Stephanie Smith enters her third year as Director of Recreation at MIT (managed by HealthFitness) after being promoted to the position in the fall of 2018. Now in her 15th year as a member of the MIT staff in 2020–2021, Smith most recently served as Associate Director of Recreation, Programs and Fitness, where she collaborated with MIT departments for campus-wide health promotion programs and marketing initiatives, supervised fitness and wellness programs, and oversaw maintenance of the fitness facilities and equipment. In her current role as Director of Recreation, she has the opportunity to facilitate development of creative programming, customer service, reducing barriers and adding value for the entire MIT community.
Smith has been active in NIRSA since 2006 and has presented at numerous state, regional, and national conferences. She served as Massachusetts State Director for two years, co-hosted the Region I Conference in Boston in 2014, served on the 2019 National Conference Committee, Nominations and Appointments Committee, NIRSA Assembly, and has actively participated in NIRSA Foundation events and services projects. Smith has also served as mentor for numerous students and young professionals in the profession. She believes this is one of the most important aspects of her role at MIT and in NIRSA.
Stephanie lives in Milton, MA with her partner of eight years, Jeremy and their four-year-old daughter Stella and two-year-old son Keegan. Stephanie was the chair of the 43rd annual Milton (virtual) Road Race this year, providing scholarships and community grants to local graduates and organizations.
What do you see as opportunities in collegiate recreation and our Association? How would you collaborate with the Member Network team to address these issues?
Thank you for the opportunity to apply for the Region I Representative position. The opportunities in collegiate recreation and our Association are to contribute to the quality of life and wellbeing of the entire campus community, ensure that our facilities and programs are welcoming to all people regardless of race, gender, ability, age and all under-represented minorities, and mentor the next generation of leaders in campus recreation. These opportunities are always important, but especially during this global pandemic. Recreation programs across the country have continued to prove that we can rise to a challenge, not only be a team player on campus, but take an active leadership role to problem solving while keeping the health and safety of the campus community at the forefront.
Collaboration with the Member Network would have to start with learning how the MN operates. NIRSA has done a fantastic job pivoting and building virtual engagement strategies for the entire Association during COVID-19. My goal would be to bring a new perspective to the table and continue to grow and develop new ideas and ways to work with all NIRSA members but also assess how these new strategies are affecting our members as they navigate the pandemic, racial injustices, and campus climate in different ways across the Association.
In describing your contributions to NIRSA, identify how your involvement and experiences meet the position criteria and qualify you to serve NIRSA in this role.
My entire professional career has been in Region I. For the past 14 years, I have had the opportunity to work on one of the world’s most elite campuses, MIT (managed by HealthFitness), most recently promoted to Director of Recreation two years ago. My leadership, communication, project management, facilitation, and organizational skills have grown and developed over the last 14 years—much of which I owe to my engagement in NIRSA, in MARS (Massachusetts Association of Recreational Sports) and in Region I.
At the local level, I served as Massachusetts State Director from 2009–2011. I reinitiated the idea of creating a Massachusetts Association of Recreational Sports and re-started the summer state workshop. The first one was back in 2009 and had around 15-20 attendees. It was a half-day event. We spent most of the time constructing our bylaws, nominating our leadership team, and finalizing paperwork for the association. Fast forward to last year’s MARS State Workshop that went across two days, had 150+ students and professionals, sponsorship, education sessions, and even a golf outing.
I served on the NIRSA Nominations and Appointments committee, numerous regional conference committees, the National Conference Committee in 2019, and was the co-chair of the Region I Conference in Boston in 2014. Most recently, I served on the NIRSA Assembly from 2017–2018. I have presented at all levels of conferences from the fitness expo hall to director’s panels. I have actively participated in the NIRSA Foundation service projects and helped with the Mark Fletcher Fun Run. All of these experiences have led me to life-long friendships, mentor/mentee relationships, and opportunities to grow and be challenged both personally and professionally.
Please share your ideas for engaging volunteers and identifying leaders in your region.
My leadership philosophy has been to develop sincere relationships as a foundation to leading any team. I would continue to use this and learn from our past Region I Representatives who have led Region I to the exceptional region we are today. The communication and marketing strategy is working so I would want to continue doing that. I would also like to help build on the regional committees that have been built over the last few years and find any gaps.
When I was Massachusetts State Director, we worked to reach out to schools in the state who were not currently engaged in NIRSA and invited them to our state workshops. I would want to encourage the Region I state directors to do similar outreach using all of the virtual tools and education sessions that have been archived during COVID-19. I would also like to expand on the NIRSA engagement coordinator role on campuses. I have recently appointed two EC’s at MIT and have already seen the benefits of engaging new professionals.
Lastly, I think it is important to connect with new NIRSA members and institutions soon after they join for the first time to welcome them to the Association and have someone personally greet them and provide some sort of orientation. This type of proactive outreach can help create foundational relationships that grow into long-term personal and professional connections and identify leaders in Region I.