Project Description

NIRSA Elections
NIRSA Elections

Candidate for NIRSA Student Leader

Sydney Vanderlinden
Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Biography/Summary Resume

Sydney Vanderlinden began her journey in recreation at Texas A&M University-San Antonio where she is an undergrad seeking a degree in interdisciplinary studies EC-6. She started working for recreation her freshman year as an intramural official. After taking on the role of an intramural supervisor, she immersed herself in more areas of campus recreation, spending her time working in intramural sports, the fitness center, special events committee, recreational marketing, and the pro rec club. She developed a passion for collegiate recreation and became involved with NIRSA by attending the Region IV Conferences, presenting in two, attending the NIRSA Texas Summit and the NIRSA Region IV Professional Development Sessions, and participating in the Regional Flag Football Tournament. Sydney is now a senior and plans to continue her path in recreation while getting her master’s degree in organizational leadership to further her career in campus recreation.

Please provide a statement of your personal views on the role and contributions of collegiate recreation in higher education. In your response describe how collegiate recreation has influenced your development.

Collegiate recreation affects so many lives in higher education, I believe it has a ripple effect. College students’ ages and backgrounds are not the same, some have families, adopted, single, homeless, married, are over the age of 40, etc. This being said, collegiate recreation has many roles and contributions on students and staff, more than anyone can ever imagine. Recreation brings people together, provides an outlet, impacts mental health, provides job opportunities, community service opportunities, friendships, builds a family, gets people out of their shell, provides professional development, and so much more. There is something in collegiate recreation for everyone, no matter who you are.

At Texas A&M University-San Antonio we offer a number of things to fit all students—something to make everyone feel included. Some of these things are: intramurals (flag football, table tennis, soccer, court/sand volleyball, 8 ball pool, RecDay every Tuesday/Wednesday, and archery tag), fitness center (gym, weekly contests, nutritional programming, workout plans, TikTok workout videos, and fitness classes), game room (esports, contests, challenges, table tennis, and 8 ball pool), and marketing (social media, polls, virtual challenges, interviews, student outreach, and advertising). By having all of these different areas in our recreational department, we have something that can give all students an opportunity to be involved and to feel a part of something. Recreation has the opportunity to make a huge impact on every single student, myself included.

Collegiate recreation has opened so many doors for me that I didn’t even know existed, like a career path I never knew I would get into. I have gotten to expand my knowledge on so many areas I did not know anything about by simply being trusted with tasks, asking questions, and always seeing what else I could do in order to benefit the program. I made so many relationships just during my first year that I still have today, which helped me immensely through my college experience. Collegiate recreation has motivated me to try new things. I lead my co-rec team to the regional tournament in Austin for flag football in 2019. Though I come from an athletic background, I never thought I would be playing flag football, archery tag, soccer—nor inviting others to get out of their comfort zone and play with me. Working with recreation with the responsibilities I have been given, I have become a more motivated, respectable, and credible future young professional.

Within the context of the NIRSA Strategic Plan, what area/item would you say is a major issue students face today? Please identify a student driven issue that we are currently face today and you would like to address during your term. How will you create solutions in your role on the Student Leadership Team to address it?

Students face a large variety of issues on a day-to-day basis as college students, a mother/father, caretaker, provider, daughter/son, barely affording school, and as an employee. When thinking about NIRSA’s strategic plan, I believe it is important to keep current things that are happening in this world in mind. The number one thing we should be focused on is our student’s mental health, their motivation, opportunities, and their success. Right now, we should be driving students to participate and get involved. It does not matter in what area of recreation. There are so many benefits to your mental health by being active for just 30 minutes a day, so why don’t we motivate them to do it with us!

Participation does not just mean playing an intramural sport or attending a fitness class. This could also be following the recreational department’s Instagram, going in the game room just to check it out, or simply asking questions. It is so important that we are educating and stressing the importance of mental health to our students, especially during these times. Our students need to feel like they have an outlet, like they are not alone even if we cannot be face to face right now.

During my term, I would bring new ideas to the table that have not been thought of in order to reach a whole new demographic which will later boost participation and interest. Ideas such as: weekly polls, podcasts with a professional/student staff/or students, weekly social media quotes/facts, dual department conferences, partnering with other departments in a college, contests, sending members small things to make them feel motivated/important, live streams, TikTok videos, etc. I also believe that as a student leader it is important to make myself available for those who feel comfortable reaching out.

In describing your contributions to NIRSA (i.e. presentations, volunteering, previous leadership roles, etc,), identify how your involvement and experiences meet the position criteria and qualify you to advocate for and serve the students of the Association.

I have been a member/involved with NIRSA for three years now and have taken advantage of multiple opportunities. My first year being involved in NIRSA I was given the opportunity to attend the Region IV Conference in Bryan College Station with many of my other coworkers. I had no idea that I could learn so much from a conference, since it was the first one I ever attended. I used everything I learned from that conference and immediately began talking with my boss to implement them in our programs, such as a branding hashtag (#JagFam), student outreach ideas (polls, marketing, and branding), and programming.

My second year being involved I was given the opportunity to co-present at the Region IV Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I co-presented with another intramural supervisor, and out fitness and wellness coordinator Amber Graham over research she did as a graduate student at Angelo State University. This research consisted of finding themes that had to deal with why women are hesitant to attend fitness classes based on body image. In this same year (2019) I was the captain of a co-rec flag football team and participated in the NIRSA Region IV Flag Football Tournament in Austin, Texas. My third year being involved I decided that it was important to me that I took the step and presented by myself as a senior at the NIRSA Region IV Conference held over Zoom. This presentation focused on what TAMUSA has done to maintain participation and involvement during the pandemic from the perspective of a student and a student staff member. I also attended the NIRSA Texas Summit and multiple NIRSA Region IV Professional Development Sessions during the summer over Zoom. I believe that me being able to see and relate from both sides—as a student and as a student staff member—will really benefit me in helping advocate for students all over.

As a Student Leader within NIRSA, you have the opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the field of collegiate recreation. With a focus on Student Member Recruitment & Retention, and Student Development what skills, talents, and perspectives would you bring to the Student Leadership Team?

Coming from a smaller/newer school I get the opportunity to create and be involved in many different areas of our recreational department. Though my title is “Intramural Supervisor,” I do get the opportunity and take the initiative to learn and help wherever I can, such as intramural marketing, coming up with/doing/filming WODs for TikTok, Pro Rec Club, supervising the fitness center, the Special Events Committee, training, etc. What is unique about coming from a smaller/newer school is that I believe I have a deeper connection to the students that participate, walk by, or come out and watch. For example, multiple students that I have come to know through our program have participated in intramurals in the past and continue to participate each year while recruiting their friends to join them.

Since our school has such a push for student participation, I can bring a lot of new ideas to the table for recruitment and how to make our relationship with the students feel more personal. Ideas include increased social media marketing, trust in student staff, increased communication, education about NIRSA benefits, student outreach surveys, team bonding, keeping in touch, and motivation. I feel that in order to keep our students coming back, we have to give them a reason to. This could essentially mean anything, but it starts with the very first interaction they receive. I hope to bring something new, motivating, and eye opening to the Student Leadership Team.

NIRSA Elections: Sydney Vanderlinden