In this installment of Student Leader Notes, I am highlighting Region V students and our Region V Student Leader, DeVanee Lasley. She currently serves as the Graduate Assistant for Development and Special Events at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and she is an advocate, difference maker, and no stranger to adversity. DeVanee is a cancer survivor and says that it is still a struggle she is trying to overcome. She has her moments and things like exercise are still difficult and she states that cancer has definitely changed her life. When I first met DeVanee, I never would have known. She is a strong, hardworking, passionate woman and at no point does she ever appear to waiver in her strength. It’s no wonder that she chose this quote as a reflection of her journey and what keeps her centered:

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.” – Malcolm X.

To me, this quote represents DeVanee to a T. She has experienced great challenges and adversity, but she turns them into lessons to learn from. Not only does she do that, but she turns her adversity into an opportunity for others to benefit from.

When DeVanee experienced racial intolerance as a young black woman, she decided to turn that into an opportunity for students to come together and feel safe. She now serves as the President for the Black Graduate Student Association at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. To learn more about the work she and her colleagues are doing, check out this article in The Daily Nebraskan. No matter what defeat, heartbreak, or loss she’s encountered, DeVanee has found a way to adapt, learn, grow, and make a difference for those that come after her. She makes our team laugh and she challenges us to think deeper about the impact that we can make as a Student Leadership Team. We wouldn’t be a team without her and I am thankful for her unwavering strength and skills to grow through adversity. DeVanee is always willing to share her story and encourages everyone to follow Amandla Stenberg’s advice, “Use your voice, your voice is your power.”

When I ask students in Region V to shed light on how they have grown through advsity, the responses were eye-opening. Robby White, an undergraduate student who currently serves as a facility manager, says, “Each time I face adversity, whether it be at work or in my personal life, it’s an opportunity to grow personally and to help others around me grow as well. Even the worst situations have something to be gained from them if we use them to better ourselves in the future.”

Julianna Johnson, Graduate Assistant for Intramural Sports at University of Nebraska–Lincoln said that in terms of adversity, “I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t really faced much in my life. This past year though, things in my personal life got pretty crazy. I got through it thanks to my coworkers, who are some of my best friends. Through thick and thin my recreation family was there for me when I needed them most.” This is a testament to Julie’s strength but also the strength in community and family that surrounds collegiate recreation.

Mike “Wally” Waldron has adopted a mantra that the Student Leadership Team has been using pretty frequently these days. Wally says to, “Dodge the bricks!” when talking about all that we have going on between academics, our roles in collegiate recreation, and our NIRSA involvement. So whatever bricks you’re dodging these days—whether it’s school, work, personal battles, or other adversities—make sure you lean on your team. I am confident in your ability to, “Dodge the bricks,” but I am even more confident that your team of family, friends, coworkers, or even furry friends will love you through your challenges and help you grow through the adversity.

Student Leadership Team (SLT) updates

I’d like to take this chance to share a little information on what the SLT has been working on.

The Mentor Program is in full swing. If you are not a part of the program or would like to be re-paired with a different mentor/mentee, please fill out an application. Cie Cie Leonard and Rachel Horras have been doing a fantastic job with connecting NIRSA students and professionals across the Association. We also want to draw attention to the fact that young professionals can either be mentees or mentors, just indicate it on your application. We also take time each Monday to celebrate the impact mentorship has on our community with #MentorMonday. Follow @NIRSAStudents on Instagram and Twitter to keep up and maybe even submit a photo you and your mentor/mentee to be featured!

Logan the Lobster, everyone’s favorite NIRSA Annual Conference mascot, has been a busy lobster traveling around the Association. He’s even climbed a rock wall in a recent visit! Give a follow to @NIRSAStudents on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with Logan’s adventures on #WheresLoganWednesday. Shoutout to Stephanie Calhoun, who has been running point on our social media efforts.

The SLT is partnering with the NIRSA Foundation to raise money for NIRSA student scholarships to the Annual Conference in 2020. DeVanee Lasley and Zack Sephton have put in a lot of time and effort to roll out the Give to Grow campaign, and we will be sharing specifics in an article to come.

Corrine Pruett and Jonathan Sanders have some great ideas lined up for the Student Lounge at the 2019 Annual Conference and the entire SLT will be all hands on deck for the student specific initiatives such as Take a Student to Lunch, a collaboration with the Student Professional Development Committee at J. Michael Dunn Student Development Workshop, and a few different educational sessions for students to engage in. If you have any ideas or want to get involved in our efforts, please let us know! We want to hear from you. Send me an email with any thoughts or feedback. The student perspective, your perspective, is always relevant!

Graduate Assistant – Facility Operations at University of Mississippi | NIRSA Profile

Caroline Ciell, NIRSA Student Leader, is currently Graduate Assistant – Facility Operations at the University of Mississippi.