Demond L. Pryor is currently Director of the Office of Recreational Services at The University of Toledo where he has served in this position since November 2014. Demond has been a collegiate recreation professional for 16 years; beginning his professional career in June of 2004 at Oakland University’s Department of Campus Recreation, serving as Coordinator of Facility Operations for three years. Demond worked at Central Michigan University’s Department of University Recreation as Associate Director from 2007 to 2014 and then Director of Facility Operations. As an undergraduate student, Demond did a year-long internship with Ball State University’s Department of Recreation Services and Sports Facilities.
Demond received a Bachelor’s of Applied Arts degree in Recreation and Events Management and Masters of Arts degree in Recreation Administration both from Central Michigan University. Demond is an associate minister at Canaan Baptist Church in Flint, MI where he was licensed as a minister in 1996 and ordained in 2002. Demond’s campus involvement include serving as the advisor to The UToledo Student Government, advisor to the UToledo Student African American Brotherhood, advisor to the UToledo College Mentors for Kids, secretary of the UToledo Association of Black Faculty and Staff, and staff mentor in UToledo’s Brothers on the Rise. Demond’s life motto is “Perfection is our goal, but excellence will be tolerated”.
Demond’s NIRSA involvement includes serving as NIRSA Annual Conference Program Chair, member of the NIRSA Foundation Scholarship Committee, member of NIRSA Founders Scholarship Committee, Member of NIRSA 60th Anniversary Work Team, Secretary of Michigan Intramural Recreational Sports Association (MIRSA), MIRSA State Director, Chair of the Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders (ERSL) Conference, and Member of the NIRSA Annual Service Award Committee.
How have you advocated collegiate recreation’s value in higher education?
Collegiate recreation is a way to provide recreation, fitness, and wellness activities to students, faculty, and staff. The other component of collegiate recreation is its impact on career and personal development of students, diversity and inclusion, health and wellbeing, service, and leadership development. Having this perspective has directed my advocacy for the value of collegiate recreation in higher education as I have used my personal experiences to champion the importance of this profession to those that are seeking future career opportunities, and to those who are in positions of influence on campuses.
My introduction to collegiate recreation as a profession began as an undergraduate student at Central Michigan University while working as an employee at our campus’ Student Activity Center (SAC). The professional, yet engaging, culture at the SAC drove me to fall in love and want to pursue professional opportunities in collegiate recreation. I experienced firsthand the impact of intentional mentoring by professionals who saw the importance of giving back and helping to guide students in their career pursuits. As a Black male student employee, I noted the powerful way diversity and inclusion was displayed throughout the department via the various programs, services, and staffing. There was also direct attention given to the health and wellbeing of the campus and surrounding community, which created a sense of belonging as a student and member.
Advocating for the essential value that collegiate recreation has in higher education and sharing the story of the great accomplishments is something that I enjoy doing. I have presented to university leadership regarding the impact of wellbeing and the collegiate recreation role. I have dedicated myself to mentoring students and working with young professionals that have an interest in collegiate recreation as a career. I have used my leadership skills and positions to help guide others to consider the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity from a global perspective, which helps to foster effective cultural norms on campus. My advocacy of collegiate recreation’s value to higher education is expressed in my consistent message to our university community: That facilities, programs, and services offered by our recreation departments create the largest laboratory on campus.
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?
1. Nurture and expand collaborative relationships with other associations in higher education and beyond. The current relationships and engagement that NIRSA has with other higher education associations is important to the advocacy of collegiate recreation’s position in impacting the campus community. Advancing our efforts to collaborate with peer higher education associations aligns NIRSA with the opportunities to utilize its resources on a more global platform. To this end, capitalizing on resources that would assist in providing background review of how collegiate recreation is a critical component of higher education’s student experience footprint. Focusing on health and wellbeing is the current sustainable framework for holistic diversity, inclusion, and equity and leadership development, collegiate recreation would be seen as a vital recruitment and retention area of the campus culture.
2. Enhance NIRSA learning opportunities. As an association that has seen a great deal of change and enhancement since 1950, NIRSA must work to find modern ways to not only create networking opportunities for its current and future members but also establish learning tools that span regions, states, and provinces. This can be done by expanding on what is already a library of resources—which NIRSA possesses—that is centered around webinars, podcasts, and town halls, to name a few things. Current and future members might not always be able to attend a national, regional, or even a statewide conference/workshop. However, being able to have digital access to these educational resources is invaluable to the professional development of collegiate recreation professionals. As society has moved into the online virtual experience, NIRSA must be a leader in the area of hybrid education, which would allow the association to reach and connect with a larger demographic. The hybrid education approach would be a model that would provide a connection for timely and accessible learning opportunities for all recreation professionals.
3. Evolve NIRSA’s brand identity in the changing landscape of higher education. NIRSA’s brand identity over the coming years will be critical as higher education embarks on a changing culture. NIRSA’s role in helping to develop collegiate recreation professionals within higher education is critical as we move into a culture of health and wellbeing, social justice, and virtual engagement on our campuses. During this time period it is important that NIRSA leadership strategically positions the association to be seen as leaders and as willing collaborative partners within the higher education landscape.
What attributes, experiences and knowledge could you contribute to the NIRSA Board of Directors that speak to the competency based requirements?
NIRSA has identified five core competencies that are vital for those that serve in Board of Directors’ positions. They are communication, strategic thinking and decision making, critical thinking, leadership, and knowledge competencies. From the many experiences that I have had from serving in NIRSA leadership roles and professional positions, it is my belief that I would contribute a great deal of knowledge and attributes to the NIRSA Board of Directors. These positions have allowed me opportunities to clearly and effectively articulate opinions and ideas both in written form and verbally.
In past and current leadership roles as MIRSA State Director, Chair of Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Conference, Chair of the NIRSA Annual Conference Program Committee, advisor to various student organizations, and university committees, I am able to effectively manage differing opinions by using communication skills which allow me to respond to individuals in a manner that is clear and concise. In my position as Director of Recreational Services at The University of Toledo, I work to communicate the vision of the department with campus stakeholders while using active listening skills, which creates an opportunity to be responsive to the needs of those we serve.
I have served on The University of Toledo’s Division of Student Affairs Strategic Planning Committee and as part of that experience, I served as a member of the ad-hoc work team that examined the athletic department. As part of an academic requirement, I participated in an eight-week-long course focusing on strategic planning in higher education, in which I was able to gain knowledge about different strategic planning processes.
My sixteen years of professional experience has led me to gain an objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a decision. This experience has been built by engaging with others as part of work teams, committees, management, and supervision. The function of a leader is to guide or direct others; this is an area of strength for me as I have a “lead by example” mindset and I work to make sure that others have a clear understanding of the outlined vision. Through my many leadership positions, I have always maintained the utmost integrity and trust of those that I have worked with.
Throughout your career you have had to respond to adversity and challenging times. Please provide an example of growth and how you can draw upon that instance to successfully navigate your NIRSA Board experience.
In my current role, I have experienced many challenges. The greatest of which has been providing support and solutions for low staff morale some five years ago. Leading a department in the midst of a changing campus culture and transitioning new leadership caused an increased number of silos, decreased collaboration, and low staff morale. The solution required me to ask for help and to become vulnerable. I took steps to create a safe environment where staff could present their authentic self. I listened to YouTube videos, read a number of books on organizational culture in search of motivation and inspiration to share with my team. I involved our human resource office and requested coaching sessions. I enlisted the help and advice from mentors and supervisors.
As time went on, I began the process of conducting an introspective assessment of my own leadership style and how best I could establish a culture that matched the vision that I had. Over a period of time, staff morale has improved greatly. This adverse circumstance caused me to increase my humility and provide team members with a safe place to land. I learned that in order to provide premier service to all that we serve, nurturing the wellbeing of our leadership team is of most importance on the road to improving staff morale. This experience was a difficult one, but it also provided an opportunity for professional growth regarding my sensitivity level, leadership journey, and management prowess. I will capitalize on this experience by utilizing the transferable skills in my role with NIRSA leadership. The growth comes in the form of a heightened level of compassion and awareness. As leaders serving on the NIRSA Board, it is important that the member needs and their professional development be our number one objective. So working to make sure that all members are heard and a part of the NIRSA culture would be how I sustain my NIRSA Board experience.