As 2021 closes, we’ve been reflecting on another tumultuous year—filled with challenges and tragedies, as well as progress and hope. Throughout the year, members have shared with us a wide range of experiences and emotions. NIRSA’s membership is diverse, so it’s no surprise that while societal events around us may be shared, the impacts are inevitably experienced differently. For some, feelings of burnout are real; for others, feelings of recovery hold sway. Each of us are navigators across the ocean of life, and while we all may be weathering these particular storms together, as author Damian Barr says, “We are not all in the same boat.”

As we look forward to 2022, we want to share with NIRSA members our critical hope and our knowledge that together we can make a meaningful impact, if we’re each willing to collaborate courageously, intentionally, and honestly.

Complex challenges lie ahead

Events in recent weeks reiterate that as individuals and communities we face complex challenges of dismantling systemic racism, managing an evolving global pandemic, redressing health and economic inequities, arresting a global climate crisis, and no longer tolerating gun violence. We must continue to value diversity, pursue inclusion, demand equity and support those around us that are in pain.

Families and workplaces—two key pillars of a thriving, interdependent society—have borne a heavy burden and a so-called Great Resignation is impacting both employers and employees. Many are reconsidering their purpose, where they want to focus their energy, and how to live lives that are in alignment with their values and in a state of wellbeing.

Our challenges, whether personal or societal, will not be solved by a single leader, or by small groups working behind the scenes. Solutions will come from larger networks of courageous individuals who recognize that collaboration and interdependence are required to make the changes we want to see in our world.

Courageous collaboration

NIRSA as an association and campus recreation as a profession have our own complex challenges to resolve. There are operational practices that need evolving and wrongs that need addressing. Again, success will require interdependent groups of courageous individuals collaborating to affect change. . It will require each of us to seek to understand different perspectives, be open to learning and unlearning, take bold action, face missteps, and try again.

The Board is committed to engaging all NIRSA’s members and volunteer leadership groups in this work as well as to delivering helpful learning opportunities to members on the ground at their respective campuses.

Sustaining hope amid enormous challenges

Action is already occurring through the work of groups and initiatives like the NIRSA Championship Series Social Justice Task Force, NIRSA’s Climate Study, the second cohort of Health & Wellbeing Task Force volunteers, and the content creators who developed the Gender & Trans Inclusion in Collegiate Recreation webinar series, to name a few.

These groups and this Board of Directors all feel a sense of urgency to make change, while also understanding that systemic change happens over time and there will need to be a continuous commitment to the work.

As NIRSA leaders, we recognize the enormity of the challenges AND the imperative to sustain hope. We are inspired by members who are sustaining hope in others by sharing actions – both large and small – in ways that demonstrate and inspire progress.

Tending to wellbeing

We encourage you this winter break to make time for prioritizing your own health and wellbeing. Take care of yourself when needed. And when you find periods of strength, extend care to those around you. A benefit of being part of a team and working collaboratively is that we all should get to feel that there are people around us who can step up when we need to take a step back. As leaders, we can demonstrate the importance of wellbeing by setting healthy boundaries, talking about burnout, practicing self-care, and taking time to refresh and renew as imperative to professional success.

Thank you

As we close 2021, we thank each of you for your engagement in NIRSA, whether large or small. NIRSA has always been synonymous with collaboration, this is our source of hope for the future. Together, we can continue taking actions that develop diverse, inclusive, and equitable communities of wellbeing.

Learn about the NIRSA Board of Directors here.

Cody Mikl is currently the Assistant Director for Facilities at University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness and Region V Representative on the NIRSA Member Network; he can be reached by email at

Executive Director at | NIRSA Profile

Pam Watts is currently the Executive Director at NIRSA.