By Grant Deppen, Katie Birdsall, Teri Bladen, Jessica Elsaid, Samantha Wallace, 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!

Kicking off NIRSA 2016

The conference started off on a Sunday morning with some amazing preconference opportunities. Some attendees remained onsite at the Gaylord Palms to participate in preconference workshops while others boarded buses to attend the NIRSA Foundation Golf Tournament, volunteer at the Community Service Project, or venture out on facility tours or networking trips.

Grant Deppen, Assistant Director of Intramural & Extramural Sports at Old Dominion University, attended one of those great preconference workshops. Read all about his experience!

Teri Bladen, Director of Campus Recreation at Weber State University, always looks forward to reconnecting with friends and colleagues at the NIRSA Annual Conference and uses the professional development opportunity to stay in touch with trends and current issues in the field. Like Grant, Teri volunteered to share her experience attending a preconference workshop.

The Community Service Project allowed NIRSA members a chance to give back to the central Florida community. This year’s project was a partnership with the Community Food & Outreach Center, a nonprofit agency that helps those in need transform their lives by providing food, crisis care, opportunities for education and employment, and a hand to families, individuals, and children who are fighting to break the cycle of poverty.

Jessica Elsaid, Fitness Program Assistant at Florida Gulf Coast University and one of the volunteers at the Community Service Project, joined the “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign to share her experience working with the Community Food & Outreach Center.

Following a day of preconference activities, the conference officially got underway at the Opening General Session, which took place in the Osceola Ballroom. NIRSA members had the privilege of listening to some spoken word poetry courtesy of both NIRSA member Seneca Wilson, Assistant Director of Facility Operations at Jackson State University, and Clint Smith III, the 2016 Opening General Session keynote speaker. Samantha Wallace was one of nearly 2,400 members in attendance at the Opening General Session—read about her experience!

Katie Birdsall, Facilities Coordinator at Illinois State University, also shared her experience attending the Opening General Session as part of the “I write for NIRSA” conference campaign!

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.