“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.
As part of your Black History Month actions, 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
- Mirum Washington-White, Director of Athletics, Curriculum Chair for Physical Education, Dept Faculty at St Cyril of Alexandria School
About Mirum Washington-White
Mirum Washington-White, RCRSP is currently the Director of Athletics at St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic School. He provides administrative leadership in planning, implementing, coordinating, supervising, and evaluating the athletic programs for the K-8 school. Mirum instructs and works with coaches and student athletes to prepare them to be their best selves. Additionally, he serves as teaching faculty and as the curriculum chairperson for the physical education department.
Previously, Mirum served as Associate Director of Programs and Assessment for the University of Houston’s Department of Campus Recreation. In this role, Mirum managed all elements of programming and program staff. He was also responsible for the department’s assessment efforts—including peer benchmarking, program evaluations, and learning outcomes.
Prior to his tenure at the University of Houston, Mirum was Senior Assistant Director of Sports Programs for the University of Arizona’s Department of Campus Recreation where the facility was ranked as one of the top ten collegiate recreation centers in the US. Mirum says that he looks back on his work creating a culture of team cohesion and departmental success at the University of Arizona with pride.
Mirum has been an active member of NIRSA for 33 years. His NIRSA credentials include: Certified Recreational Sports Specialist (CRSS), Registered Collegiate Recreational Sports Professional (RCRSP), graduate of the School of Recreational Sports Management (now known as the NIRSA School), and graduate of the Executive Institute.
He’s been involved with a variety of association programs, initiatives, and events and has presented many times at the local, state, regional, and association-wide levels. His depth of commitment to the profession is apparent in his volunteer service record. These are just some of the important roles he’s served in: Region VI Vice President; NIRSA Board of Directors At-Large Director; NIRSA Services Corporation Board Member; State Director; Chair of the NIRSA Student Professional Development Committee; Chair of the Student Leadership and Academic Awards; Region VI Annual Conference Coordinator; Annual Conference Program Committee; National Championship Series Committee member; NIRSA People of Color Social Program Committee member; and member of the ERSL Mentorship Program.
Mirum’s pathway into NIRSA leadership
When asked to speak about getting involved in NIRSA volunteer service, Mirum says, “Back in the day it was about giving back—and it resonated even further.” He found out well after initially joining NIRSA that our association was founded by 20 Black leaders.
After learning about the history of NIRSA, he was inspired to give back and make an effort to be a representative of those Black leaders. After observing how NIRSA was navigating recreation in higher education, he had questions about the status quo. He decided to start speaking up and became what he calls “the big mouth in the room.” He realized, however, that there was no reason to be in the background raising questions if those questions weren’t going to lead to change. So he started taking steps to get into a position to really impact the conversation and help make choices that would influence the culture of the association and the profession.
Some of his most important steps include being involved with the initial creation of the NIRSA Championship Series. Mirum helped make connections with corporations, building partnerships that could serve NIRSA’s needs. He helped craft NIRSA’s statement for marriage equality. Two of his terms on the NIRSA Board of Directors coincided with the hiring of NIRSA’s current and previous executive directors, Pam Watts and Kent Blumenthal respectively. While his steps in leadership were strategic, he states that the opportunity to make change was predicated on being in the “right place and right time,” and that he had the benefit of working “with a great group of people.”
Mirum’s call to service
I asked Mirum what actions he is hoping to see taken in light of his impact in the organization. He says, “We are still a young organization. But I hope we will continue to move forward in a positive manner and work to represent the underrepresented BIPOC population.”
He hopes that we will be able to parlay national recognition into a greater global platform and thereby expand our reach and the opportunities available to young professionals who are passionate about this field. He acknowledges that there are some potential roadblocks; remnants of “good ol’ boy” mindsets continue to linger, and international connections still need to be made. But he is optimistic that the coming generation of NIRSA leaders will take steps to address potential barriers and move NIRSA forward. He hopes we continue being true leaders in the industry.
Ultimately, Mirum wants up-and-coming Black leaders to actively engage with the profession and get involved through volunteer service. This profession teaches us many valuable transferable skills that can make practitioners an asset in any realm of work we choose. But, as Mirum emphasizes, we must be willing to do the work to make ourselves marketable and make this work count. Mirum’s final words for us: “If you are not [undertaking meaningful engagement and giving back to the legacy of the original 20 Black founders], than you are doing yourself and them a disservice.”
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.
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.