“Progress is not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” –Khalil Gibran
Two years ago, the NIRSA Championship Series made a promise. This promise has been embedded in the planning process for every Champ Series event, initiative, and goal that has been set and achieved since then. The NIRSA Championship Series provides premier experiences delivered by qualified experts within a safe and inclusive environment.
Safe and inclusive—two words that have carried so much meaning throughout 2020. While the Series is currently refraining from holding in-person events, an emphasis on advancing this brand promise and inspiring a shared vision remains. This summer, the executive team established six major focus points for the 2020–2021 season. Social justice and virtual programming are two of the points of emphasis, and two new task forces were established to lead these movements. Over 70 NIRSA members applied to volunteer to serve on either the social justice or esports task forces, a show of incredible support from our members.
Jasmine Holmes, Assistant Director of Sport Programs at Central Michigan University, has been appointed as the Chair of the Social Justice Task Force. Jasmine’s passion and dedication to the NIRSA Championship Series is evident; she is frequently involved and has the talent and drive to lead this diverse and experienced group. Jasmine talked about how excited she is for her task force “to make some changes to the NIRSA Championship Series to allow representation across demographics and across people that serve the Series. [This task force] is an opportunity to show how great of an organization this is and that we can be more than we already are.”
Jasmine further expressed the intentionality of putting conversations into action so that people can see themselves in the positions that they want to get into and continue to mentor people who can make a big difference. Creating an inclusive environment is no accident; it is the intentional, deliberate, and ongoing actions that foster a positive culture.
Ensuring the health and safety of our participants has taken some interesting turns throughout 2020 as we all navigate focusing on wellbeing during these trying times. With many institutions enacting travel bans for the fall semester and the NIRSA Championship Series unable to host in-person fall events, many members have called out for the Series to enter the esports world. To that end, there is no better person than Greg Durham, Director of Recreation & Wellness at Creighton University, to lead us into that new frontier; the NIRSA Championship Series has started planning for a national level esports event.
Greg talked about the importance of the timing in adding esports to the Series portfolio. “There is this need for programming and this opportunity for us to reach a wider base of students around the nation and provide additional development opportunities that were lost for professionals during these COVID-19-related challenges,” he said.
The Esports Task Force has initiated their first meetings to discuss the timeline, tournament format, registration format, games, and many other logistics. We look forward to communicating the details of this event as they are established in the coming weeks. Greg recognized that there are many challenges ahead, saying, “One of the challenges that we are excited about taking on is that many of our regionals and states have put on fantastic tournaments already, and in order for it to be a strong national tournament, we will need to meet or exceed those expectations that our membership has provided for us. I am very confident in our team.”
For both new initiatives, it’s clear that while 2020 has challenged us personally, socially, and professionally, NIRSA professionals and students will not rest. Instead, they continue to advance us toward a bright future. As Jasmine put it: “This is not your mother’s NIRSA Championship Series. We’re moving towards bigger and better things.”
Social Justice Task Force
Jasmine Holmes, Central Michigan University, Chair
Mirum Washington-White, St. Cyril of Alexandria School, Vice-Chair
Jamaica Cannon, Washington University in St. Louis
Jeremy Chance, University of Kansas
Nicholas D’Amato, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Shana Kessler, Central Washington University
Jasmine Mayes-Browning, University of Iowa
Kristofer Newsome, University of South Florida
David Podschun, University of Southern California
Demetria Young, Louisiana State University
Esports Task Force
Greg Durham, Creighton University, Chair
Abiel Payano-Martinez, The College At Brockport State University Of New York
Alex Kossoff, Jacksonville University
Chris Spencer, University of Iowa
Chris Morriss, Louisiana State University
Cybbi Barton, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Damajahá Netherly, University of California, Riverside
David Kirk, Illinois State University
Logan Lewis, Georgia Southern University
Nikki Vance, University of Central Florida
Shaneisha Weir, Houston Community College
Victoria Landron, Northern Kentucky University
Wesley Davis, Delaware State University
Zach Gentz, Arizona State University