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 is vital to the quality of life of the students on our campuses. Campus rec offers a place where students can leave the stress of classes, work, and life at the door and just enjoy themselves. It is a place that offers a program for everyone, allowing it to be a welcoming second home to anyone who comes in. Recreation programs like intramurals, group fitness, personal training, and so many more allow members to build on their teamwork and leadership skills, they give students something to do after class and somewhere to relieve stress, have fun, and make friends, and teaches them to properly exercise so they can create a more healthy lifestyle. Collegiate recreation also offers students an on-campus job that is so much more than a paycheck. Working in campus recreation gave me some of the best opportunities, memories, and friends I could ever ask for. When I began my entry level position, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduating. In just two short months of working that job I realized there was an entire network of jobs that I did not know about. Campus rec became the place I went to relieve stress, to do homework, to hangout, and to work. I cannot imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life.
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 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?
A major student driven issue is mental health and overall wellbeing. In the past, recreation has been focused on general health and fitness. Students today are shining a light on the importance of all aspects of wellbeing, especially mental health. While it seems more common to talk about and program around mental health, there does not seem to be any real solutions. We may program yoga, massages, tips for relieving stress, and ways to break the stigma so students feel more comfortable talking about their problems, but are we really helping them when they need it most? How can we, as campus recreation employees and professionals, be there for our students and help them succeed? Something I am very passionate about is having an open-door policy. I want my office to be somewhere students can come to when they need a quiet place to sit and relax, a place they can feel comfortable opening up about their stressors and problems. If I can make them feel safe and comfortable, they are more likely to tell me when they need help, making it more likely that they use the resources we have.
Another major aspect of NIRSA’s strategic plan that I am passionate about is professional development for our students. The staff that we have running our facilities and our programs are not necessarily invested in campus recreation or health and wellbeing; they are education majors, biology majors, criminal justice majors, etc. Campus rec may not be their dream job, but they are the ones we depend on to make sure everything runs smoothly. Therefore, we need to be sure that they can do their jobs well and that we are preparing them for after college. Campus recreation offers so many transferrable skills and professionals in the field have a great platform to influence their students’ lives. Most college students are unsure of exactly what they want to do after graduation. Most campus recreation professionals can relate to that. We should be using that connection to make our students feel more at ease when trying to make decisions like changing their major or choosing a graduate assistantship. Creating a professional development series that can be implemented across the region, or even across all of NIRSA, can give those opportunities to our students to learn more about themselves, what they want to do in the future, and how to be a better professional in whatever field they choose.
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 began my involvement in NIRSA at my first regional conference at the Region II Conference in 2017 as a session monitor and conference volunteer. The following year I was selected to be the co-chair of the Student Lead On Committee which led to me holding many roles for the Region II Conference in 2018. I took down the minutes of our video call meetings, delegated specific tasks to my committee members, planned leadership and teambuilding activities, facilitated the Student Lead On, and presented with my committee. During the rest of the conference, I worked with the state student leaders of Region II, volunteered in the Career Center and the Student Lounge: answering questions, doing giveaways, and helping students navigate the conference. After this I held a meeting with the other undergraduate students from Wingate who attended the conference and we talked about the things we learned and what we took away from the conference. From this meeting we put together a presentation to show the rest of our staff so that they could learn about all of the opportunities NIRSA has to offer. This was the first time I realized that my leadership impacted the students around me. My involvement with NIRSA and the passion I show for campus recreation encouraged my coworkers to look more deeply into campus recreation careers and getting more involved in NIRSA.
After graduating, I was a conference volunteer at the Annual Conference in 2019, at Student Lead On, in the Career Center, and in the Student Lounge. In July I was selected as the State Student Leader for Connecticut and Rhode Island. At the Region I Conference in October, I was a conference volunteer, a presenter, and posted pictures on the Region I Instagram of Casey the Cactus during the Welcome Reception, the T-Shirt Swap and Expo, and Student Lead On. I also attended the regional flag football tournament at Springfield College to support my student officials and post pictures and videos of Casey and the event to the Region I Instagram. During my time at the University of New Haven I have had three of my student staff come to talk to me about campus recreation careers, NIRSA, and my own personal journey. I am very passionate about this field and love sharing what I know and helping the students find their way.
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?
My experiences have given me a rare outlook on the field of campus recreation, and I use that every day to explain to students why I love working in campus recreation and what we need to do to make our programs succeed. As for my strengths, I have shown time and time again that I am resilient. My path to where I am now was filled with obstacles and barriers and I overcame every single one and grew from them in ways I did not know I needed. My presentation at the Region I Conference was all about my journey to my current position; I feel that it is very important to share our stories so that students do not feel like they are alone. The path I took to get here is what fostered my passion for professional development and my ability to listen and empathize with students when they need guidance on their own paths.
Coming from a small program, both in my undergraduate career and now my graduate assistantship, I have had the unique opportunity to work in every program area in some aspect. Having my hands in everything has given me the ability to relate to each program area and help them figure out what they need to improve upon in order to increase participation and satisfaction. As I previously stated, I have an open-door policy and consider myself a good listener and very open. I want students to feel comfortable emailing, calling, or talking to me when they have questions or concerns. I want to be available to everyone in my region, so that I can offer them all of the information and help their need to grow and develop. Part of that goal is getting to know my students and their stories, so I am able to tailor how I work to them individually.
As for recruitment and retention, we are facing a general shortage in college students. With less students at our schools, campus recreation departments have a shortage of resources. Giving students somewhere they can have fun and make friends will encourage them to get more involved at their schools and want to stay. Having successful programs filled with students that enjoy what they are doing, and can encourage other students to join, will make their programs and school more attractive to potential students. Overall, my goal as a student leader would be to create a culture of openness. I want everyone in the region to feel comfortable sharing their stories, ideas, and opinions so that we can all improve and succeed. My goal is to be a leader that students are comfortable talking to so that they feel their opinions are heard and implemented.