By Stan Shingles, 2015-2016 NIRSA President, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University

As I prepare each month to write my entry in the President’s Notes leadership blog, I sometimes find inspiration from unlikely sources; it can be something as common as a street sign or an advertisement, a billboard or even just a simple Facebook post. Other times it is something I have recently read in an article or a book, a quote I have discovered (or rediscovered), or an insight another member has taken the time to share with me.

Many times my thoughts seem to gather momentum when I least expect. As I was preparing to pen these notes, inspiration came to me in the form of an email I received from NIRSA member Rachael Finley, Campus Recreation Coordinator at York College of Pennsylvania. It was the quote in the signature line of her email that resonated with and inspired me:

“Try not to become a person of success, but a person of value.” –Albert Einstein

I was struck by how eloquently this quote underscores so much of what we aspire to as association members by focusing on our strategic values: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Global Perspectives; Health and Wellbeing; Leadership; Service; and Sustainable Communities. These six domains are the tenets we aspire to; they direct our actions, set our priorities, and inform our decision-making. These values are lived daily by the more than 4,500 student and professional members who make up our association. These values live in our strategic plan, our educational content, and the very fabric of who we are and what we stand for as an organization.

Spring always offers many exciting experiences for us. These include spring break vacations, spring training and baseball’s opening day, March Madness through the NCAA basketball tournaments, and also our own NIRSA Annual Conference and Exposition. Our conference theme this year—“A Strong Core, A Bright Future”—highlights the strengths of NIRSA and the exciting future that lies ahead for the association. It captures the value of our profession and its members, and alludes to the tremendous professional development and engagement opportunities on offer.

This event is also our members’ annual family reunion.” If you are able to attend this year in Kissimmee, I hope you find a way to “become a person of value” at this year’s Annual Conference. To those who will be in Kissimmee next week, I would like to offer a few ideas about how you might be able to find your value.

  • Consider taking a student to lunch during the conference’s “Take a Student to Lunch Program; or think about picking up the tab for a student’s lunch at another time
  • Ignite your passion for learning at this year’s conference by attending the Opening General Session
  • Join with our colleague Mick DeLuca as he celebrates being the recipient of this year’s NIRSA Honor Award
  • Use social media to communicate the many successes and experiences of this year’s conference
  • Renew connections with your many colleagues, friends, and NIRSA family at the conference
  • Consider participating in the NIRSA Community Service project, and giving something positive back to the Orlando community
  • Celebrate the diversity and inclusion of our association by attending the Lee Wasson People of Color Social or the LGBTQ Social
  • Step out of your comfort zone by volunteering to be a session monitor, or working at the NIRSA Foundation table
  • Offer a simple random act of kindness, and seek out a new connection by buying a cup of coffee for a fellow member, or simply asking if you can assist them in any way
  • Keep in mind during the conference, that the best community is a sustainable community
  • Invite a member to take a run or walk with you around the beautiful Gaylord Palms resort; or simply relax by the pool for some much needed and well-earned rest between educational sessions
  • Seek out and engage with members who come from different backgrounds and experiences than you do
  • Dance the night away with your colleagues and friends at the All Conference Social, or grab some food and drinks at an independent social
  • Becoming a first-time or repeat donor to the NIRSA Foundation or purchase raffle tickets for the quilt raffle—I am sure Suzi Smith and other Foundation Board members will be glad to share the many reasons to get involved
  • Attend the“re-envisioned” Annual Meeting of the Members to learn more about the Association and learn from current NIRSA thought leaders, best practices, innovations and future direction for our profession
  • Imagine building your professional network by participating in the many offerings available at that this year’s Annual Conference
  • Have you considered spending some time with “the Ripples Guy,” Paul Wesselman, and experience the energy and enthusiasm from his innovative presentations?
  • Spend the week counting the endless smiles, hugs, handshakes, and greeting you and others receive
  • Thanking our NIRSA Executive Director Pam Watts and the NIRSA Headquarters team, Host Committee members, Conference Program Committee members and Committee Chair Dr. Cara McFadden, and the many volunteers for putting together what an outstanding event

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”

-Dr. Seuss

Our values are rooted in sixty-seven years of continuous improvement. They are grounded in history, traditions and culture, highlighted by volunteer leadership, innovative and strategic thinking, and the dedicated excellence of member professionals. Yes, success can be a measure; but value is the hallmark of every initiative NIRSA offers.

Kurt Klier, Assistant Director, University Recreation & Wellness, University of Maryland-College Park, and Chair of the NIRSA Championship Series pointed out in his recent entry in the NIRSA Championship Series Chair Notes, “It was Dale Carnegie who said ‘People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.’” So, I encourage you to have fun at this year’s conference! Enjoy the sunshine of Florida, but more importantly the play your part in making the magic of NIRSA!

“If you never did you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.”

-Dr. Seuss

See you in Florida!