NIRSA colleagues—it is with mixed emotions that I write my last contribution to the NIRSA President’s Notes leadership blog. Serving our Association these past three years on the presidential track of the NIRSA Board of Directors has been such an amazing experience. If you’re unfamiliar with this leadership experience, the first year is focused on learning; the second year is filled with doing; and the capstone year is focused on orchestrating. So, my word for the year both with NIRSA and on campus has been orchestrate.
Serving in this role, I’ve had a distinct view of the contributions of hundreds of colleagues who move our Association and profession forward. In the words of NIRSA Past President Kathleen Hatch, the role of NIRSA President is to “hold high the contributions of many” in our field. After experiencing this year, I more fully understand and appreciate the wisdom in her advice to me. There is so much great work being done by thousands of colleagues to make NIRSA and our field of collegiate recreation what it is today while also providing a solid foundation for years of growth to come.
Humans of NIRSA
To provide examples of colleagues who are making significant contributions, the Humans of NIRSA campaign was a way to spotlight and celebrate their effort. The individuals featured in this series often have chosen to serve the profession and NIRSA in ways that aren’t highly visible, despite their far-reaching impact.
Most of the volunteer leaders in NIRSA contribute in ways that are not highly visible, so I hope you enjoyed seeing these spotlights throughout the past year. If you haven’t had a chance to check out one or more of the series, you can still view them on the NIRSA YouTube channel:
- Will Trent, Graduate Assistant at James Madison University
- Lywanna Melvin, Youth Activities Manager at the University of Denver
- Austin Anderson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Southern Indiana
- Peter Mumford, Associate Director for Campus Recreation at York University
- Tanya Angus, Director of Recreation Services at the University of Manitoba
- Marci Kuhrt, Director of Recreational Sports at Viterbo University
- Kim Rottet, Associate Director of Programs Centers LLC at Cleveland State University
- Tiffany Lomax, Associate Director of Wellness, Recreation, and Campus Events at Delaware State University
- Nora Osei, Sport Club and Youth Programs Graduate Student at James Madison University
It was fun for me to connect with each human of NIRSA. Some of them I have known for years, while others I had the pleasure of meeting during this year.
The value of service
Service is one of NIRSA’s strategic values, and it’s one that every volunteer leader in NIRSA embodies. When we step up to get involved as a NIRSA volunteer leader, we are giving our time, talents, and often treasure to something that is bigger than ourselves. But so many of us continue to volunteer for this great organization year in and year out because we know that there is also a return for our investment.
In the role of President, there are aspects of the office that are highly visible, while others go largely unseen. My contributions to the President’s Notes leadership blog, which is shared through the NIRSA Know, are among the more visible aspects.
Another visible part of this role is the travel and networking. In the past, the President needed to travel extensively to achieve the goals of NIRSA’s strategic plan and to take advantage of opportunities that came up. This model was not sustainable and became a deterrent for colleagues to stand for the Presidential Track. In recent years, there has been an intentional shifting of responsibilities to other Board members, other NIRSA colleagues, and NIRSA HQ staff to represent NIRSA at various events throughout the year.
For me personally, travel on behalf of the Association was kept to a minimum, as I had to balance the facilitation of three phases of major capital projects—totaling $42.5 million—on the University of New Hampshire campus. All three phases I am happy to report opened during the last eight months.
Because of my on-campus commitments and the Board’s intentional shift to distribute Association-related travel among the Board members and other NIRSA volunteers, I was able to limit my travel during this past leadership year to the following:
- New NIRSA Board member orientation at NIRSA HQ
- Summer meetings in Maryland
- Midyear meetings in Victoria, British Columbia
- 100th celebration of Oregon State University’s Recreational Sports
- Annual Conference in National Harbor, Maryland
- 100th celebration at University of Texas-Austin
We all have to balance our personal and professional commitments with our volunteer service, and I made some difficult, intentional decisions to not participate in other opportunities. The following is a list of trips that after careful consideration I was not able to make:
- Region I Conference
- Midamerican Conference Directors
- Women’s Leadership Institute
- IASAS (International Association of Student Affairs and Services)
Even though I was not able to physically travel to Region I or the MAC Directors meeting, I was able to participate via video conference, which was a pretty effective way to stay connected without the significant time and travel commitment.
While I would have loved to attend each of them and know that I could have learned something from each experience, my decisions allowed me to balance my NIRSA responsibilities with my UNH responsibilities. I hope that making those decisions helps to demonstrate to potential future applicants that this role is manageable. Standing for office in NIRSA has been a real honor and privilege.
My amazing team
As this leadership year comes to its end, I would like to take this opportunity to share some heartfelt appreciation with my fellow Board members who I have had the pleasure of serving with during the last three years. Laurie Braden, Darcy Bingham, Stan Shingles, Tony Daniels, Pam Su, Bill Crockett, Ken Morton, Bill Healey, David Davenport, Janice DeMonsi, Pam Watts, Eric Nickel, Alex Accetta, and lastly, my fellow Board member serving the same three years, Don Stenta. I am excited for the new Board members to begin their terms—Leah Hall Dorothy, Kristy Caldwell, and Jocelyn Hill.
I would like to close my term using the same words I used to close the banquet and conclude the 2017 NIRSA Annual Conference. The poem I shared was called “The Station” by Robert J. Hastings, slightly modified for NIRSA.
Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a competed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering – waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.
“When we reach the station, that will be it!” we cry. “When I’m 21.” “When I buy a new car.” “When I secure my first professional position.” “When I pay off my student loans.” “When I become a director.” “When I reach retirement, I shall live happily ever after!”
Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us. “Relish the moment” is a good motto. It isn’t the burdens of today that drive us mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are the twin thieves who rob us of today.
So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
Thank you for supporting me through this special journey. Peace, love, and NIRSA!
I’ve recently turned over the responsibility of the @NIRSAPresident Twitter handle to our 2017-2018 NIRSA President, Bill Crockett—I invite you all to follow him to stay up to date with NIRSA and the NIRSA Board of Directors.