Victoria Lopez-Herrera currently serves as the Senior Associate Director for Campus Recreation at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In her role, she oversees the development and training for approximately 300 student staff; the management of a 185,000 square foot facility; the Aquatics Center, Members Services and administrative staff. Victoria is a certified indoor cycle instructor, facilitator for The Student Leadership Challenge and True Colors International, and a Strengths Coach.
Victoria’s passion for equity, access, advocacy and support for underrepresented students has guided her work in the field of higher education for almost 20 years. She has served in administrative capacities at Columbia University, The New School, Cornell University and Texas State University-San Marcos where she earned her bachelor and master degrees. Victoria has worked in the areas of residence life and fraternity and sorority life in addition to collegiate recreation. She took active roles when a member of The American College Personnel Association (ACPA), the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA), and NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. She has presented numerous times at the affiliated national conferences for each professional association.
Since joining NIRSA, Victoria has been an active and contributing member. Her presentations at multiple Region IV and annual conferences have focused on student development, leadership and the empowerment of women. She was a part of the NIRSA Equity Diversity and Inclusion Summit, the NIRSA Strategic Planning Taskforce, and represented NIRSA at the inaugural NASPA Latin American Conference. Victoria was one of the recipients of the 2018 NIRSA Annual Service Award for her work with the Leadership Commission.
Outside of her responsibilities as a higher education professional, Victoria is a volunteer leader for Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, facilitator for CAMPUSPEAK, and Executive Board member of the Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children Parent Teacher Group. Victoria is passionate about the empowerment of women, social justice issues and energized by thoughtful debate and dialogue that pushes the fraternal movement forward.
What role do you envision for collegiate recreation in higher education?
I envision collegiate recreation being the leader in integrative wellbeing at the institutional, higher education association and global levels. We can be the practitioners other higher education professionals seek out in pursuit of advancing integrative wellbeing and achieving the mission and vision of institutions across North America. Recreation professionals, armed with the appropriate knowledge, can step into leadership roles and helm initiatives that will amplify the positive impact our work has on the academic success of students. For example, as industries continue to question whether or not colleges and universities are properly preparing graduates for the workforce, collegiate recreation can step forward and proudly share its impact on the occupational well-being of students. Our expertise in developing career-ready skills is an asset that can and should be shared more widely across areas of higher education.
At the association level, collegiate recreation can be an advocate for the higher education professional. We can develop a policy agenda that promotes the advancement and success of practitioners. This broadens the scope of wellbeing to include those who are responsible for student success. Additionally, NIRSA has the capacity to expand this work beyond North America. As a convener and collaborator, the association has the ability to leverage its strengths to make a meaningful impact on the student and professional experience; globally.
In alignment with the NIRSA strategic plan, what are three priorities that you would identify and believe NIRSA should accomplish during your time on the board and why are these most important?
The first two priorities I believe NIRSA should accomplish during my time on the Board center around the continued trajectory as a driving force in an integrative approach to wellbeing. I would like NIRSA to continue its pursuit of seeking additional members of CHEMA to commit to the Health and Wellbeing in Higher Education: A Commitment to Student Success statement. With focus and attention paid to Part Three: Research Frameworks and Part Four: Global Discussion.
First, the creation of a research framework would hone useful data and in turn, strengthen how the development of activities on campus and at the association level is informed. It can lead to identifying opportunities for future research and strengthening the legitimacy of our work. This would also contribute to NIRSA’s ability to advocate for the impact of our profession at the association, institutional and global levels.
Secondly, engaging in dialogue about health and wellbeing on a global level is feasible, needed, and aligns with our global perspective strategic value. While representing NIRSA at the inaugural NASPA Latin American Conference hosted in Bogotá, Colombia I experienced firsthand the shared interest to engage in conversation about the wellbeing of students outside North America. At the conference, I developed a connection with staff from Universidad Techmilenio in Monterrey, México and connected them with NIRSA. This led to an invitation to NIRSA 2018 where they shared their unique institutional model based in positive psychology entirely in Spanish. As a result, Techmilenio and our members engaged in a relevant learning opportunity where an exchange of ideas and methods for impacting student success occurred.
Finally, I believe NIRSA should make meaningful strides towards evolving our brand identity. We are an association currently comprised of members throughout North American and poised to be a global voice for health and wellbeing in higher education. The voice of the largest constituency group of our members is clear on this issue and they are asking for change. We must evolve to remain relevant within higher education and thrive in the future. NIRSA needs to be a leader within the scope of the current strategic plan and positioned to expand it during the succeeding strategy.
What attributes, experiences and knowledge could you contribute to the NIRSA Board of Directors that speak to the competency based requirements?
As a higher education practitioner for almost 20 years, I have been a member of four professional associations (ACPA, AFA, NASPA, NIRSA) and active alumna of my international sorority. My experience in residence life, as a fraternity and sorority advisor, and a volunteer leader for Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, has afforded me a unique perspective on our profession. I can easily make connections between our work and other areas of student affairs as well as transition between fields with ease. Additionally, I believe the talents that comprise my CliftonStrengths Signature Theme (strategic, relator, ideation, intellection and futuristic) align well with the type of work required for Board level service.
I possess strong communication skills, which I have honed during my travels around the country as a professional and volunteer facilitator and speaker for various organizations over the past 12 years. I have worked with numerous collegiate and professional audiences as well as culturally diverse communities. For example, at the inaugural NASPA Latin American Conference, I served as a voice for NIRSA as part of a panel of higher education associations. I provided an overview of the field of collegiate recreation in North America and its impact on the success of students; entirely in Spanish.
In my professional and volunteer roles, I am responsible for the ethical management of funds and am versed in making decisions that may be unpopular, but in the best interest of the organization. During my time as a fraternity and sorority advisor, my expertise in values-based decision-making deepened as I created curriculum and facilitated learning for my students on the subject. I also apply this knowledge to budgeting; ensuring the allocation of funds and expenditures are aligned with the organizations’ values. I have a working knowledge of a governance model, having experienced an organization’s transition to this model twice and currently working within this paradigm. I enjoy the activities of thinking and learning and view new roles and responsibilities as opportunities to gain new competencies.
As a former member of the NIRSA Strategic Planning Taskforce, I possess a strong understanding of the current plan and direction of the association. My role included analyzing data and reports and coordinating the student strategic partner group. I was able to bring the students’ voice, ideas, and concerns to the Taskforce, which assisted in focusing discussion and work on the future of the association.
I currently serve as the Co-Chair for the Belonging and Inclusion Taskforce for my sorority. This is because of my belief that the sorority does not currently reflect the collegiate woman of the future and must take active steps to create an experience where all women will feel welcomed and valued. I am responsible for the selection of members, agenda development and facilitation of meetings, ensuring the taskforce remains in line with its charge, and work is completed in a timely manner.
I believe my diverse experience, knowledge, and skills have prepared me for volunteering at the highest level of the association. I recognize I have more to learn about Board leadership and am excited by the possibility of deepening my knowledge.