By Ashley Dent, Assistant Director of Recreation Facilities at Florida International University

This past February, The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg hosted the 24th annual Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Conference. The conference—a student-centric event—was attended by over 150 professionals and students from over 40 different colleges and universities across the country. The conference’s theme—“Creating Connections…Building Bridges”—fit directly into our mission and vision for the event. With the number of first-time attendees at more than 40, we hope students were able to gain some valuable insights and information during their time in Hattiesburg.

In an effort to make the conference more sustainable, there were a few noticeable differences from past years: the use of the Guidebook app, less paper copies of the program, electronic session evaluations, and electronic overall conference evaluations. “We wanted to take a more sustainable approach to the conference this year,” explains Andrea Snead, Coordinator at the Recreation & Wellness Center at the University of Central Florida and ERSL co-chair. “By using the Guidebook app, we could do so much more than before.” The feedback from those using the app was very positive and we hope to continue to use the app in the future.

We had the pleasure of having Southern Mississippi President Dr. Rodney Bennett as our keynote speaker, and he really helped to kick off a great conference. He was very passionate in his message to attendees and also took some questions from several students in the crowd. Seneca Wilson, Assistant Director for Facility Operations at Jackson State University and the 2015 recipient of the Herman Williams Founders Outstanding Service Award, announced the 2016 recipient. Jackie McCarty, Member Services Coordinator at the University of California, Davis, says, “I feel very blessed and extremely honored to win this award.” The Herman Williams Founders Outstanding Service Award is given out annually to a professional who has shown innovative leadership qualities that have improved the ERSL Conference as well as opportunities for minorities in campus recreation.

Friday, February 26 started off with mock interviews that about 60 students and professionals took part in. “I’ve always enjoyed doing mock interviews because it gives students an opportunity to have their resumes critiqued by five to six professionals in just over an hour,” explains Timothy Collins, Coordinator of Intramural Sports & Sport Clubs at California State University-Monterey Bay and ERSL Program chair. “The information they get during that time is invaluable and will definitely help them in preparation for the national conference in April this year.”

After mock interviews, the educational sessions on a variety of topics—ranging from student development to leadership to diversity—began. “This was my first ERSL conference and I really enjoyed myself,” says Georgia Nze, Members Services Lead at the University of California, Davis. “I’ve learned so much and met so many people from across the country over the last couple days.”

The ERSL Program Committee would like to thank USM Rec Sports Director Mark Crager and his staff for all of their hard work as well as for the tremendous southern hospitality they showed to all attendees. We look forward to continued success with the conference and being a great resource for students! Next year’s conference location and dates have yet to be determined but will be announced as soon as that information becomes available.


For more information about the 2016 Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Conference, please contact NIRSA Assistant Director for Professional Development Brittany Rejda.