NIRSA colleagues, it is with mixed emotions that I reach the end of my leadership year as NIRSA President. 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 how NIRSA has evolved this leadership experience, the first year is focused on learning; the second year is filled with doing and activation; and the capstone year is focused on orchestrating and facilitation. Reflecting back over this past year, it’s been an honor to orchestrate the work of our great Association.

Serving in this role, I’ve had a distinct view of the contributions of thousands of colleagues, hundreds of volunteer leaders, and our NIRSA Headquarters Team who move our Association and profession forward. After experiencing this year, I more fully understand and appreciate the work laid out by the NIRSA Past Presidents before me and the Presidents who will follow.

The work never ends and there is so much great work being done by our members 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.

Service to our Association

I encourage each and every member to find a way to serve our Association. The experience is transformative. We encourage future leaders through the lens of servant leadership. Find an opportunity that leverages your skills or gives you an opportunity to develop and pay it forward by serving our Association, which has served you so well.

As Past President Stacey Hall says, “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.”

I remember a few of my predecessors advising me to serve well and with distinction. But most of all, they stressed the importance of leaving the Association in a better place than when I received it. On reflection, I truly believe this leadership opportunity returns as much or more to those who have the honor of serving in it. I can say with full conviction, the past three years of service for NIRSA has left me in a better place than when it received me.

We elevated our path this year

Our theme the 2017–2018 leadership year has been to “Elevate Our Path.” We do this by elevating the Association, elevating our profession, and most importantly by elevating ourselves.

A handful of my highlights are cataloged below.

NIRSA’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan

Over 1,500 NIRSA members and partners contributed to the Association’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan, which was finalized in March.

The 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference & Campus Rec and Wellness Expo

Over 2,700 individuals attended the various educational sessions, preconference opportunities, expo, networking opportunities, general sessions, business meetings, and conference socials in Denver.

The Canadian Region of NIRSA

Alongside the six numbered regions comprising the United States, Canada spent the 2017–2018 NIRSA leadership year as the seventh region making up NIRSA’s regional network.

Where Respect Happens campaign

We partnered with seven likeminded Student Affair Associations in the Where Respect Happens campaign and created some memorable moments.

NIRSA values

Throughout the year, NIRSA affirmed its values. Revisit the many NIRSA news articles that speak to our values including this one that reminds me about the power and value of Association.

Resources to promote social justice on campus

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion commission has done a fantastic job of providing resources to strengthen our efforts toward equity, diversity, and inclusion.

NIRSA Assembly

The Assembly—our think-tank for the future of collegiate recreation—explored the power of sport and met with Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, about the topic. The group also compiled essential resources for guiding civil discourse in our work.

Special Olympics partnership

For the first time as part of a growing partnership with Special Olympics, NIRSA student officials had the opportunity to apply to officiate a Unified flag football game at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games!

Member Network connections

Throughout the year, the Member Network engages membership and serves as a vehicle for communication between the various NIRSA leadership groups. Going forward, the Member Network Chair will be an invited guest to all NIRSA Board meetings.

NIRSA Foundation growth

This past year—thanks to the NIRSA Foundation’s culture of philanthropy—members contributed over $85,000 that will create opportunities for the NIRSA family through scholarships, research, student official’s development, and leadership. I encourage you to learn more about how the NIRSA Foundation’s culture of philanthropy strengthened Association members in 2017.

NIRSA Services Corporation growth

The NSC continues to be the entrepreneurial and economic development component of the Association, increasing its reach and partnerships this past year.

Fiscal stability

The Association continues to be fiscally sound and strong, as the NIRSA Board approved a healthy 2018 annual operating budget.

Okanagan Charter

The first organization outside of Canada to endorse the Charter, NIRSA is activating our values and leading in this space of wellbeing.

Health and Wellbeing Thought Leadership Summit

The inaugural NIRSA/NASPA Health and Wellbeing Thought Leadership Summit occurred in October at the University of Miami and set the groundwork for future collaborations.

Additional health and wellbeing initiatives

In addition to the summit, NIRSA continues to focus and explore opportunities to lead in the arena of integrated wellbeing.

NASPA Latin American Summit

Along with fellow NIRSA member Victoria Lopez-Herrera, I was honored to represent NIRSA at the first NASPA Latin American Summit in Bogota. Victoria presented on a panel providing insight into the different areas of student affairs in the United States and sharing high-impact practices.

HBCU volunteer work

The HBCU Task Force completed three years of excellent work and submitted a final report to the NIRSA Board. As the HBCU Taskforce officially sunsets, the Board approved the creation of an HBCU Committee to continue the work outlined in the report.

The evolution of NIRSA advocacy

The 2017–2018 year saw tremendous growth in advocacy, policy, and legislation. As these areas continue to evolve and become embedded into the Association and profession, the Board approved changes to the existing Policy & Legislation Committee. More information will be shared in the NIRSA news over the coming weeks.

See related: NIRSA advocacy news

Preferred media partner

NIRSA announced a new partnership with Athletic Business that will benefit NIRSA members and AB readers. Through this exciting new partnership, Athletic Business becomes a Preferred Media Partner of the Association and NIRSA will be recognized by AB as Preferred Campus Rec Experts. Keep an eye out for the great content heading your way.

Ongoing networking

Members continue to learn and engage through educational offerings, online learning, networking, and communities of practice on NIRSA Connect.

NIRSA travel

I took more than a dozen trips on behalf of NIRSA this past year. For me personally, travel on behalf of the Association was a huge contributor to my learning, growing, and orchestrating during this past year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to travel, for the Association providing me opportunities, and my campus leadership and my team supporting me to do so.

The list above captures just a few of the ways we elevated our path this year.

Special thanks

As this leadership year comes to its end, I would like to take this opportunity to share some heartfelt appreciation to the many NIRSA members, friends, colleagues, and family that supported me along the way. I owe special thanks to the following groups and individuals.

My family

I would first like to thank my family, Loretta and Joshua, for the continuous support they have given me throughout my time on the board; I could not have done it without them.

My Board colleagues

I would like to thank the current NIRSA Board of Directors. Without their leadership, their vision, and their dedication to our Association, the ambitious work achieved could not have been done. I had the pleasure to orchestrate and facilitate such a talented group of professionals. My utmost appreciation during the past year for your leadership and friendship.

  • David Davenport who served all three years beside me on the Board. I will miss your camaraderie, candor, humor, and most of all your great capacity for empathy. Great fortunes ahead for you as President Elect.
  • Ken Morton for your wide lens and perspective, insight, and thought leadership this past year. Looking forward to seeing where you take this upcoming year Mister President.
  • Bill Healey for your kindness, experience, and ability to network across many groups.
  • Leah Dorothy Hall for your strategic visioning, thoughtfulness, and ability to get the work done. The activation year starts for you, Madame President-Designee.
  • Kristy Caldwell for your ability to tackle any challenge, and for your innovation and preparedness.
  • Jocelyn Hill for your thoughtful problem solving, ability to keep us on task, and your insightful conversations.
  • Jess Gentry for such a fantastic year as the Member Network Chair and continuing the pilot program as the Board Guest. Your participation this year made the Board work and process that much better. I hope we see your name slated for a Board Position in the near future.

I would also like to thank all those I served with on the Board my first two years.

  • Past President Stacey Hall and Past President Stan Shingles. I thank each of you for your mentorship and your friendship. You were great stewards of the Association and hopefully I continued the work you paved ahead of me.
  • Fellow Past Board Members Don Stenta, Janice DeMonsi, Pam Su, Eric Nickel, and Darci Bingham. I appreciate the work each of you did and how it helped me during my final year.
  • Past Member Network Chairs (Board Guest) Jen Gudaz and David Peters. Thank you for being trailblazers in our new model and modeling the way. I hope the Association sees your names slated for a Board position in the near future.

I am excited for the new Board member to begin her term. It will be a great year, Yvette Kell.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore Team

Thank you to all those from the University of Maryland, Baltimore who supported me so I could undertake this journey and serve NIRSA. Thank you to the URecFit Team (Julia, Anna, Meghan, Jimmy H, Jimmy M, Jacob, Cody, and Mark), my other departments (Union, Events, Student Leadership, Res Life, and Aux Services), Student Affairs, and my senior leaders (Flavius, Patty, and Jim).

NIRSA’s Strategic Planning Taskforce

The year was really focused around our envisioned future and pathways. As such, resources, talent, and work revolved our getting our strategic plan finished. The Board wholeheartedly and enthusiastically approved the Strategic Plan. Not only did the Task Force create a compelling and game-changing plan for NIRSA, the process yielded additional outstanding outcomes.

First, the learning journey you created and engaged in as a team was inspired and transformational. We will be integrating this philosophy in other leadership groups in the future. Second, the pace of the work was spot on! Quick enough to keep pace with the needs of NIRSA and the drivers of our business, but also with enough time and patience to ensure the process included member input, good data, and thoughtful reflection. Last, but certainly not least, you were bold enough to adopt a new model of strategic planning that is designed for organizations who want to grow! Thank you:

  • Leah Hall-Dorothy
  • Don Stenta
  • Earl Cabellon
  • Victoria Lopez-Herrera
  • Pam Su
  • Chavonne Shorter
  • Kevin Marbury
  • Cara McFadden
  • Erin O’Sullivan
  • Pam Watts

NIRSA Foundation, NSC, Member Network, and Assembly

Thank you to all those served and led this past year. Your work not only elevated all of our paths, your work moved the Association and the Board’s work forward. Thank you for service, dedication, and passion to our Association.

NIRSA Past Presidents

Thank you to all who served prior to me and paved the way. Thank you for your encouragement, advice, and mentorship.

NIRSA Student Leadership Team

During the term, I intersected and crossed pathed with many of you. Thank you Ross, Abby, Gina, Katelyn, Kenton, Taylor, Deja’Nay, and Spencer. Thank you for the kind words and gift at the Annual Conference. Congratulations to those graduating and good luck on your paths ahead.

All other NIRSA Volunteer Leaders

The work of the Association relies on the hard work and time of our volunteer leaders. Thank you to all who served in one of the many capacities this year including committees, taskforces, state directors, conveners, conference volunteers, and the many other roles that were filled during the term.

NIRSA Headquarters Team

Thank you to all the great and talented individuals at NIRSA HQ. Without your support, hard work, and guidance, the work of NIRSA doesn’t get done. It is a testament how each and every one at NIRSA HQ contributes to the success of our Association and profession. On behalf of the entire NIRSA Board, it is my pleasure and my privilege to sincerely thank you for your good work for NIRSA and for our members.

NIRSA Executive Director

My utmost appreciation and admiration for Pam Watts, our NIRSA Executive Director. The Association is fortunate to have such a talented and visionary leader at our helm. I have known our Executive Director for many years and I have witnessed her growth parallel that of the Association over the years. Thank you for your leadership and friendship along the way.

Humans of NIRSA

I want to thank each and every one of you for being part of our NIRSA family and allowing me this opportunity to serve. The journey has been amazing. Thank you for your support during my tenure and service to the Association. THANK YOU!

Looking Ahead

I look forward the new leadership year beginning on May 1 and the good work ahead for the incoming boards.

Great things are planned as President Ken Morton will now orchestrate and facilitate the work moving forward. You can follow his journey on Twitter, as he will take over the @NIRSAPresident handle on May 1. Good work and serve well.

To all the Humans of NIRSA, thank you for supporting me through this special journey. We elevated our paths! Now, I bid you with a final presidential toast of (a cup of java) from my NIRSA mug.

Peace, Love, and NIRSA!