The NIRSA Honor Award Committee is excited to announce that Vicki Highstreet, RCRSP has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 NIRSA Honor Award! The NIRSA Honor Award is our Association’s most prestigious honor; it is awarded annually in celebration of a NIRSA member who has provided exemplary service to the Association and has made impressive achievements in the field of collegiate recreation. Vicki Highstreet is clearly a most deserving recipient for the 2018 award.
“Caring, committed, passionate, driven, encouraging—these are all words that come to mind when I think of Vicki. ,” says Nicole Olmeda, Associate Director of Communications, Assessment, and Development at the University of Texas at Austin.
Vicki received her Bachelor of Science degree in K-12 Physical Education from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where she was also a student athlete and one of the first four women’s athletic scholarship recipients on the Nebraska women’s volleyball team. Upon graduation, she began a professional career as a physical educator and coach at Beatrice High School in Beatrice, Nebraska. She then spent time as a business owner in Crested Butte, Colorado before becoming a physical educator with Lincoln Public Schools as well as acting as the women’s volleyball coach at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.
Vicki then took a position as the Wellness Coordinator, University Health Center at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and went on to complete her master’s degree in physical education and sports studies at UNL. Three decades ago, Vicki accepted a position as Assistant Director, Campus Recreation at the University of Nebraska. She moved into the role of Senior Assistant Director and now serves as Associate Director for Recreation Programming. She has enjoyed a 30-year career and love of campus recreation, student development, and NIRSA.
A commitment to student development
“For many of us in Region V, Vicki is NIRSA. For many students and young professionals, Vicki is the first professional they meet from outside of their own institutions. She is incredibly committed to the growth and development of our young members,” says Mick McComber, Director, Recreational Sports Outdoor Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Throughout her various roles at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Vicki’s passion and dedication for development has driven the incredible amount of time and energy she puts into working with students and professionals on a one-to-one basis. “Her contributions range from taking a student to lunch to serving as president of NIRSA. Her unselfish giving of her time and leadership talents have greatly enhanced the efforts of NIRSA and all that are associated with collegiate recreation as a profession—especially our young members,” says Tony Daniels, Director Recreational Sports at Prairie View A&M University. “She has served in various positions on her campus that have enriched the lives of students and the communities she has served.”
Director at Oakland University, NIRSA Past President, and 2017 Honor Award recipient, Greg Jordan says, “So we all know Vicki as Mama Vic—and that’s what she does. I have seen her interact and support the efforts of numerous student leadership teams for some time. She has attended ERSL on a consistent basis—networking and mentoring countless colleagues—and was the closing keynote speaker at the last Region III Student Lead On.” Zac Brost, Assistant Director, Intramural Sports at the University of Nebraska, adds, “One does not need to look far in this field to find a student or young professional that has been positively impacted by Mama Vic.”
Vicki has committed to working extensively with the Member Network’s Student Leadership Team, and often shares the following anecdote—which has been adapted from the Loren Eiseley essay “The Star Thrower”—with those budding leaders:
But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
This brief, yet powerful tale has served as a metaphor for the life, love, leadership, and legacy of this special woman. Vicki Highstreet has truly made a difference to “that one” time and time again.
The epitome of giving
Her commitment to serving her institution, her community, and her profession has been constant throughout her career. Vicki has actually taken it upon herself to become certified as a trainer and has led workshops like the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Leading with the Speed of Trust/Inspiring Trust; 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity; Project Management Essentials; Great Leaders, Great Results; and is a certified Strengths Coach through Gallup.
In addition to NIRSA, she has been a member of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) since 1988 where she’s held significant leadership roles. She’s served on committees and been a presenter for AAHPERD, was convention manager and Interim Executive Director for the Central District of AAHPERD, has been Vice President, President, and Executive Director of the Nebraska AAHPERD, President of the American Association for Leisure and Recreation (AALR), a member of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), and Regional Director and District Lt Governor of Sertoma (Service to Mankind) “Hearing Health.”
Her awards and recognitions from these association have been numerous and include four Outstanding Recreational Sports Professional Honor Awards, Outstanding Achievement, Leisure and Recreation Award of Merit, General Division Award of Merit, and Sertoman of the Year.
As outstanding as Vicki’s service has been in her other associations and community, her service, dedication, and impact through NIRSA has been unwavering, selfless, and truly distinguishing. She is known as one of the most passionate, dedicated, and committed professionals in the field. “She has committed her professional life to serving students and to contributing to the success of the profession and the Association,” states Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University and NIRSA Past President.
“Many years ago, I spent hours picking Vicki’s brain with respect to how she operated the University of Nebraska’s credited recreation instruction program as it appeared that we may be looking at a similar situation occurring at Colorado State,” says Loretta Capra, Director of Administration at Colorado State University. “I would guess that every time my name came up on her caller ID, she would have rather ignored my calls and head out to coffee, but if that were the case, she never let on that she was too busy or unable to make the time to offer suggestions or give me advice.”
A NIRSA leader of the highest order
Vicki is a lifetime NIRSA member and has volunteered her service in almost every capacity possible. She has served NIRSA as State Director, Region V Vice President, President-elect, President, Past President, Past Presidents’ Representative to the Member Network, as a member of the NIRSA Foundation and NIRSA Services Corporation Boards, and has been a member of the faculty for the School of Collegiate Recreation. Her impact across all these various roles has been immense.
“While serving as NIRSA President Elect, the Governance Commission was formed,” explains Tom Kirch, retired from Oregon State University, NIRSA Past President, and Honor Award recipient. “And during the commission’s retreat sessions, Vicki played an integral role in designing and contributing training approaches and other materials that advanced the commission’s efforts.”
And Greg Jordan explains Vicki’s incredible impact on the Association’s governance, saying, “It was during her year as our President that the Future First initiative played out with final recommendations, bylaws changes, and justification to the membership that led to adoption at the Annual Business Meeting in Charlotte. Under Vicki’s presidency, she encouraged and enabled the entire process to play out.”
Vicki has been a member of and served as chair for several NIRSA committees—currently serving as Chair of the Professional Registry Commission—and has been a frequent presenter at the Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Conference as well as at NIRSA state, regional, and national conferences.
Speaking to Vicki’s role with the NIRSA School of Collegiate Recreation, Heather Foster, Assistant Director for Member Services at Colorado State University, says, “In her role as faculty chair at the NIRSA School, she made sure we all felt welcomed, valued, and encouraged us to make this one of the best personal and professional development experiences of our careers.”
“During her year as the faculty chair, Vicki was intentional about taking notice of the changing climate within collegiate recreation,” adds Mila Padgett, Director, Campus Recreation & Wellness at the University of South Carolina Aiken. “This shift had a direct impact on the relevance of material presented throughout the week at the NIRSA School. Vicki was the catalyst to begin discussions on what the content of the School should include as well as if the name of the school depicted what we stood for in this day and time.”
On an incredibly personal note, Alex Accetta, Assistant Vice President at Portland State University, shares that “during our time on the NIRSA School faculty, we faced the reality that one of our colleagues on the faculty, Jen de-Vries, was struggling with terminal cancer. Vicki made it abundantly clear that she would support Jen in her wish to teach regardless of the amount of work and support that would be needed for the School to be successful. An Honor Award winner should represent the highest of our profession, and I assure you that Vicki, during this time, channeled all of the compassion and love that was possible.”
Vicki is a previous recipient of the Horace Moody Award for Student Development and has received NIRSA Service Awards in recognition of her work for the Association in various capacities: the faculty chair of the NIRSA School of Collegiate Recreation, a NIRSA Board of Directors member, a NIRSA Foundation Board of Directors member, and a NIRSA Services Corporation Board of Directors member. She is also a co-author of NIRSA’s first Instructional Programs Manual and is author of the Instructional Program chapter in the Essentials of Campus Recreation textbook.
“Vicki’s motivation to give throughout the years is not the awards or recognition,” explains Deb Johnson, RCRSP, Director of Campus Recreation at UC Davis. “It is truly to make each organization stronger than when she entered. She works hard to build future leaders for our organization, ensuring that the future of recreational sports is in good hands.”
Please join us in celebrating our Honor Award recipient
Please join your colleagues in congratulating Vicki at the 2018 Honor Award Banquet, the closing gala event of the 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference & Campus Rec and Wellness Expo, which is taking place in Denver, Colorado from March 4–7. Registered attendees can reserve their seats/tables in advance.