This issue of the Student Leader Notes will highlight Canada Student Leader Zack Sephton. Zack is the energizer on our team; he hypes us up and always keeps our spirits high. The strategic thinking and perspective that he brings to our team is timely and needed. So far, he has worked hard to launch the Student Leadership Team’s collaborative initiative with the NIRSA Foundation, Give to Grow. This effort seeks to raise money to fund seven student scholarships to the Annual Conference in 2020. He also serves on our social media work team that highlights NIRSA student and professionals in #MentorMonday and tracks Logan the Lobsters’ travels on #WheresLoganWednesday on the @NIRSAStudents Instagram and Twitter platforms.

Zack’s favorite quote is by none other than Taylor Swift. As a “Swiftie,” Zack loves the positivity that Taylor brings into the world through her music—“Just think while you’ve been getting down about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world you could’ve been getting down to this sick beat.” What he likes about this quote is that you can look at it as a way of life. There are so many opportunities to amplify your experience in collegiate recreation and acquire new experiences, whether it’s personally, academically, or professionally. He says, “There’s so much to learn and to try to do in life, so if you can’t find some level of enjoyment and satisfaction in what you are doing then why are you doing it? Don’t let the bad things get you down because there are opportunities out there perfectly suited to you, a sick beat, that is waiting for you to dance to. All it takes is your willingness to extend your reach and find it.” His service to NIRSA Students has helped amplify their experience, just like Taylor Swift’s lyrics have helped amplify her fans’ stories, voices, and experiences.

When asked what the quote means to her, Ontario Student Leader Laurie Tremblay said, “It makes me think of the saying that those who never failed, never tried.” I like that Laurie embraces the growth mindset that I discussed in my previous article on collegiate recreation’s role in student resilience and grit. She focuses not on the fear of failure but on the fear of not learning and growing, which I think is necessary in our world today.

One way I recently amplified my experience in collegiate recreation was by serving on staff at the NIRSA National Soccer Championships in Foley, Alabama. I was privileged to meet a whole new NIRSA family this past week and be immersed in a culture of providing a high-quality experience that was participant centered. I can’t quite explain how or when the magic happened, but by the end of 4-5 days relationships amongst staff, we were so close it felt like we had known each other for years. Coming on staff in your first year, the rookie status is celebrated. Veteran staff know that they are critical pieces to the rookie learning experience and take on the responsibility of mentorship with excitement and fervor. I served on the Operations Committee with Kristi Levanduski, Director of Operations, and Phil Carter, Assistant Director of Operations. Together they helped set clear expectations for the week and what it would look and feel like. They gave each member of our team the opportunity to get their hands in all that the Operations Committee did from water cooler runs, managing the hospitality tent, serving and delivering food, boosting staff morale, and assisting spectators who struggled getting to the field with the ever popular “UberOps” golf cart. There was so much going on behind the scenes to make sure that the players experience was being enhanced, but also that the staff experience was a memorable and valuable one. As a staff member for NIRSA Soccer, I felt appreciated and genuinely valued, which is not to be taken lightly. The intentional actions of veteran staff and leadership to support me as a rookie meant the world to me and made the experience that much more meaningful.

When I think back to applying for NIRSA National Soccer I definitely had my doubts since I don’t work competitive sports. After reading an article about hosting a regional soccer tournament, the article talked about how hosting and volunteering isn’t just for students and professionals in competitive sports. I relished the opportunity to amplify my experience on staff and get exposure to outdoor facility and event management—and the NIRSA National Soccer Championships certainly delivered. For more on the event itself and the history of NIRSA Soccer, check out this article written by Scott Flickinger as well as the new #RecChat featuring members of the NIRSA Championship Series Committee.

Lastly, I’d like to leave you with a challenge for the new year. Think intentionally about how you can amplify your individual experience. You may think about it through a professional, academic, or personal lens. What are you going to do this year that will amplify your life? Next, think about how you can amplify the student experience. What are you going to do this year that will amplify the experience for the students or participants you serve? I encourage you to write down your specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals for yourself and your students and let it guide you in the new year.

You stay classy, NIRSA Family

Graduate Assistant – Facility Operations at University of Mississippi |

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