One hundred and one attendees descended on Jackson State University’s Walter Payton Center for three days of sessions, mock interviews, resume reviews, and networking at the 2017 Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Conference. Preconference activities kicked off the event this year with a Community Service Project at the Stewpot, a local organization that works to help the more than 1000 homeless individuals in the Jackson Metro Area. Attendees could also attend the Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Summit, which looks to address some of the unique challenges that face HBCU campuses.
The 2017 ERSLC marked the 25th anniversary of the conference that started out in 1992 as the Emerging Minority Leaders Workshop. “The ERSLC, after 25 years, continues to allow participants a deep immersion into the history, culture, and learning that take place each year at this conference,” says NIRSA Past President Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University.
The opening session was a time for NIRSA President Designee Bill Crockett, Executive Director at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and NIRSA Board Director at Large David Davenport, Director at Austin Peay State University, to share the 25th Anniversary Celebration of . This expressive resolution will also be shared at the People of Color Social taking place at the 2017 NIRSA Annual Conference & Campus Rec and Wellness Expo happening in National Harbor, Maryland from February 21–24.
In honor of the 25th anniversary, Stan delivered a keynote panel discussion. This panel took place with two of the Emerging Minority Leaders Workshop founding members—Tony Daniels, Director of Intramural & Recreational Sports at Prairie View A&M University, and Herman Williams—along with long-time attendee and NIRSA Past President Kevin Marbury, Director of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Oregon. The panel discussion fully encompassed this year’s conference theme “Power of the Past, Force of the Future.”
Some highlights of the 25th anniversary of ERSLC included returning to an HBCU campus and seeing the amazing job the Host and Event Committees did in regards to planning, hospitality, and creating quality experiences for attendees. This is all the more impressive because it feels like just yesterday that some of these committee leaders were attending their first ERSLC.
Senior leaders and mentors were thrilled to experience the rich content presented by our emerging leaders; to see firsthand how students and emerging professionals soaked up the educational sessions, leveraged networking opportunities, and engaged whole heartily throughout the conference; and to see so many new faces. It’s always great to witness potentially new emerging leaders! “Witnessing the engagement of the new attendees at this year’s conference underscores the importance of member’s professional development at all levels of NIRSA,” explains Stan Shingles.
A conference highlight occurred for David Davenport at the traditional unveiling of the Herman Williams Founders Outstanding Service Award winner. David recounts what a highpoint it was to see 2015 award winner Seneca Wilson, Assistant Director for Facility Operations at Jackson State University, deliver the award to one of his mentors; the 2017 recipient was Kacy Toberg, Assistant Director of Recreation, Operations at Georgia State University.
For me, the value of the ERSLC comes from the sense of family, heritage, and of coming home that I experience when I attend this event. I love seeing Lee “Mama” Wasson, wife of our association’s founder William Wasson, snuggling up to Seneca Wilson’s new baby—and I love seeing all the students, professionals, and emerging leaders of different generations! I think ERSLC Committee Co-Chair Andrea Snead, Coordinator at the University of Central Florida, puts it best when she says, “The significance surrounding the 25th anniversary definitely came through as you heard from the very men involved in the creation of this conference during the opening session. It reaffirmed why we were all there and what this conference means to all of us.”
Andrea goes on to say, “The intimacy of this conference is second to none. This is clear when you consider that students and professional staff had the opportunity to learn about the origins of NIRSA during the HBCU Summit, listen to former NIRSA presidents and talented students and professionals present on diverse topics, and then they got to speak with presenters one on one during mock interviews.” The ERSLC is truly a conference unlike any other.
Planning has already begun for the 2018 Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Conference and an application for hosting next year’s event is posted on the NIRSA website.