NIRSA’s highest recognition is the Honor Award, which has normally been presented in-person each year at the NIRSA Annual Conference. This year, as we’re all aware, the NIRSA Annual Conference will be virtual and the attendees will see the award presented virtually.

We want members to be actively engaged in this special presentation of the Honor Award by nominating a colleague, writing a letter of support for a colleague, or submitting an updated letter of support for a colleague for whom you’ve submitted support letter(s) previously. Keeping someone’s file current is as important as nominating someone new. If you’re updating a letter, please be sure to update the material rather than copy and paste what you’ve submitted in the past. We know your nominee continues to do great things for the profession and we want to consider all they do in our deliberations.

We aim to honor a colleague who exemplifies the dedication and passion that our profession is noted for. It’s not too early to think about a Monday, November 16 deadline—we all know how quickly time passes. As you think about nominating someone for this prestigious award, we want you to take the time to provide the most complete nomination possible. Don’t put it off! The nomination process usually takes a little longer than you would expect.

As you identify that person who has shown outstanding achievement in the profession and exemplary service to the Association, consider who else might be able to provide insight to this nomination process. Encourage others to provide letters of support or update a previous letter for your nominee. Each of us have difference experiences to share with regards to a colleague/mentor. Put your heads together and let’s honor one of our colleagues in this most meaningful manner.

Recent Honor Award recipients share what the award has meant to them

“The NIRSA Honor Award is truly a celebration of success,” says Stan Shingles, the 2019 Honor Award recipient and Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University. “Being a recipient of this award allowed me to share this success with my family, friends, colleagues, and our campus community in recognition of their contributions to this success. It allowed for reflection on the many experiences, opportunities, and challenges that shaped my professional journey and influenced my personal development.”

“I remember the feeling I had when I got the call from Vicki informing me that I had received the 2020 NIRSA Honor Award,” says Eric Nickel, Director of University Recreation at James Madison University. “My first reaction was that maybe I hadn’t heard her right. Then a feeling of speechlessness (which rarely comes over me) hit me as I reacted to her words. I had always revered the people who wore that medal, especially when I was a young professional. But even later in my career, I was one of those people who always stayed for the banquet so I could congratulate and celebrate the recipient. So for me to receive it was kind of overwhelming, joining the ranks of people that I admire and respect so much. But what I am proudest of is what it represents—that your career made a difference in the lives of others and hopefully had an impact that will transcend your time as a NIRSA member.”

Eric adds, “You immediately think of all of those people in your journey that you want to thank. Your staff and students, your bosses and people who gave you opportunities (and second chances), and NIRSA members you served with who have become like family. My next thought was how eager I was to share it with my family, who have learned over the years sort of what NIRSA is, but can’t really understand it. It hit me that when you see an Honor Award winner standing on the stage, there are so many people that should be standing with that person, that the thought of thanking them all is overwhelming. But the feeling is one that you will never forget, and for that reason writing the acceptance speech becomes a passionate endeavor that keeps making you smile as you remember the journey that brought you to that day. I will cherish those memories forever!”

Submit your nomination today!

Please don’t assume that your colleague/mentor has been nominated. Nomination letters stay active for five years and there are several colleagues who have been nominated; however, there are many other colleagues who have not been nominated. If you know of someone who has been nominated, your role may be to submit a letter of support for that nominee. If you’re not sure if someone has been nominated, please contact Leadership Programs Coordinator Chelsea Hansson at NIRSA Headquarters and she will be able to provide confirmation regarding those nominated.

On behalf of the Honor Award Committee, I encourage you to support this award by actively engaging in the nomination process. The NIRSA website has complete information about the writing process with tips for formatting and content. We challenge the NIRSA membership to make our task in selecting a member who is most deserving to be the 2021 Honor Award recipient as difficult as possible.

As chair of this year’s committee, I’m available to answer any questions or provide observations and thoughts as you consider submitting a nomination. Any member can submit a nomination letter. You do not need to be invited to do so by a colleague who might be coordinating an effort on behalf of a specific person. Please consider this your invitation to write a nomination.

Thank you for your active engagement. The Honor Award Committee looks forward to hearing from you by the Monday, November 16 deadline! Submit your nomination HERE!


  • For more information, please contact NIRSA Leadership Programs Coordinator Chelsea Hansson.
Associate Director for Recreation Programming and Staff Development at University of Nebraska | NIRSA Profile

Vicki Highstreet is currently the Associate Director for Recreation Programming and Staff Development at the University of Nebraska. She is a NIRSA Past President, recipient of the NIRSA Honor Award (2018), and is the current chair of the NIRSA Honor Award Committee. Vicki can be reached at