Welcome to 2020! If you’re reading this, you made it—so breathe, smile, and know that you are not alone. In normal times, we would be congratulating each other on another successful year of surviving final exams, semester wraps ups, and all the somewhat anticipated ups and downs of an academic year. But these are not normal times. Given that, I want to congratulate you all for surpassing expectations. The students of NIRSA have overcome so many unique obstacles—and that should be honored and celebrated loudly.

Have a toast to the good and a toast to the bad. Take the time today to reflect on the past month though it may have felt like a year, and the past year though it may have felt like a decade. Honor whatever roles you’ve played during this tidal wave of changes. Time spanning across achievements and losses is what brought us here today.

“It is how we embrace the uncertainty in our lives that leads to the great transformations of our souls.” – Brandon A. Trean, Health educator, manual therapist & writer

We have overcome. We, the humans of NIRSA, have caught each other when the world turned upside down. Conferences have become webinars. Teammates have become esports mates. Fitness classes have become live videos. And still we sail forward. These opportunities would not have arisen without your voices, and these achievements would not be possible without your continued support.

Your Student Leadership Team is working alongside the Member Network to guide this ship (the Association) through another year of uncertain waves; however, we need all of YOU to help us along this journey. Your voice is an essential driving force in how the Student Leadership Team and NIRSA as a whole operates. The SLT is here to help you reach your Ultimate You. Please share your ideas, questions, and perspectives!

Student Leadership Team

Canada: Ross Clausi 

Ross received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Wilfrid Laurier University with a concentration in teaching, coaching, and management. He is currently working on his master’s degree in management and leadership at Western University where he works in intramurals and membership services. Originally from Timmins, Ontario (the home of Shania Twain), Ross enjoys playing sports and video games and is a black belt in karate. He hopes to continue growing and developing the Canadian Region in the year to come.

Strengths: Adaptability, Communication, Restorative, Context, Arranger

Region I: Maeve McKinney 

Maeve is the Graduate Coordinator of Intramural Sports and Special Events at Rowan University where she is working towards her master’s degree in higher education administration. Originally from New Rochelle, New York, Maeve completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, graduating with a degree focused on government and politics. She enjoys playing ultimate frisbee as well as other sports. Maeve’s support will allow the SLT to continue having a strong social media presence; she will continue connecting with the Member Network and the students of NIRSA, and wants to remind us all to “Live your life.”

Strengths: Arranger, Activator, Significance, Competition, Self-Assurance

Region II: Emily Murphy 

Emily is the Graduate Assistant of Competitive Sports at West Virginia University where she is completing a master’s degree in sport management. She received a bachelor’s degree in sport and recreation management from James Madison University. Emily is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She loves painting, reading female empowerment novels, and “adventure, adventure, and more adventure!” Emily looks forward to “having courageous conversations with students who are considering making campus recreation a career choice.”

Strengths: Woo, Positivity, Includer, Developer, Individualization

Region III: Karen David 

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Karen attended The Ohio State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in public health. Karen is the Graduate Assistant of Facility Operations and Member Services at the University of Dayton where she is earning a master’s degree in higher education administration. Karen served on the NIRSA Assembly for the 2018–2019 term, but her claim to fame is being literally stepped on by Lebron James as a kid. As an “Ohio native who never left,” Karen is excited to travel (hopefully soon and safely), engage students across the regions, and expand her experiences.

Strengths: Activator, Arranger, Relator, Harmony, Futuristic

Region IV: Grayson Graham 

Grayson Graham is the Graduate Assistant of Intramural Sports at Emporia State University. He is working towards his master’s degree in health, physical education, and recreation. Prior to his current position, Grayson attended Oklahoma State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management and marketing. Grayson is originally from Amarillo, Texas. He is an avid golfer and a huge fan of The Office. With his new platform Grayson is looking forward to helping students who are unsure about their futures and navigating career paths.

“Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica” – Dwight Schrute, The Office

Strengths: Consistency, Harmony, Relator, Restorative, Communication

Region V: Katherynne Nail 

Kate received her bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in recreation administration before moving on to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she is the Graduate Assistant of Member Services and External Relations. She is earning her master’s degree in higher education administration. Kate is originally from Sikeston, Missouri. She loves hiking and spending time with her hero: her mom. Kate is excited to start establishing stronger connections and creating opportunities for student engagement to make the most of this opportunity for personal growth and learning.

Strengths: Responsibility, Activator, Significance, Includer, Adaptability

Region VI: Adam W. McClanahan 

Adam is the Graduate Assistant of Competitive Sports and Camps at Utah State University. After earning his bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in American government and a minor in public affairs, Adam has begun pursuing his master’s in business administration. Originally from San Diego, California, Adam hopes to share experiences with students and continue to learn from these unique individuals. He is excited to work on unique data driven presentations using survey feedback and analysis of programs. Adam is looking forward to serving in this position during uncertain times and believes in these guiding words from Eminem: “I’m not afraid.”

Strengths: Arranger, Achiever, Ideation, Restorative, Significance

Past President’s Representative: Tom Kirch

Tom is an Oregon native and Past NIRSA President who serves as the NIRSA Past President Representative on the SLT. A NIRSA Honor Award recipient, Tom has contributed so much to the field of collegiate recreation and now shares his experiences with the SLT.

NIRSA Head Quarters Liaison: Sarah Leskovec

The SLT would not be complete without Sarah. She represents NIRSA HQ by providing essential information about NIRSA processes and programming. Sarah will help guide the SLT through this year’s tasks and opportunities. We would be lost without her.

NIRSA will continue to provide opportunities to all of you as we continue this journey forward. Now is a time to engage in new ways like never before. Be sure to visit the student resources page on the NIRSA website for information about the mentor program, awards, scholarships, and other ways that you can get involved. We’re excited to have you as a part of the NIRSA family and look forward to seeing how we can contribute, collaborate, and cultivate together!

So, who am I? My name is Tanika Santos and I, like you, am along for the ride. This new year will pose challenges for all of us, but it’s also a unique opportunity for all of us to grow. With each new wave of uncertainty, I hope you know the SLT is here for you. Thank you for being here with us.

Fitness and Wellness Graduate Assistant at University of Kentucky | NIRSA Profile

Tanika Santos, NIRSA Student Leader, is currently the Fitness and Wellness Graduate Assistant at the University of Kentucky.