Greetings from Baltimore!
I’m honored and humbled to serve as the 2017-2018 NIRSA President. It feels unbelievable that two years have already passed since I started this journey of learning and leadership after being elected to the presidential track of the NIRSA Board of Directors back in 2015.
On behalf of the current NIRSA Board of Directors, I want to welcome everyone to the new NIRSA leadership term and take this opportunity to thank the outgoing NIRSA Board of Directors—notably our Past President Stacey Hall, Campus Recreation Director at the University of New Hampshire; At-Large Director Don Stenta, Director of Student Life Recreational Sports at The Ohio State University; and Annual Director Janice DeMonsi, Director of Recreation at Santa Clara University. We owe these three, as well as all the other outgoing NIRSA volunteer leaders, many thanks for their hard work over the past year.
I cannot get too far into my first entry in the President’s Notes leadership blog without acknowledging and thanking the current NIRSA Board of Directors and the NIRSA HQ Team:
- President-Designee Ken Morton, Stephen F. Austin State University
- President-Elect Leah Hall Dorothy, Oregon State University
- At-Large Director Kristy Caldwell, Texas State University
- At-Large Director David Davenport, Austin Peay State University
- At-Large Director Bill Healy, the University of West Florida
- Annual Director Jocelyn Hill, American University
- Board Guest & Member Network Chair Jessica Gentry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign NIRSA Executive Director Pam Watts
- All the team at NIRSA HQ
What a great team, group of leaders, and good people to be part of. I am excited to share this incredible journey with them over the course of the next 12 months.
Each year, the NIRSA President introduces a theme for the leadership year. Two years ago, Past President Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University, showcased the growth of the profession by channeling Doctor Seuss’ “Oh, the places you’ll go;” and last year, Stacey introduced us to the diversity of NIRSA’s membership through her “Humans of NIRSA” features.
I love those themes and plan to continue incorporating them into my own President’s Notes entries and other future communications when possible. For this year, I want NIRSA volunteers and members to also focus on “Elevating Your Path.”
A verb, elevate signifies both forward and upward progress. How do we move our Association forward and upwards? How do we move the collegiate recreation profession forward and upwards? And, most importantly, how do we move YOU—the Humans of NIRSA—forward and upwards? Throughout the coming year, I hope to use my President’s Notes entries to highlight the work, the activities, the decisions, and the actions that are helping to make this elevation possible.
Here are three ways to “Elevate Your Path” as professionals in collegiate recreation and wellness.
1) Lead with our values
In 2011, the NIRSA Board articulated six strategic values for our profession: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Global Perspective; Health and Wellbeing; Leadership; Service; and Sustainable Communities.
Here are some ways to live our values.
Promote a culture of respect on your campus
Participate in and promote the Where Respect Happens campaign. The campaign seeks to communicate student affairs’ commitment to student learning and development, and the campaign asserts that self-respect and respect for others are a core part of that process.
Designed for professionals and students alike, the Where Respect Happens campaign hopes to remind us all of the importance of respect in civil society and on all of our campuses.
Advocate for social justice on your campus
Adopt and use the resources being shared by members of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Commission. The EDI Commission has shared dozens of resources—from tips for being an ally to resources for exploring privilege—this year. They’ll continue to do so in the coming months.
Lead with integrity
Take a look at how NIRSA supports the development of #GreatLeaders by downloading the free Study Guide that was developed to supplement the Student Leadership Development through Recreation and Athletics sourcebook that was published in the fall of 2015 as part of the New Directions for Student Leadership series from Jossey-Bass.
Commit to investing in sustainable products and practices
The United States is withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, but as campus recreation and wellness professionals we can reaffirm our commitment to sustainability and continue to be leaders in higher education.
I encourage you to join the Sustainability Community of Practice—convened by Linda Clauss, Assistant Manager of Campus Recreation at California State University-East Bay. There you will find great resources designed to help you embed sustainability into your campus recreation operations.
I would also invite you to take advantage of the free learning opportunities made available by NIRSA’s coalition partners. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is hosting the webinar “Not Business as Usual: Fostering Civic Engagement on Climate Change” on July 12. You can register today for this learning opportunity.
And, for some additional context about the broader goal of integrating sustainability into planning, operations, procurement, governmental relations, curricular and co-curricular activities, and community partnerships, I would encourage you to review the “Call to Action” by the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium (HEASC) and its partner organizations.
2) Discover your inner leader with NIRSA
Did you know that over 2,300 volunteer leadership positions are filled each year within our Association? While many committee and work team appointments have just been announced for the 2017-2018 NIRSA leadership year, there are still plenty of ways to elevate your leadership skills:
- Become an Engagement Coordinator for NIRSA
- Become a mentor for an emerging professional or graduate student
- Help deliver an outstanding NIRSA Championship Series regional or national tournament (see current openings)
- Tell your department’s story about how campus rec is an integral part of creating a culture of health and wellbeing on your campus
- Volunteer to host or assist at one of the many upcoming professional development and networking opportunities offered by NIRSA
3) Share your knowledge and expertise with colleagues
There are also many ways to “Elevate Your Path” while simultaneously elevating the paths of others.
- Submit a presentation proposal for the NIRSA Annual Conference. There are opportunities to submit proposals for educational sessions, roundtable discussions, fitness forum sessions, and even poster presentations. See the NIRSA 2018 website for details about upcoming submission deadlines.
- Submit a presentation proposal for an upcoming NIRSA Institute or regional conference, for the Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Conference, a student lead-on, or a state workshop.
Those are just a few things to consider as we look to “Elevate Our Paths” during our shared journey in the year ahead.
Elevating NIRSA’s path
Now let’s look at what’s ahead for the Association in 2017 and beyond. It may be the start of summer, but the good work is already underway. See what the Board has been up to recently, and what’s on the horizon.
NIRSA Board of Directors meetings
The NIRSA Board held its Spring/Summer meetings May 10–11 in Portland, Oregon. Over the course of two days, we heard from subject matter experts on board roles and duties, explored upcoming strategic planning and strategic execution, discussed what the future looked like around integrated wellness, and started to look at what a more involved advocacy role might look like in the Association.
We learned from each other, shared our perspectives, and made some great decisions for the future of our Association.
In 2018, we will be approaching the final year of our current NIRSA Strategic Plan. This year will mark the start of a journey to shape and develop our next strategic plan. The current plan will not fade away, or simply stop. On the contrary—we will build on and extend its successes.
Our process will include robust strategic visioning that will involve numerous stakeholder groups, both internal members and volunteers and external subject matter experts. A strategic planning taskforce—to be co-chaired by President-Elect Leah Hall Dorothy and Don Stenta—is currently being assembled. Appointing this task force is just the start; stay tuned to the NIRSA news for more details as they become available.
Canadian region support
NIRSA will continue to provide support and resources for our new Canadian Region. We are excited to continue building a formal, professional home for campus recreation in Canada and about the reciprocity of learning across the 49th parallel.
The Board recently allocated resources to start the work on aligning five priorities for a uniquely Canadian lens. These priorities include operationalization of the Canadian region, research and assessment, member engagement, fostering stakeholder relationships, and exploring partnership and sponsorship opportunities.
Small programs and HBCU initiatives
The NIRSA Board will continue to support volunteer work on two major engagement initiatives that will add to the richness and diversity in NIRSA: small programs and community colleges, and HBCUs.
NIRSA’s educational agenda review
NIRSA will continue the process to review the Association’s educational agenda. This work will include:
- Assessing gaps in our offerings
- Developing a forward-looking education strategy for the future
- Working with Association subject matter experts to design and deliver new opportunities; and
- Planning and executing a thought leadership retreat
Advocacy for the profession
NIRSA will continue to expand the capacity and bandwidth for advocating for the profession in realms of policy and legislation. Additionally, we will continue to explore what an advocacy strategy may look like for NIRSA.
NIRSA’s global perspective
Continue to explore NIRSA’s role and opportunities from a global perspective. NIRSA leaders will spend considerable energy examining what opportunities exist for the Association.
Finally, we will pursue these goals by continuing to advocate and integrate our values in all we do.
As the summer kicks off, congratulations to our new Canadian Region which is about to host the first ever NIRSA Canadian Region Conference in Windsor, Ontario from June 7–9. And congratulations to the newly-elected Canadian team.
Wishing everyone well and good cheer in the year ahead as we look forward to a very productive and prosperous year. As we venture on this journey of elevation together, your opinion matters—we want to know how we’re doing and what’s on your mind.
Exciting things are happening in NIRSA, and we are thrilled to have you join us. In closing, I’ll leave you with a few lines from U2, my favorite band, and their hit song “Elevation.”
Maybe you could educate my mind
Explain all these controls
I can’t sing but I’ve got soul
The goal is elevation
Peace, Love, and NIRSA