The 2020 NIRSA Annual Conference & Campus Rec and Wellness Expo will take place April 18–21 in Phoenix and the overall conference schedule is a great planning guide for the Association’s signature event of 2020. It gives prospective attendees an overview of the event; combined with the NIRSA 2019 photo recap, it’s a great overview of what attendees can expect to experience at NIRSA 2020.

When will conference registration open?

Registration for NIRSA 2020 will open in December. The early bird registration deadline will be in March. Exact dates are still to be determined.

What will be new and different in 2020?

There will be some significant changes to the overall conference schedule for 2020. “We’re excited to expand the program schedule with more sessions on the final day of the conference,” explains David Peters, NIRSA 2020 Program Committee Chair. “Attendees can attend numerous educational presentation and conversation sessions every day, including a full slate of sessions on Tuesday morning and afternoon leading up to the Closing General Session and keynote speaker.” But the most exciting change will be when the Honor Award is presented.

This recognition will now happen during the Opening General Session, which is the most highly-attended session at conference. The Opening General Session will have a 5:00pm start time on Saturday, April 18 to allow for more flexibility with preconference workshops and attendee travel.

“Introducing the Honor Award recipient to kick off the conference will allow for the recipient to interact with all of the conference attendee for the rest of the conference,” says Vicki Highstreet, Associate Director for Recreation Programming at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and past Honor Award recipient. “It will heighten the awardees experience because students and professionals will now put the name and face together. They’ll have ample opportunity to see, hear about, and interact with the awardee.”

The Opening General Session will still have a keynote speaker and some other Association announcements in addition to the recognition and awarding of the Honor Award. It will be followed by a reception for friends and family as well as by other socials traditionally held on the first night.

What does this mean for the last day of the conference? We’ll be evolving what used to be the closing banquet to a closing reception immediately following the Closing General Session. These two events will be later in the afternoon so that we can accommodate 1-2 more rounds of educational sessions on the last day of the conference. “The last day of the conference is now packed with educational sessions leading up to our closing general session and keynote speaker,” explains David Peters, Associate Director of Campus Recreation at Florida State University and Chair of the 2020 NIRSA Annual Conference Program Committee.

In the past, many conference attendees left early on the last day citing the low number of ed sessions on that day and the large block of unscheduled time between the Closing General Session and the Honor Award Banquet. We hope these scheduling changes will encourage attendees to stay for the entire conference.

NIRSA Foundation Golf Tournament returns

Additional changes include the return of the NIRSA Foundation Golf Tournament on the precon day, offering grab and go breakfast on a few of the mornings before ed sessions start, a two-hour take a student to lunch break, and moving the Expo Grand Opening to Sunday afternoon. This is all followed by a full day of sessions on Monday and the moving of the All Conference Social to Monday night, the third day of the conference.

“I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing the newly-announced NIRSA Annual Conference schedule changes this year. These changes, while some difficult to make, are truly to benefit the NIRSA members,” says Cheyanne Clouse, NIRSA Student Leader. “In previous years, one of the biggest pieces of criticism has been that the Take a Student to Lunch time slot has not been long enough. While the pairing process has been streamlined by the previous Student Leadership Teams, an additional thirty minutes will hopefully prove to be beneficial. Our hope is that this time allows for TASTL participants to dive deep into their new connections, enjoy a nice lunch, and still make it back for the education session block that follows.”

No matter what ends up in the final schedule, what makes a successful conference is the learning and networking; the development and mentoring of students; viewing new products and services vendors have to offer at the Expo; and recognizing and honoring members for their contributions to the Association and profession. We look forward to a fantastic 2020 conference next April!

  • For more information, please contact NIRSA Senior Director of Operations Mary Callender.