. We attract a diverse group of students because it is a flexible, on campus job that appeals to a lot of different skill sets. Since we attract such a wide array of students, we have the unique opportunity to affect all corners and populations of a college campus. Any student can interact with collegiate recreation in some way, shape, or form during their college career. This is an amazing opportunity to affect the people around us every day!
The aspect of collegiate recreation I have loved the most in my time is that of mentorship. I have noticed that there are so many opportunities for formal and informal mentorship. The people of NIRSA and collegiate recreation are what make it so successful. Every professional, graduate assistant, and student leader has an obvious passion for recreational sports. This passion leads to an outpour of love and investment in the students we work with. We want to see them succeed in whatever they are trying to accomplish and work to give them the tools to accomplish just that.
Within the context of the NIRSA Strategic Plan, what area/item would you say is a major issue students face today? Please identify a student driven issue that we are currently face today and you would like to address during your term. How will you create solutions in your role on the Student Leadership Team to address it?
The issue that I feel is affecting students the most is collegiate recreation’s perceived role within higher education. Studying in the Higher Education and Student Affairs academic program, I have realized that there is a shadow cast on collegiate recreation in the student affairs realm. Not many people quite understand what exactly it is we do. I often find myself defending Rec Sports’ position and impact to my colleagues within higher education spaces. This is perplexing to me. As an undergraduate student, I received more development from collegiate recreation than any other student affairs office on campus. I also do not think that I am reaching when I say that is the case for a lot of individuals.
The reason this is an issue facing students, rather than solely professionals, is because students are the beneficiaries of our services. As professionals, to do our job of impacting and developing students, we have to have support from other offices on campus. If we are seen as an outsider in the world of higher education, we will always be fighting an uphill battle.
I plan to use my platform and role as Student Leader to advocate on the behalf of students to professionals to get the development they need. Professional staff within collegiate recreation should have a focus on student development within the context of running a facility or program, not the other way around. Our students and their development should always come first and foremost.
I also hope to narrow the focus of graduate students. As a current graduate student, I see how it can be hard to put student development first. We are constantly trying to keep up with a number of responsibilities on the job and in the classroom that it becomes tough to be intentional with our students. I want to use my influence to keep student development at the forefront of NIRSA members’ minds.
Specific actions I hope to take to accomplish this is sharing personal narratives. I believe in the power of a story. Through my various outlets (NIRSA Know, leading Student Leadership Team meetings, etc.) I want to share my story as well as the stories of those around me to highlight the impact of our work. By consistently sharing stories of development and growth while advocating for the benefits of collegiate recreation, I believe we can change the perception that collegiate recreation is not a part of higher education.
In describing your contributions to NIRSA (i.e. presentations, volunteering, previous leadership roles, etc,), identify how your involvement and experiences meet the position criteria and qualify you to advocate for and serve the students of the Association.
This is a humbling question to answer. It is hard to know if I am ready, prepared, or experienced enough for a position like this. I have had the amazing opportunity to accumulate experience within NIRSA and collegiate recreation, but I will never know if I am ready to lead the entire NIRSA Student network.
However, I know I want to find out. The two verbs used in the question, “advocate” and “serve,” are two actions that I identify with heavily. Our job as collegiate recreation and student affairs professionals is to develop students. In order to accomplish this, we have to actively and intentionally advocate for and serve them. Our students serve us every day by running our facilities, managing our programs, and providing a welcoming environment. It is our responsibility to serve them back by offering professional development, growing opportunities, and mentorship.
I feel that my experiences within NIRSA have allowed me the opportunity to serve and advocate for the students around me. Being on the Region II Student Lead-On Committee and presenting at the Region II Conference are amazing examples of this. The reason I applied for the committee in the first place was because I saw how opportune it would be to present in a space that is only for students. With aspiring students from all over the region, the team was able to provide the reflective questions, leadership development, and activities that we thought would help them grow in their roles and as an individual.
I am lucky in that I stumbled upon collegiate recreation very early in my college career. Doing so, I have had the ability to attend multiple state, regional, and national conferences. I have seen a lot of presentations, speakers, and met so many new and influential people. I have also seen where conferences and initiatives fail. With every success I have seen a failure. I believe that this will help me in knowing what the students want and need, since I have attended many of these conferences from the perspective of a student.
One personal skill that I bring to this position is that I am a listener, not a talker. A stereotype around leadership is that leaders need to be the one at the front of the room, speaking eloquently on their perfected ideas. I do not view leadership exclusively in this way. My personal style of leadership is being a vessel. I want to use whatever position or power that I have to spread the ideas, thoughts, and concerns of those that I am leading. After reading through the duties and functions of the NIRSA Student Leader, I believe my personal type of leadership will fit this position well. A lot of the Student Leader’s functions include congregating the ideas and insight from Student Leadership Team and advocating the ideas to change agents within NIRSA. I would relish the opportunity to do just that.
As a Student Leader within NIRSA, you have the opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the field of collegiate recreation. With a focus on Student Member Recruitment & Retention, and Student Development what skills, talents, and perspectives would you bring to the Student Leadership Team?
Encouragement is often the difference between taking a crucial next step and staying complacent in our current positions. We live in uncertainty about ourselves and our abilities. It is the human condition. However, for some reason, whenever we receive a gentle nudge or a word of encouragement from someone, that uncertainty fades into the background. We gain a confidence that allows us to take a step into the unknown and put ourselves in a position where we might fail. I would not be applying for this position if i had not received the encouragement i needed.
I hope that my lasting impact as NIRSA Student Leader is centered on encouraging the heart. Kind words and an expression of confidence in an individual is often the first step in a student seeking development opportunities. I want to create a culture of encouragement from top down. If i can support the regional student leaders in a way that they take that attitude back to their campuses to encourage their students, then my impact will be felt. I hope that this culture will aid in student member recruitment and retention. If we are sharing and exemplifying the opportunities, growth, and commitment that NIRSA has to offer, we will attract more students. If we encourage them to take new and challenging leadership roles within NIRSA, they will become more invested and connected.
Student development does not happen in a vacuum. I think that every student we interact with is at a different level and needs different types of support. My approach to student development revolves around getting to know our students before we can give them what they need. Similar to a previous answer, I believe that there is power in stories. I think learning about each individual’s story is the base to student development. Once we have a basic understanding of who a person is, then we can provide opportunities tailored to them and their development. I think this approach will be useful in this position because we are here to serve the students. By getting to know the collective student network, the student leadership team will be able to tailor initiatives and workshops to the specific needs of the current student population.