“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

As NIRSA continues to celebrate the diverse culture of campus recreation professionals (through avenues like caucus discussions), we want to take a moment to explore some seminal figures who have trailblazed the way for Black professionals to make an impact within and beyond NIRSA. I took time recently to speak with six NIRSA pioneers about why and how they have taken steps into leadership with NIRSA.

A common theme among the group was a sense of responsibility to carry forward—with courage and servant hearts—the torch set in motion by the original 20 Black founders of NIA.

See related: NIRSA History

Over the coming weeks, I invite you to explore the leadership journey of past, present, and future black leaders in NIRSA through the lenses of these six pioneers:

  • Jocelyn Hill, Director of Recreational Sports & Fitness at American University
  • Kevin Marbury, Vice President of Student Life at the University of Oregon
  • Jean McClellan Holt, Assistant Director of Recreation & Wellness at Old Dominion University
  • Juliette Moore, Retired Director at the University of West Florida
  • Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University (debuts February 1)
  • Mirum Washington-White, Director of Athletics, Curriculum Chair for Physical Education, Dept Faculty at St Cyril of Alexandria School (debuts February 8)

About Jocelyn Hill

Jocelyn Hill has been Director of Recreational Sports and Fitness at American University since 2008. Prior to becoming Director, starting in 1999, she served as Associate Director of Recreational Sports. Before coming to American University, she was Assistant Director of Campus Recreation at Middle Tennessee State University responsible for fitness and wellness programs. Jocelyn earned her undergraduate degree from James Madison University before receiving her M.S. degree at American University.

She has received the NIRSA Regional Award of Merit for her contributions to Region I, the Annual Service Award for her work with the HBCU Summit, and the Juliette Moore Distinguished Leadership Award. She served as an Annual Director on the NIRSA Board of Directors from 2017–2018 and is currently serving a three-year term on the Board as an At-Large Director.

Jocelyn is actively involved with increasing the membership of students and professionals at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She is one of the founders of the HBCU Summit which has been meeting annually since 2006.

At American University, she’s served on various committees. She successfully completed the first class of the university’s Leadership Institute in Secondary Special Education and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, a Greek service organization.

Jocelyn’s pathway into NIRSA leadership

As you can see from Jocelyn’s professional history, she was active in Region II of NIRSA during her tenure as Assistant Director of Middle Tennessee State University. When she moved to American University in Region I, she focused on working her way from an associate director role to a director position.

Her time working at American University and observing NIRSA state leaders helped her realize that there was an opportunity for her to step up and impact the NIRSA organization and the broader campus recreation profession. She saw the value of the NIRSA State Director role but did not initially take action to apply for this leadership position. That was until she heard a speech from Dr. R Kevin Marbury, now Vice President of Student Life at the University of Oregon, during the 2004 NIRSA Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Marbury encouraged others to step up and take action in NIRSA. She realized that it was one thing to complain about the issues and another to do something about them. It was the nudge she needed to step up and become the NIRSA State Director for Washington D.C.

Jocelyn notes that a lot of her actions as a leader have been influenced by the impact of other Black leaders in NIRSA and by her family. Members of her family attended and worked at Delaware State University and so she was able to hear about their impact on students. This propelled her to take action and—with her colleagues Sev-Ira’ Brown of Syracuse University and Bill Crockett of the University of Maryland—create the HBCU Summit within NIRSA.

Initially, the HBCU Summit was intended to be an opportunity for HBCU students to access educational opportunities through graduate assistantships. But the event has flourished since its inception and has grown to showcase the prospect of a career opportunity in higher education recreation.

She went through the proper channels to bring the HBCU Summit into fruition. In talking about the initiative, she says, “I’m not going to leave others out on an island, I will reach out and stay involved.” She continues to work with HBCUs to show the importance of representation to the students on campus and reinforces the significance of their involvement in NIRSA. Eleven historically black institutions were integral to the foundation of the National Intramural Association (NIA)—predecessor of NIRSA. It is only fitting, she says, that HBCU professionals continue to be an important part of the forward progress of the NIRSA organization.

In addition to her work with the HBCU Summit, Jocelyn has been a regularly featured voice in the three-part webinar series Talks with Tiffany: Maintaining Professionalism in the Midst of Black Mourning. She has served as a co-chair of the NIRSA Commission for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and is an active leader in the strategic planning process for NIRSA.

Jocelyn’s call to service

Jocelyn’s mom was an administrator at Delaware State University, so while growing up Jocelyn witnessed her mother’s care for students. She saw firsthand how often her mom would go above and beyond for them. Jocelyn carries that same work ethic and style of mentorship as she helps guide the young professionals in the field of collegiate recreation.

Beyond her responsibilities on the NIRSA Board of Directors, one of her main initiatives is to continue growing the HBCU Summit. Currently, four HBCUs are devoting their facilities and their professionals’ time to engage with students in new ways and offer them more opportunities for career success.

She wants young professionals to identify what they are passionate about within the field and then push themselves forward towards that passion and into new unforeseen opportunities. She says, “We talk about leadership and what makes successful and effective leaders.” But passion and a love for what you do is just as important as any skillset. “When you find that one thing that ignites your passion,” she says, “there’s a lot more than just saying it. Find what your passion is and move forward with it! If you have a passion for something and you think it can be better, then step up and do it. Let your impact be your representation.”

Shine a spotlight on your mentor

NIRSA has a great history and the opportunity for a bright future. Our founders and the Black leaders who have come after them have set an example for all of us—they encourage us to actively engage and be the change we want to see on our campuses, in this profession, and within our association.

I’m proof that, as young professionals, we have the opportunity to connect directly with the leaders mentioned in this series.

See related: “Pioneering the way: Spotlights on Kevin Marbury, Jean McClellan Holt, Juliette Moore, Stan Shingles, and Mirum Washington-White (debuts February 8),”

If you are a leader in collegiate recreation or strive to be, then I invite you to be brave and use your voice. Reach out to me if you’re interested in contributing an article to honor a pioneering Black leader and inspire the next generation of NIRSA leadership.

We will not be an organization that repeats its past or gets stuck in its present. Instead, we will connect with our past and set course for our shared future with a mindset that everyone is welcome on the journey. The future is in you!

  • For more information, contact Katherine Geter, Coordinator of Rec Sports & Family Programs for University of Houston’s Campus Recreation.
  • If you are interested in highlighting your campus or a NIRSA member’s achievements on your campus, pitch us your ideas.

Katherine "Katie" Geter is currently Coordinator of Rec Sports & Family Programs for University of Houston’s Campus Recreation; you can email her at kgeter@central.uh.edu.