Hello to all—students and professionals alike!

As we pass the halfway point of 2021, I hope you’re all taking time to soak in this summer before the start of another school year. This year, the Student Leadership Team is excited to embark on new adventures, continue to advocate for all students, and finally see each other in person in Portland!

The great part of the SLT is that every year we get to hear new voices from new places around NIRSA. We have so many ideas and goals we can’t wait to share with you all, but before we dive into the deep end, we want to introduce ourselves!

Canada: Kevin Wilson (he/him)

Kevin kind of fell into doing a PhD as a result of the pandemic, but he’s enjoying the process of doing research and writing more as he’s grown. He’s hoping to submit his third article for publication shortly. He’s at the University of Waterloo for leisure studies. Kevin joined the SLT because he had been involved in NIRSA Canada the last two years and he wanted to continue to progress his involvement in the organization. He’s a big advocate for participatory sport and physical activity but doesn’t really have time for professional sports. He enjoys playoff hockey but is also the definition of a fair-weather fan who isn’t overly committed to watching every game. One of the most important things we should be trying to do as a society is improve access to sport for all (youth to adult) because of the various benefits it can provide (exercise is medicine!).

Region I: Jimmy Stinsman (he/him)

Jimmy is current the Graduate Assistant for Facilities & Business Operations at West Chester University! He joined the SLT because he was eager to get more involved and make more connections while continuing to develop himself. He wants to help the students of Region I just as so many people have helped him get where he is today! He looks forward to making connections with students and professionals and everything that lies ahead! As a wise man once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”—so why not go for it?

Region II: Kaleigh Gabriel (she/her)

Kaleigh is the Graduate Assistant for Fitness and Wellness at Clemson University (CU). She is pursuing a master’s degree in counselor education with a concentration in student affairs and is expected to graduate from CU in May 2022. She is originally from Concord, North Carolina and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Studies with a minor in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) in May 2019. At UNCG, Kaleigh worked as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, patron service assistant, and program assistant for group fitness. In addition, Kaleigh spent the 2019–2020 school year working as a graduate, research, and teaching assistant at UNCG. In developing her passion for all aspects of campus recreation, she has served as an annual conference volunteer, regional presenter, Region II Communications Committee member, and as co-chair for the Region II Student Lead On Committee. Kaleigh is the current Region II Student Leader and hopes to work in campus recreation as a fitness coordinator or assistant director after graduation.

Region III: Aliyah Valdez (she/her)

Aliyah earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in sport and exercise science. She is originally from Miami, FL. Aliyah has served as the State Student Leader of Florida and was involved in the mentor/mentee program. Aliyah loves exercising, watching basketball, soccer, and Grey’s Anatomy. Aliyah is currently the Group Fitness Graduate Administrative Associate at The Ohio State University, studying higher education and student affairs.

Region IV: Alyssa Moncrief (she/her)

Alyssa is a facilities graduate assistant at Texas A&M University and is currently studying sport management. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with a sport management concentration from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Alyssa is originally from Portland, Texas. She loves traveling, spending time outside and on the water, spending time with loved ones, and weight lifting. She is excited to take on her new role serving the students of NIRSA and hopes to make a positive impact on each student she has the opportunity to work with!

Region V: Bryce Muller (he/him)

Bryce is the Graduate Assistant for Sport Programs at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where he’s pursuing his master’s degree in higher education. Hailing from Byron Center, MI, Bryce attended Grand Valley State University where he got involved as a competitive sports supervisor and earned his degree in sport management and marketing. Frequently seen in stripes, Bryce has officiated at NIRSA regional and national championships. Bryce’s strength as a leader is his ability to connect with all people and he’s excited to bring this skill into his role as the Region V Student Leader!

Region VI: Deanna Main (she/her)

Deanna started her collegiate recreation career at Colorado State University where she earned her undergraduate degree in health and exercise science, health promotion with a minor in criminal justice. Deanna served in seven different student roles among the aquatics, maintenance, and facilities areas at Colorado State University—three of them were leadership/managerial roles. As a senior, Deanna assisted with the day-to-day operations for aquatics due to a vacant coordinator role. This experience gave Deanna the passion to pursue a career in collegiate recreation. She subsequently accepted the Aquatics & Safety Graduate Assistant position at Boise State University. During the Fall 2020 semester, the Facilities Coordinator position became vacant so Deanna stepped in and became the Graduate Assistant for Aquatics and Facilities. Deanna is on track to get her master’s in public health degree in Spring 2022. She hopes to network with more NIRSA members as part of the SLT!

Past President’s Representative: Laurie Braden (she/her)

Our SLT is advised by Laurie Braden. Laurie is a NIRSA Past President and the Director of Campus Recreation at Louisiana State University. Laurie plays a key role on our team by offering a historical and strategic perspective as she advises the SLT.

NIRSA HQ Liaison: Sarah Leskovec (she/her)

Sarah is our representative from NIRSA Headquarters. She works with the Member Network and specifically the SLT to help educate us on the specifics of NIRSA and guide us to success. Sarah is vital to the functioning of the SLT and, truthfully, we would not be able to function without her constant support.

NIRSA Student Leader: Sarah Heemstra (she/her)

And as for me: I’m Sarah Heemstra, or you can call me Heems! I’m the RPAC Facility Operations Graduate Administrative Associate at The Ohio State University and am in the Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s program. My alma mater is the University of Minnesota where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sport Management and a minor in Leadership. All four years I worked across our RecWell department from facilities to intramurals to special events. In between my undergrad and grad programs I took a gap year at UMass Lowell where I was the Facility Operations and Intramural Sports Intern. I had the opportunity there to learn more about the profession and experience a new region. If you kept up with all those locations, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work in regions I, III, and V and am excited to connect and learn more about regions II, IV, VI, and Canada.

There are no words that can fully encompass the way the last year has impacted every single life. Our expectations of what lies ahead—especially as students—had to be tossed out. I’m eager to continue to connect with you all as we reimagine our collegiate experiences and I can’t wait to continue to work with you all as we prepare for this year and then, finally, the NIRSA Annual Conference in Portland!

One thing you’ll continue to learn about me is I try to seek joy in all I do. Through the good, the bad, and the ugly I think you’re often able to find even pockets of joy. So that’s one final thing I’ll leave you with until next month: What’s a pocket of joy you have in your life today? Feel free to share your answers with us on our @NIRSAStudents social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok!

RPAC Facilities Graduate Assistant at The Ohio State University | NIRSA Profile

Sarah Heemstra, NIRSA Student Leader, is currently the RPAC Facilities Graduate Assistant at The Ohio State University.