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.
Campus recreation institutions are an impactful tool as it relates to student engagement on campus. The recreation building is more than just a space where students workout. These buildings foster learning programs, provide a safe space for students to remove themselves from the stressors of classes, or furnish an area to do group work. It invites a sense of wellbeing and provides creative, holistic programming to encourage students to come back each day.
Because collegiate recreation has no ethnic, racial, or social barriers, we are able to capitalize this inclusive nature and filter this culture within campus communities. Whether a student has come into the building to escape, workout, or participate in organized sport, they have asked us to invite them. So, we welcome them without biases, without discrimination, and with a smile. They, in turn, carry this sense of belonging to other aspects of their campus experience.
Campus recreation is shaped by its institution’s mission; thus, we have the privilege of serving not only the students on our campus but the communities that surround it as well. By providing an environment that aims to foster students’ health and wellbeing through engagement practices, we enable and empower these students to positively impact their communities. As students first tour colleges and universities, the opportunities they experience within campus recreation buildings significantly influences their motivations and commitment to said institution. Prior to enrollment, students begin to picture themselves moving, growing, and leading. As they advance on campus, they become connected with the opportunities campus recreation programs provide. Even after graduating, students reflect on their involvement within these facilities and begin to think “How can I take these experiences with me?”
Collegiate recreation is a unique catalyst for change via positive experiences and meaningful relationships in which can only be found outside the classroom. I first started my campus recreation journey as an intramural sports official at James Madison University. I did not anticipate as a sophomore in college that officiating at the VRSA Basketball Tournament at George Mason University in 2016 would have led to changing my major and investing in NIRSA, an organizational I knew very little about. It was after engaging with professionals and students across other campuses that I recognized I can influence students’ personal and professional development in an exponentially different way. What impacted me during this tournament was that professionals took time out of their weekend to serve as a vehicle for my empowerment and development; this solidified my desire to provide similar opportunities for other students. This supplemental experience created a network between multiple program areas and professionals nationwide.
Upon further reflection, I have learned to recognize how my experiences influenced my dedication to the institutions I attended and reasons I pursued a career in higher education. As a program that completes a students’ circle, collegiate recreation impacts higher education by advocating for the advancement of networking, wellness, education, and growth to anyone who walks through the front doors.
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?
In the NIRSA Strategic Plan, an area of focus is to be a driving force in an integrated approach to health and wellbeing. As an association, we have a responsibility to support each student’s intellectual, personal, and social development, which are very much intertwined. While fusing wellbeing into the ways we engage with our communities, the objective to empower our members to care for themselves is crucial to this state of positive, vibrant experiences.
When imagining being a first-year undergraduate student, living away from home for the first time can be daunting. Students struggle to find friends, budget for food, submit class assignments, and try to find their identity. The efforts to juggle these things can often cause a change in attitude if they become overwhelming. Upon stepping into these shoes, notice the impact this can leave on one’s perception of themselves, their collegiate experiences, as well as others. Self-care is not selfish; you cannot serve from a place of discontent.
Students’ utilization of counseling and mental health services has seen a significant increase within the past few years. As demand for guidance and number of students with mental health inquiries are both rising, awareness and access are both critical components to a student’s overall wellbeing. It is important we celebrate the fact that people are talking more openly about mental health, recognizing that it is as important as physical health, and paying attention where it is needed.
While both undergraduate and graduate students face different stressors, they share a need for accessible services and supportive environments. Within NIRSA’s capabilities, intentionally enhancing services during events would play an important role in developing supportive environments. For example, creating a space and time within the Career Services Center in which students receive self-care tips and tricks, “how to control anxiety” pamphlets, and practice using mindfulness techniques would help those experience thoughts and emotions with greater balance and acceptance.
I would additionally recommend the continual pursuit of student advocacy. Social media is a resource most of this generation utilizes for punctual, pertinent, practical learning avenues. I would propose creating Humans of NIRSA: a social media account to advocate for students using photographs of members in their natural habitat and telling their story. Creating a platform where people are heard, recognized and empowered would significantly aid in the Student Leadership Team’s engagement with the existing population.
As campus recreation institutions, we strive to make every single individual that walks through our front doors feel like they belong. We do so by asking ourselves, “What will encourage our students to embrace health and wellness?” By offering programs students want, it is nearly impossible to not get involved. The concept of health and wellbeing is not static, and neither is NIRSA. People remember how things make them feel. When students return to their institutions after experiencing the different varieties of NIRSA events, they feel extraordinary. It is then that we must capitalize on ways to foster this moving forward.
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.
In August 2016, I began my sophomore year of my undergraduate career and integrated myself into NIRSA. I was first hired as a flag football official for the Intramural Sports and Inclusive Recreation program at James Madison University. Throughout my involvement, I was fortunate enough to be invited to officiate in both flag football and basketball NIRSA Championship Series tournaments. There I learned the value of interpersonal relationships, continuous learning, and self-discipline.
I then became a NIRSA member and presented and volunteered at state, regional, and annual conferences as I was honored as the recipient of NIRSA Foundation, William N. Wasson, and Region II Student Endowment Scholarships. I was captivated. My investments within NIRSA were the most beneficial way I advanced in my own person and professional development. What excited me so much was that these conference, tournament, and volunteering opportunities enabled me to learn and bring innovations from other programs back to my institution and further develop the community of students. I was eager to get back to school and present to my peers what inspired me to have a clear sense of purpose through the people I met and experiences I had within NIRSA.
Within my time at JMU, I was fortunate to have fulfilled internship experiences at Princeton University and the University of West Florida. Within these different program-area experiences I have been able to develop genuinely impactful relationships with professionals and students from across the country. These have only generated more ambition to give back to an association that continuously lends itself to such wonderful things in my life.
Since starting my Graduate Assistantship for Competitive Sports at West Virginia University, I have been presented with a unique opportunity to develop and implement change in a growing program. My many roles as a graduate student have prepared me for a student leadership role because I have practiced problem-solving techniques for a variety of facets between events and competitive sports.
The opportunities I have had in tournaments and conferences, paired with my experiences within four NIRSA-affiliated institutions, have provided me with immense levels of perspective learning that will be more than helpful within my role on the Student Leadership Team. These experiences have confirmed my desire to coordinate with college students and have further enabled me to be the best advocate for the entirety of our NIRSA student member network. Commitment to collaboration and student leadership initiatives are what guides my efforts in holding a student leadership position.
I believe it is important for students to become accustomed to the experiences this association offers, because when students obtain graduate assistantships, they are connected with the right professional staff members. This in turn provides a fluid transition to a career, further aiding recruitment and retention in this industry. My role as the liaison between headquarters, regional student leaders, state student leaders, and student members will ensure the question, “How can NIRSA serve you?” be answered effectively and efficiently.
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?
While I recognize that in my role on the student leadership team, I serve to represent the entirety of the student member network on a visible platform, the lasting impact I now have the opportunity to leave on the field of collegiate recreation is greater than this. People create memories, not things. The real value of one’s experience comes from the people who bring NIRSA to life.
When I first started my graduate assistantship at West Virginia University, we were asked to take the Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment, an online assessment which helps individuals identify, understand, and maximize their strengths. By exploring ways that each person uniquely and naturally thinks, feels, and behaves, we hold the capacity to identify and build on the areas where people have infinite potential to grow and succeed. After taking this assessment, I analyzed my top five themes: woo, individualization, includer, developer, and positivity. At almost every turn in my life, I have been leveraging my strengths and relationship-oriented strengths to build stronger connections throughout this association.
Investment is paramount in our field. When focus and investment are placed on the strengths of individuals, engagement will rise. NIRSA and the student leadership team is composed of people with vastly different backgrounds and personalities. When people come together and work toward a common goal, astonishing things can happen. The student leadership team’s ability to recruit, retain, and develop students will be magnified once utilizing, supporting, and growing the strengths of each other collectively. I work best in an environment where I can engage in personal relationships. I have made concerted efforts to be candid with people while communicating everything I do and why I do it. This aids in my ability to quickly form relationships and furthermore invite trust through transparency. In my role on the Student Leadership Team, I am confident feelings of success will derive from continuing to make these connections and following up with genuine interactions with students.
As a graduate assistant for competitive sports, I am primarily responsible for the conduction of training and development sessions for supervisors and officials. In doing so, I have had the opportunity to challenge our student employees’ identities as evaluation and analysis are implemented daily. It has been phenomenal to notice a change in attitude and developmental skills as our employees learn to invest in themselves and campus recreation at large. People grow when they’re challenged; by challenging our team to utilize their strengths and take opportunities for their personal and professional development, we will be best able to provide a well-rounded structure and advancements for students.
Stepping outside one’s comfort zone can be intimidating but having courageous conversations with students who have similarly started to discern what their life would be like if they said yes to making campus recreation a career is what motivates me to continuously step out of mine. NIRSA has shown me how I can utilize my strengths which are conducive to my passions to empower and inspire others.