In 2011, Jordin Williams headed to New Orleans for the NIRSA Annual Conference. What made the experience special wasn’t that it was her first conference—that was Louisville, KY in 2006—and it didn’t significantly alter the trajectory of her career aspirations. She attended on a professional scholarship from the NIRSA Foundation, and the event stands out because receiving recognition for the work she and her team were doing at Delaware State University (DSU) let her know she was on the right track. “It was motivating to be recognized by an organization that I have respected so much, and it motivated me to become the best possible leader for my team at DSU!” says Jordin.
Jordin is currently the Executive Director for Wellness, Recreation & Campus Events at DSU, the role she had built her career towards when she started at Temple University as the Sport Club Coordinator in 2005. “I always knew that I wanted to become a Director of Campus Recreation so receiving a scholarship didn’t really change my career path or expectations; it just provided me with even more motivation to do great things,” says Jordin.
She played basketball in college and planned on continuing to play professionally after she graduated but ended up deciding not to go overseas. Instead, she pursued a career in sport administration, assuming she would end up in varsity athletics because that was the area she was familiar with. The job at Temple University led her to discover what she refers to as “this cool thing that is campus recreation.”
“After my first year working with an awesome team at Temple, I was hooked,” says Jordin. “Being able to utilize sport as a mechanism to develop young people during their college careers is a dream come true for me.”
From the ground up
Jordin left Temple University and become the Assistant Director of Intramural Sports & Facilities at DSU in 2009. The brand new DSU Wellness & Recreation Center was slated to open two months after her arrival. She reflects on how exciting it was working with the contractors and university leadership in preparing for the grand opening.
“Adding even more excitement was the process of building a campus recreation department from the ground up,” she says. “I have enjoyed every second of the process!”
Jordin was promoted to Director of Wellness & Recreation in 2010 and then to Executive Director of Wellness, Recreation & Campus Events in 2016. In her current role, she oversees the Campus Events Office and MLK Student Center operations, which has been both rewarding and challenging. She and her team have continued to strive to make DSU “one of the most respected HBCU campus rec departments in the country,” and Jordin’s experience at the POC Social at the 2011 NIRSA Annual Conference fueled her passion.
“After meeting and connecting with my HBCU peers at the POC Social where scholarship recipients were recognized, I was energized to work with them to lift up HBCU campus rec departments across the country,” says Jordin. “These individuals have become some of my closest and beloved colleagues and friends. I am proud of all we have been able to accomplish and am excited for all we have yet to do.”
She is especially proud of the work that’s been done to increase HBCU involvement in NIRSA. Since 2011, she has served on the HBCU Summit planning committee and has presented at the Summit each year. This year the planning committee worked with NIRSA leadership to start an HBCU task force and permanent HBCU Committee. Jordin calls these successes a testament to all the wonderful people she has been able to work with who have dedicated their time toward this endeavor over the years.
Putting in the work
The same year that Jordin received a professional scholarship to attend conference, her graduate assistant Derek Chatham won a student scholarship.
“Seeing him excel and win the award was extremely humbling,” says Jordin. “It was the first confirmation we had that our graduate assistant program at DSU was producing quality professionals.” Since 2011, DSU has been able to place all their graduate assistants in positions of gainful employment at a rate of over 80%. There are currently DSU graduates working in sport all over the country at places like UC Riverside, Minnesota, Texas State, UPenn, George Washington, Howard, Lander University, and the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. “They continue to make us proud each day!” she says.
When asked what it is that sets the DSU GA program apart, Jordin emphasized their comprehensive staff development program and the importance of teambuilding. Not only are graduate assistants trained in leadership, conflict resolution, effective communication, ethical decision making and safety/risk prevention and given supervisory positions that allow them to get a true professional experience, but they are also a part of the DSU family. “We conduct teambuilding activities that build trust and respect for one another and our GA’s thrive in that environment,” explains Jordin.
DSU also prioritizes funding in the budget to ensure that each GA is able to attend the NIRSA Annual Conference as well as regional NIRSA events. Jordin says this gives the students the ability to learn from other programs and build a network of recreation professionals that they can utilize as they will forward in their career.
Her advice for current students and future rec sport professionals is to “work hard, really hard, and learn as much as possible.”
“Opportunities will come to those who make connections within their field and when those opportunities come your way you want to be prepared with the knowledge and work ethic to be successful,” she says. She recommends gaining a competitive edge through internships and assistantships to gain the practical experience that can be showcased during interviews. Last of all, she reminds young professionals not be afraid to move early on in their careers. “Go gain the experience needed, then you will be able have control over where you want to settle down later in your career,” she says.
The value of mentors
Jordin also advises current students and future rec sport professionals to find good mentors who have the experience and advice to give while having their mentees’ best interests at heart. “They will be more valuable then you will ever know,” she says, crediting two of her own mentors as being instrumental in her growth and development.
The first is the late Steve Young, the first Director she had within Campus Rec when she was working at Temple University.
“He was such a competent and knowledgeable leader within the field,” she says. “Through his leadership, he was able to show me what a thriving campus rec department is supposed to look like, as well as the importance of NIRSA towards my continued professional development and networking.”
Even after Jordin left Temple University, Steve continued to be a close mentor to her, visiting DSU and allowing her to bring her department to Temple for professional development day.
“He was always there for me whenever I needed guidance or just to let me vent over frustrations,” she says. “I will cherish his mentorship and friendship forever. I would never be where I am today without him, and he is missed dearly!”
A second mentor who continues to push Jordin to excellence is her colleague Jocelyn Hill, Director of Recreational Sports & Fitness, American University. She met Jocelyn in 2009 when she started working at DSU. Jordin calls her “a great mentor and friend as she has led the efforts to increase HBCU involvement in NIRSA.”
“Her passion and commitment towards the betterment of HBCU’s is infectious! She has educated me on the history of HBCUs in NIRSA, as well as the individual struggles campus rec leaders have been experiencing on HBCU campuses across the country,” says Jordin. Jocelyn’s vision and leadership has driven current HBCU campus rec leaders to continue to be involved and push for more growth and involvement within NIRSA.
“We would not have been able to start and grow the HBCU Summit, initiate the HBCU Taskforce, bring the ERSL back to an HBCU campus or form the permanent NIRSA HBCU Committee without the consistent passion and drive exhibited by Jocelyn. It has been a pleasure working with her and I look forward to all the awesome things we are going to achieve moving forward,” says Jordin.
Giving back and looking forward
NIRSA Foundation Scholarships can help students find their way into the field and fuel the passion for recreation in more seasoned rec professionals.
The connections and opportunities help spur new ideas and create long-lasting effects on the health and wellbeing of campuses and communities across the country. Jordin’s scholarship provided recognition that what her school was doing was working as well as motivation to keep looking for new ways to improve. To her, being active in the NIRSA Foundation as a former scholarship recipient just makes sense.
“In order for NIRSA to help others and thrive as an organization, it is critical that everyone gives what they can to support the Foundation,” she says.
It’s impossible to tell who a scholarship will bring into conversation and what lasting friendships will continue to foster growth and excellence in the field, but one thing’s for certain: good things happen when the NIRSA family gets together.
- For more information about NIRSA Foundation Scholarships, contact Kameron Carroll, NIRSA Foundation Coordinator.