One of the topics the 2020–2021 NIRSA Assembly focused on was the sustainability of campus recreation within higher education. The Assembly work team focused on getting more information from NIRSA’s membership around professional development opportunities and the impact of partnerships in higher education through a survey administered in April 2021. Survey results led to a number of insights.
100% of survey participants reported that they devote time to professional development. 91.5% feel supported to pursue professional development and 91% feel it’s important to engage in development activities. It’s clear that adequate and innovative professional development opportunities will be necessary and valued moving forward.
With a diverse membership, professional development needs for collegiate recreation professionals has always varied. NIRSA provides a wide range of opportunities to fulfill these needs and has only increased its offerings to meet needs since the beginning of the pandemic. Survey participants reported engaging with professional development through seminars, workshops, conferences, networking events, mentoring, individual research, and volunteer work. 85.8% of survey respondents reported that they have a neutral to strong likelihood of staying in the profession due to available professional development. There’s no doubt that professional development remains a crucial topic to advance in the upcoming years.
Partnerships in higher education
The higher education environment is constantly changing and collegiate recreation has adapted so it can continue being essential to student success and engagement. Departments have evolved and developed many practices to ensure they meet the needs of students regardless of funding and resources. One prominent practice of recent years is partnerships within institutions and communities.
Survey participants defined a partner as a person, group, or organization with whom a mutually beneficial relationship is established to achieve a common goal. Successful partnerships were characterized by shared vision, responsibility, and ownership with the goal of advancing each entity’s interests alongside those of students. Many identified that partnerships are often created to achieve outcomes that may not be possible while working separately. While many survey participants described successful and rewarding partnerships, others said they could benefit from more resources focused on ideas and best practices for partnerships.
From the survey responses, a partnership assessment tool was developed to help professionals take inventory of who their current partners are and where opportunities exist for new partnerships. The tool allows for individualized evaluation and can be widely applied to the diverse NIRSA membership. After completing the partnership assessment, professionals can compare their results to the Assembly survey data. Information from the survey and assessment are intended to help collegiate recreation departments and professionals identify innovative practices. The partnership assessment tool can be found here.
The Assembly recognizes that the sustainability of campus recreation within higher education is a complex, ongoing conversation. It hopes to add to this discussion in the future. As the profession evolves, it’s important that we continue to engage with such topics and so ensure that collegiate recreation professionals remain a vital part of higher education. Laying the foundation for success in the future begins with innovative educational experiences and practices today.