Amid one of the most unusual and challenging back-to-school seasons in memory, we wanted to take a moment to connect with you. We have been talking with many of you through various channels and have heard your successes and challenges. These conversations have generated ideas around how to continue to support the profession during tumultuous times. A common theme in many of our conversations is exhaustion from uncertainty. Just when it seems we’ve settled into a new normal, another challenge—most recently in the form of wildfires and hurricanes—comes roaring in to unsettle us again.

In her podcast Unlocking Us, esteemed researcher and scholar Brené Brown refers to this stage as “Day 2:” “that period of time when we’re in the dark— when the door has closed behind us and we’re too far in to turn around, but not close enough to the end to see the light.” As a profession of achievers, we’re used to setting goals and working to achieve them. We are used to a certain rhythm of the academic calendar and campus life. Without these anchors, some may be feeling adrift or underwater. We are undoubtedly living through profoundly trying times.

Day 2: there is no turning back

Yet, we’ve also heard about your moments of satisfaction when it comes to meeting these new challenges, of taking stories of comfort in members’ collective ability to make things better. Members have shared numerous stories of success, pride in their teams, endless flexibility, creativity, and pivots, and most of all an unwavering commitment to students and campus communities. We continue to be awed by the power of NIRSA members to connect, learn, and lead in ways large and small.

It is encouraging to see the renewed attention on proactively dismantling systemic racism and promoting justice for all has not waned in NIRSA or in our broader communities. Nearly 800 individuals from more than 250 institutions and ten associate member companies are engaged in NIRSA’s 21-day racial justice habit building challenge. We appreciate Mondo’s financial support in this effort, which gave us the flexibility to offer this content as a member benefit to all professionals and students.

Caucuses for identity-based groups continue to form as avenues for members to discuss how individual communities want to engage, what their unique needs are, and how these forums can best have an impact.

A History & Legacy Task Force has been constituted. It recently met to begin its work, aiming to create a sustainable strategy for honoring NIRSA’s history and sharing that history consistently and broadly.

The Board is actively seeking requests for proposals from consultants to conduct a climate study of NIRSA—to help us ensure that our policies, volunteer structures, staff recruitment/retention, and the myriad ways members and stakeholders engage with us foster diversity, inclusion, and equity.

The NIRSA Championship Series established a  Social Justice Task Force to review inclusion and anti-racism in the Series, and create meaningful and actionable initiatives to improve where needed.

All of the above efforts and initiatives align with the call to action in the NIRSA equity, diversity and inclusion statement and the Board’s promise last spring to take action to address racism. The collective impact of these initiatives will propel NIRSA toward a more inclusive and equitable organization and profession.

We are also connecting with members who have been impacted by furloughs and lay-offs. Now more than ever before they need the connections, support, and comradery of NIRSA. We’re grateful to the NIRSA Foundation and the generosity of donors who are providing the funding for the membership waiver program offered to those impacted financially by the pandemic. NIRSA is also facilitating a community for unemployed and underemployed campus recreation professionals to facilitate connection, networking, and career resources.

Looking ahead

NIRSA is still a learning organization. Our role is to connect experts, entrepreneurs, and innovators in the field with professionals and students who deliver collegiate recreation programs and services day in and day out. The pandemic has not changed that core purpose.

Fall learning events

This fall, there will be a variety of learning and networking opportunities for members to grow their skills; webinars, regional virtual conferences, student lead ons, and a career week are all on the docket for the coming weeks and months. Ideas in Motion will continue to bring together the collective intelligence of our community to solve challenges and share ideas on industry-focused topics. Please continue to share your ideas for timely topics and game-changing pivots that can to be shared widely across the NIRSA community; email with topics you’d like to see addressed.

The NIRSA Assembly will lean-in to three future-focused topics for the profession in the coming year: social justice and anti-racism work; responses to and navigation during disruptors; and the sustainability of recreation in higher education. Assembly members will be leading conversations on these topics through the Ideas in Motion series.

Virtual fitness programs for students

To help members engage students through virtual opportunities, the Championship Series is planning a skills challenge, and with our partners at Riddle and Bloom, NIRSA has re-launched the National Recreation Movement for Fall 2020. The Champ Series is also working with members to pilot an esports championship through NIRSA.

2021 NIRSA Annual Conference

We’re excited to work with the Annual Conference Program Committee to plan a compelling virtual conference in 2021. While we’ll miss seeing each other in person, there are opportunities in the online format to make the conference more financially accessible, expand our cohort of attendees, and reimagine the ways campus recreation decision makers connect with industry business partners and our exhibitors.

Health and wellbeing initiatives

We are encouraged to hear that despite the turmoil and financial pressures brought on by the global pandemic, holistic and integrated health and wellbeing remains a top priority. The pandemic has laid bare health inequities in our communities as well as the importance of proactive health habits (physical, mental, spiritual, social) to combat disease. We must seize the opportunity to continue the promotion of integrated and holistic wellbeing as crucial to delivering on the promise of post-secondary education.

Earlier this year, the initial inter-association definition of wellbeing was published. An updated version, which further explicates community wellbeing and how it’s interwoven with individual wellbeing, will be released in October. Additionally, this update makes more explicit that universities’ work towards wellbeing is not only a place-based concept.

Moreover, this fall, you can look forward to the first edition of the Health & Wellbeing Briefing, an email digest of resources, research, and learning opportunities brought to you by the Health & Wellbeing Task Force’s Member Resource Development Team.

Connect with us and help shape the future of our Association

The NIRSA Board is offering virtual office hours this year. This channel is designed as an easy way for members to connect with us through Zoom to ask questions, share ideas, and find out more about how to get involved in NIRSA. NIRSA leaders have started the strategic planning process to develop the 2021–2024 plan and will engage members in a variety of ways for feedback and perspective, including through ongoing caucuses and these office hour opportunities among others. The scheduling options are available online and each Board member will rotate through the schedule on a monthly basis. At-Large Director Derek Hottell, Ph.D. will be available through October 15.

Schedule a meeting

As education professionals, we know that being uncomfortable is when learning can happen. Though we don’t have much certainty about how long and how far we still need to go to get through this pandemic, we do know we will do this together; eventually we all will emerge from the darkness and tension more resilient, more confident in our abilities, and with new knowledge and skills to take into the future.

Learn about the NIRSA Board of Directors here.

Craig Decker, RCRSP, is currently the Director at Centers LLC at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Craig is also the 2020-2021 Chair of the NIRSA Member Network; you can email him at

Executive Director at | NIRSA Profile

Pam Watts is currently the Executive Director at NIRSA.