NIRSA’s Health & Wellbeing Task Force had the opportunity to meet in person April 16-18 to kick start their work. The successful meetings were graciously hosted by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

The location allowed the group the additional benefits of hearing from the esteemed Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer, of the university’s Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, as well as speaking with the staff and observing the action of Beyond Walls, a program that uses squash to inspire confidence, build leadership capacity, and encourage academic achievement in urban youth.

Both opportunities helped keep the group mindful that even as they drilled down into nuanced discussions, the scope of wellbeing work is wide and far-reaching. Additionally, the opportunities served as reminders of the many aspects that continuously play a part in our wellbeing – including social, spiritual, and emotional – and the constant need to keep the whole person and whole community in mind.

Leveraging the team’s strengths

As NIRSA’s Health & Wellbeing Task Force is charged with leading large-scale action over a relatively short period of time, one of the most critical outcomes from the in-person meeting was to bond this group as a team. This is a diverse group of leaders who, largely, were not previously connected with one another through existing network.

The task force utilized Strengths Finder to undergo intentional team and relationship building. This work has helped ensure the task force functions at a high level and that they are prepared to capture current momentum around this topic. Knowing where each members’ strengths lie will allow the group to leverage them efficiently in their work to make significant progress by the end of 2021.

Solidifying next steps

Over the course of two days, the task force focused on mapping the initial planning steps to achieve the Board’s vision for this health and wellbeing priority by the end of 2021. Strategically, the task force intends to first assess the current NIRSA landscape; those results will then inform the prioritization and focus of the rest of their timeline.

This assessment will be completed through two main methods – survey and discussion. Several task force members are currently working to build a survey that is expected to launch this summer. The survey will provide a data-informed baseline of NIRSA members’ understanding of and relation to the concepts of health and wellbeing. This data will also allow the task force to understand what members’ most pressing needs are and what types of solutions they would view as most helpful. Be on the look out this summer for this important survey opportunity!

Another foundational item in the works is a white paper intending to put into one, easy-to-access document a brief ‘state of health and wellbeing in campus recreation.’ It will also affirm the ‘why’ for rec and the important part this profession plays in wellbeing work on campus.

The task force members have also been in conversation with their regional representatives from the NIRSA Member Network. They hope to be able to have a presence at each regional conference this fall to both share information and update the membership on task force progress, as well as to dedicate an in-person outlet for members to share with them directly. They’re hoping to gather both success stories and challenges occurring on campuses.

Additionally, the task force has begun working with the Annual Conference Program Chairs – for NIRSA 2020 and beyond! – to discuss how to most effectively weave education on this important topic area into NIRSA’s premier professional development event. The two groups have been excited to learn from one another and explore how they might help set each other up for individual and collective success.

Moving the needle forward

While all of this is underway, the task force members will be continuing to network with other organizations in the higher education and wellbeing space, as well as with fellow NIRSA members. If your campus is doing something new or exciting in this space, be sure to reach out to a task force member and share the great work!

Going forward, the task force has many ideas they’re already excited about digging into – from developing toolkits to increasing communication and dialogue amongst NIRSA members – and where they start will be largely influenced by this summer’s survey results. Once those projects begin, they’ll be calling on fellow NIRSA members active in health and wellbeing promotion to lend their time and talent to helping this Association move the needle forward. Stay tuned!

  • For more information, please contact NIRSA Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships, Erin O’Sullivan.
  • If you are interested in highlighting your campus or a NIRSA member’s achievements on your campus, pitch us your ideas.
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Erin O'Sullivan is currently the Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships at NIRSA.