Hundreds of individuals from diverse backgrounds and with varying connections to campus recreation have been taking part in the 2021 NIRSA Virtual Conference & Campus Rec and Wellness Expo, presented by PLAE. Most have probably seen the #dadjokesofNIRSA chat posts which have showcased the playful side of many attendees.

What started as a fun challenge from exhibitor Alvarado Turnstiles to attendees in order to earn gamification codes cascaded into waves of clever wordplay on chat boards across the virtual conference.

There are some real gems to be found!

When I tell students what classes to take, I share that geology rocks, but geography is where it is at.

Why did the farmer leave the gym? His calves were hurting!

What do sprinters eat before a race? Nothing, they fast!

All these jokes are great. I am going to store them in my dad-a-base.

No matter how far apart we are physically, laughter will always unite members of NIRSA.

Keith Boykin on the main stage

Beyond the lighthearted fun, NIRSA members came to day two of conference ready to engage and learn. New York Times best-selling author, leading TV commentator on politics, race, and sexual orientation, and a former White House aide to President Bill Clinton Keith Boykin started off Wednesday’s lineup of live offerings, sharing how diversity is a source of strength.

Many took inspiration from his message.

“Not only do I love hearing Keith’s personal story, but also this history lesson is fantastic. ALWAYS the SAME arguments to discriminate, regardless of the group being discriminated against.”

“Diversity is a fact. Equity is a choice. Inclusion is an action. Belonging is an outcome.”

“Powerful. Such bravery that all of us with so much privilege don’t have to deal with. Thank you for helping me continue to learn, NIRSA family.”

“Keith’s talk is a vital reminder not only of our history but also of the violence that currently exists, in actions and in laws. For example, the number of anti-trans bills introduced in the past year is alarming, as is the violence against trans women of color.”

“Keith is dropping some serious dimes. I pray that we all are listening and processing!”

“Overheard” in sessions

Keith’s main stage presentation complemented three blocks of live and simu-live sessions, in addition to the multitude of on-demand sessions at attendees’ finger tips. Sharing knowledge has been at the heart of every annual NIRSA conference, and this year’s learning opportunities have been top-notch.

Here are some of the day two highlights from attendees:

“This was both an informative and much needed session; not just for small schools, but for anyone who wants to make campus rec more than just sports and physical activity.”

“These are some really good examples that show you how important working together is! You can accomplish so much!” – From “Why Can’t We Be Friends?

“I love how inclusive programming is fused with everyday programming and not something separate!” – From “More than a Diversity Statement: Infusing EDI in the Everyday

“This was amazing research and data!” – From “The Mental & Physical Resiliency Benefits of Campus Rec Participation During COVID

“Sometimes this topic can make people feel defensive; Marc presents it in a way that allows for self-reflection.”

“Laying down the gauntlet and challenging the rest of us to really think about how/where/why we invite and engage our students!”

“This was the best session of the conference!” – From “The Importance of Belonging in Campus Recreation

“Wow! The Covid protocol for this facility is on point! Love to see all the #LifeFitness and #Cybex equipment socially spaced with such detail!💪” – From the Lehigh University- Welch Fitness Center Facility Tour

Exhibitor and attendee connections

Attendees have been immersing themselves in cutting-edge products and services that that will build, equip, operate, and renovate facilities to be innovative, sustainable, can’t-miss campus destinations. Through virtual vendor meetings, expansive exhibitor profiles, and peer-to-peer networking, the virtual expo has been hopping.

“Hello NIRSA exhibitors. Thank you so much for being here virtually! I am so excited to see you all and your products.” – From the Exhibit Hall Lobby

“We wouldn’t miss this event for anything! Excited to continue to be a part of the event, even if it looks a little differently this year!” – From the PLAE booth

“Our first Mondo weight room floor lasted over 20 years in a building putting 5000+ a day through. Have no doubt our new Mondo floor will carry me to retirement. :)” – From the Mondo booth

“Thanks for sponsoring and supporting the NIRSA family”

“We love using your online articles to help with staff education.” – From the American Council on Exercise booth

“Ask Me Anything” with Pam Watts

25 attendees joined NIRSA Executive Director Pam Watts to engage in some very thoughtful questions and answers. What do we think the industry is going to look like post pandemic? Will the goal be to continue serving the 70-80% of the student population that campus rec had historically been serving in the pre-COVID era?

Pam and thought leaders from across the association reflected on the opportunities that have presented themselves during this time, and took inspiration from the many new ways NIRSA members have found to connect and engage their communities beyond face-to-face.

Support the future of campus rec

NIRSA Foundation volunteers and supporters have been busy in the Foundation booth at the Exhibit Hall. Beyond encouraging virtual 5K participation and monthly giving, supporters today celebrated Suzi Smith, recipient of the 2021 NIRSA Foundation Leadership Award. Suzi has actively helped the NIRSA Foundation fulfill its important work of providing support and meaningful opportunities for leaders in collegiate recreation.

The NIRSA Foundation Board of Directors has also been sharing their latest thank you with donors.

Highlights from social media

Coming up Thursday, February 25

Three blocks of live and simu-live sessions will be available on the final day of conference. Other events you may want to add to your Thursday schedule include:

Access to on-demand content will continue to be available to registered attendees through April 30.

Meetings and Events Director at | NIRSA Profile

Sierra Smith is currently the Director of Meetings & Events at NIRSA.