NIRSA begins its next strategic planning process

As NIRSA’s current strategic plan is set to culminate in 2018, the NIRSA Board has established a Strategic Planning Task Force to design and lead the next strategic planning process. The Task Force will be responsible for gathering data and member input, conducting environmental scans, synthesizing input, and drafting the next plan.

The NIRSA Strategic Planning Task Force members are:

  • Leah Hall Dorothy (Co-Chair), Oregon State University
  • Don Stenta (Co-Chair), Ohio State University
  • Earl Cabellon, University of Maryland-College Park
  • Victoria Lopez-Herrera, University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Kevin Marbury, University of Oregon
  • Cara McFadden, Elon University
  • Erin O’Sullivan, NIRSA HQ
  • Chavonne Shorter, Spelman College
  • Pam Su, San Francisco State University
  • Pam Watts, NIRSA HQ

The Association’s current 2013-2018 strategic plan—which is aligned for all entities of NIRSA and positions the Association for serving members, executing its mission, and expanding the impact of collegiate recreation—has served as a cornerstone of the Association over the past five years. NIRSA leadership has remained steadfast in their commitment to actively using this plan to guide Association endeavors, resource allocation, and goal setting.

NIRSA’s next plan will be iterative, building on the strong foundation of the current plan. The Association’s mission and vision, strategic values, and core goals will not change. Rather, the intent of this next plan will be using that springboard to take the Association further as leaders in both higher education and health and wellbeing.

To do this successfully, the Strategic Planning Task Force must think big and outside-the-box. We’re striving to look around the corner and see both the opportunities and challenges ahead for the profession, higher education, and the Association. To accomplish this, we’re going to talk with corporate leaders outside our field, policy experts and leaders in Washington DC, our student affairs peers, and—most importantly—our fellow NIRSA members. This latter part will be done through surveys, regional conferences, annual conference, and stakeholder engagement.

Stakeholder engagement

As part of the process, the Task Force will engage with various stakeholder groups for environmental scanning and feedback on emerging themes and plan drafts. The stakeholders have been categorized into two groups with overlapping and distinct responsibilities: Strategic Partners and Accountability Partners.

Strategic Partners

Each Task Force member will serve as a liaison to a small group of members representing a specific segment of NIRSA membership. These groups will meet via video/teleconference for in-depth discussions of eight common environmental scanning questions. They will also provide ongoing and focused feedback throughout the process—from brainstorming to final drafting—through their specific lens.

The Strategic Partner Groups are:

Past Presidents and 20+ Year Professional Members

  • Kevin Marbury, University of Oregon – Task Force Liaison
  • Stacey Hall, University of New Hampshire – Co-leader
  • Kathy Bayless, Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Mick Deluca, UCLA
  • Vicki Highstreet, University of Nebraska
  • Jean McClellan-Holt, Old Dominion University
  • Mary Ellen Milam, Texas Christian University
  • Tim Moore, Boston University
  • Stan Shingles, Central Michigan University
  • Mirum Washington-White, University of Houston

10-20 Year Professional Members

  • Chavonne Shorter, Spelman College – Task Force Liaison
  • Zac Brost, University of Nebraska
  • Linda Clauss, California State University – East Bay
  • Jen Gudaz, Cornell University
  • Perry Karnofsky, McGill University
  • April (Moore) Lovett, Florida State University
  • Nicole Olmeda, University of Texas at Austin
  • Mike Widen, University of Michigan
  • Jordin Williams, Delaware State University

0-10 Year Professional Members

  • Earl Cabellon, University of Maryland-College Park – Task Force Liaison
  • Erica (Estes) Foltz, James Madison University
  • Heather Foster
  • Jorge Herrera, Florida State University
  • Whitney Hinshaw, Montana State University
  • Sadat Khan, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Meredith Merchant, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Max Miller, Swarthmore College
  • Chelsea Phipps, University of Akron
  • Megan Slifka, University of Alberta
  • Laura Thomas, Texas Tech University


  • Victoria Lopez-Herrera, University of Texas at San Antonio – Task Force Liaison
  • Michael Adeyemo, Sam Houston State University
  • Adreanna Brussard, University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Nick Donahue, Emporia State University
  • Richelle Harvey, Western Washington University
  • Julie Johnson, University of Maryland-College Park
  • Demitri Lahanas, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Travis Rawe, Wake Forest University
  • Brittany Rosenthal, University of Oregon
  • Veronica Singson Tantoco, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
  • Will Trent, University of North Carolina


  • Cara McFadden, Elon University – Task Force Liaison
  • Jill Beville, University of North Carolina Greensboro
  • Sarah Hardin, DePaul University
  • John Jackson, University of Alabama
  • Barry Miller, Radford University
  • Erin Patchett, Colorado State University
  • Warren Simpson, Angelo State University
  • Jill Sturts, Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Jacob Tingle, Trinity University
  • Julie Wallace Carr, James Madison University

Strategic Value Commissioners

  • Pam Su, San Francisco State University – Task Force Liaison
  • Alex Accetta, Portland State University
  • George Brown, University of Minnesota
  • Chris Dawe
  • Janice DeMonsi, Santa Clara University
  • Jacque Hamilton
  • Moe McGonagle, DePaul University
  • Wendy Motch-Ellis
  • Marcus Jackson, University of Illinois
  • Andrea Snead, University of Central Florida


  • Pam Watts, NIRSA HQ – Task Force Liaison

While the entire NIRSA Assembly—the “think-tank for the future of collegiate recreation”—will provide feedback, engagement, and thought leadership, a voluntary sub-group of Assembly members will dedicate extra time, focus, and energy to the environmental scanning process.

Associate Members

  • Don Stenta – Task Force Liaison

Don Stenta will work with several of our Associate Members to ensure their ideas, perspectives, and insights are captured. As a key part of this effort, he will facilitate a focus group with several of these members and their CEOs at this year’s Athletic Business Conference.

NIRSA Headquarters Staff

  • Erin O’Sullivan and Pam Watts, NIRSA HQ – Task Force Liaisons

NIRSA Headquarters Staff have the advantage of spending each workday fully invested in the Association, tracking innovations in the profession of campus recreation, following developments within higher education, and—best of all—connecting with NIRSA’s volunteer leaders.

Accountability Partners

Accountability Partners will have a long-term responsibility for the strategic plan. In addition to providing focused and ongoing feedback, they have the added responsibility of owning and executing the plan. In the process, they will “ground truth” the ideas through the lenses of achievability and fiscal responsibility.

For this reason, the role of Accountability Partner resides with NIRSA leadership groups, including:

  • NIRSA Board of Directors – Leah Hall Dorothy, Task Force Liaison
  • NIRSA Services Corporation Board – Pam Watts/Erin O’Sullivan, Task Force Liaisons
  • NIRSA Foundation Board – Pam Watts/Janice DeMonsi, Task Force Liaisons
  • Member Network – Earl Cabellon, Task Force Liaison
  • Finance Committee – Pam Watts, Task Force Liaison


NIRSA has partnered with Association Labs, a strategic research consultancy specializing in association business strategy, to assist with data gathering and analysis during our strategic planning process. This will happen in two stages.

First, Association Labs will be conducting investigative qualitative research by sending a survey worksheet to a small, diverse sample group of NIRSA members (who are not already Strategic Partners or Accountability Partners). These worksheets, meant to effectively collect initial information from busy, geographically dispersed members, will aide in the environmental scanning process and will inform the next phase of data gathering.

That phase will be an all member survey, again constructed with the help of Association Labs, sent out in late Fall. This survey will not only provide quantitative data for the Strategic Planning Task Force to work with, but it will also allow all members an opportunity to take part in the strategic planning process.

Regional conferences

A Strategic Planning Task Force member and/or NIRSA Board of Directors member will be present at each regional conference. They will present on the strategic planning process, provide available updates, and take questions from attendees. They will also take advantage of the cross-section of membership present at these events and ask several environmental scanning questions. The ensuing dialogue will be captured by a note taker and provided back to the Task Force for consideration as the planning process progresses.

Annual Conference

By the time of the 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference, the next strategic plan will have been drafted and received feedback from the Strategic Partners and Accountability Partners. The Task Force will share this draft—and their year’s learning journey—during a session at the conference. This will allow membership to provide feedback on a concrete draft of the plan before it is then finalized and taken to the NIRSA Board of Directors for adoption in April 2018.

We want to hear from you!

Continue to watch NIRSA news and NIRSA social media for updates on the strategic planning process and reminders about how you can take advantage of the feedback opportunities provided. However, you can always share your thoughts and ideas with a member of the Strategic Planning Task Force or one of the partner groups detailed above. We hope to hear from you!

  • For more information on NIRSA’s strategic planning process, please contact NIRSA Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships, Erin O’Sullivan.