By Tori Allmendinger, Abby Millsaps, Drew Salvador, Mike Wong, and Nazifa Islam

Over 2,600 attendees and 650 exhibitor representatives had a fantastic time building “A Strong Core, A Bright Future” in Kissimmee, Florida at the 67th  NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo. NIRSA members came together from all around the world from April 3–6 for what 2015–2016 NIRSA President Stan Shingles calls “the NIRSA family reunion.” Members had a chance to learn, network, and socialize together—we truly had a wonderful time in Florida!

This year, thirteen NIRSA 2016 attendees volunteered to take part in a new “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign. This campaign aims to bring more personal looks at various conference events to all Association members, whether you were able to attend NIRSA 2016 or are considering what you might find at NIRSA 2017.

Did you miss out on visiting the Career Opportunity Center this year? Don’t worry, Samantha Wallace—Coordinator for Youth and Activity Programming at the University of Arizona—writes all about her experience at the 2016 COC. Curious about what Take a Student to Lunch/Meet a Mentee for Life is like? Get ready to learn all about how this premier networking opportunity went for three different NIRSA members!

So read all about the 2016 NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo—even if you were there, this is your chance to see it in an entirely new light!

It’s about making lifelong connections

NIRSA’s commitment to networking and lifelong mentorship were put on display at NIRSA 2016 with events like Take a Student to Lunch/Meet a Mentee for Life, which took place right after the Student Member Connection meeting. This event is a fantastic opportunity for student and professional members to get to know one another and form connections that can last for years. This year, three NIRSA members stepped up to share their Take a Student to Lunch experience.

Mike Wong, Assistant Director of Fitness and Wellness Programs at Salem State University, attends the Annual Conference every year because he knows it’s one of the best opportunities in the field for learning and growth. It’s a chance for NIRSA members to express themselves and see the world from different perspectives. He believes both of these things help members deliver better services and products to the populations they serve. Read all about Mike’s experience at Take a Student to Lunch!

Abby Millsaps, Marketing Coordinator at Kent State University, was another professional who participated in Take a Student to Lunch. See how she described the experience.

And here is Tori Allmendinger, Facility Operations & Special Events Graduate Assistant at Oklahoma State University, diving into how Take a Student to Lunch was for both student members and professionals.

Socials were also a great way for members to reconnect and network during NIRSA 2016. In addition to too many independent socials to count, members had a great time at the Lee Wasson People of Color Social, the LGBTQI & Friends Social, and the All Conference Social.

As a way to get to know new faces, members played human poker at the People of Color Social. Every attendee was handed a playing card at the door and asked to find four other people to create a winning poker hand with. Members had a lot of fun trying to beat Mama Wasson’s table’s straight flush! Later in the evening, a genuinely-surprised David Davenport, Director at Austin Peay State University, was presented with the 2016 Juliette Moore Distinguished Leadership Award. Dave expressed his gratitude in a heartfelt acceptance speech that brought tears to many eyes. Members then learned a little about NIRSA’s storied history before a dance party took over the program!

At the LGBTQI and Friends Social, members gathered to show their support of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Let Drew Salvador, Assistant Director of Intramural Sports & Camps at the University of Cincinnati, fill you in on the festivities!

And here’s Tori Allmendinger again, filling you in on this year’s All Conference Social!

Looking forward to National Harbor

We hope this year’s “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign has reminded you of how wonderful your time in Kissimmee was and made you look forward to another fantastic conference in National Harbor, Maryland in 2017. In National Harbor, there will be even more amazing educational sessions, inspiring speakers, a great Expo Hall, and so many fun networking opportunities!

Consider joining the ongoing “I write for NIRSA” campaign—lend your voice to the Association and gain professional development by writing feature articles for the NIRSA News. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring your unique perspective to all Association members. We would love to hear from you! If you’re interested in writing for NIRSA, please contact NIRSA Communications Coordinator Nazifa Islam.

Members can relive some fantastic NIRSA 2016 memories by checking out the NIRSA Facebook page, and the @nirsalive Instagram and Twitter feeds; a search for the #NIRSA2016 hashtag will bring up great moments from Kissimmee. Photos taken by Steven Miller, NIRSA’s official conference photographer, will be available in a matter of weeks—keep an eye on the NIRSA News for that announcement!

The Gaylord Palms was the perfect place to reconnect with friends and colleagues, to reaffirm our commitment to our strategic values, to strengthen our core competencies, and to support the important work NIRSA members are doing every day in the collegiate recreation field. We had a wonderful time building “A Strong Core, A Bright Future” with our NIRSA family and cannot wait to see everyone again next February in National Harbor for NIRSA 2017!

If you have questions or comments about NIRSA 2016 or NIRSA 2017, please contact NIRSA Director of Professional Development Kristen Gleason.