What does it mean to you to be a higher education professional? From your lens, what’s your vision for NIRSA’s role in supporting your work to advance and impact student success on your campus?

These are not rhetorical questions – I really want to know! Connect with me and let’s start a conversation.

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Working in this profession I’ve learned that we all look at our shared future through a unique lens and we bring our diverse experiences and values. (If you’ve not already done so, I’d encourage you to spend some time this summer exploring the “Identity Wheel” section of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion: A resource guide for Leaders in Collegiate Recreation.)

As I look across our association, I see four distinct generations of members, working together to advance student success and wellbeing. Each generation—Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z—brings its own unique characteristics and formative experiences to the NIRSA family.

Start with why

With four generations influencing and guiding our association work, there are sure to be different views on our future and the importance of the work we do to advance wellbeing. Engaged members, who are willing to be involved and voice their needs, are a strength for our profession—together, we can reflect on our past and articulate ambitious goals for our future.

When we start with the why of being higher education professionals, there is huge potential to change our answers to the age-old “what do you do?” question.

By drawing on the experiences of each generation, NIRSA professionals are poised to lead on our campuses amid the constantly changing landscape of higher education. NIRSA’s value proposition—to provide the best professional development offerings, the best networking opportunities, and the best resources—will help keep us focused on evolving as an organization and help us to gain recognition as a major player in higher education.

Look beyond your title

How many of us have been asked by a stranger “So, what do you do?” Reflecting on my own early career, I remember frequently responding with “I’m just a sport club coordinator” or over-explaining campus recreation (and NIRSA) in technical terms. Until relatively recently, I rarely, if ever, conveyed the impact I had on student success and wellbeing.

But, as I’ve progressed as I professional and as a leader of professionals, I’ve learned that saying, “I am the Director of Recreational Sports” or “I am the President of NIRSA,” isn’t the best way to invite the uninitiated to believe and support my vision. I’ve learned that communicating what I do isn’t about the titles I hold. The what of my professional work is deeply rooted in my why.

My own why is wanting every student at our university and professional on our team to have co-curricular experiences, grow self-efficacy and grit, develop as leaders, gain career readiness, and to be happy, healthy, and thriving in a global society: it’s a deep personal commitment to my own professional development, the professional growth of my staff, and our students’ development as leaders.

I didn’t stand for the NIRSA Presidency because I wanted to add the title to a list of my accomplishments. I stood because I want to inform, engage, equip, and inspire my NIRSA family to not only be campus recreation professionals but to also be higher education professionals. For the past 32 years, I have been working on my why; this year I want to empower my NIRSA family to be more than a title, to look beyond your programs, services, and facilities, and uncover your why!

“Never regret a single moment of the journey. If it wasn’t your destination, it was preparation.” –Unknown

Director of Recreational Sports at | NIRSA Profile

Leah Hall Dorothy, Ph.D., is currently the Director of Recreational Sports at Oregon State University and serves as the President on the NIRSA Board of Directors; she can be reached by email at president@nirsa.org.