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’s role in higher education is to engage the campus population and to build diverse communities. Through these actions, collegiate recreation contributes to retention rates of students on campuses across the country.
Recreation engages students through many programs and open recreation opportunities. Students from all backgrounds can find something they enjoy at any given recreation program from intramural sports, group fitness, outdoors programs, or open recreation lifting weights, running on a track, or playing pickup basketball. All of these opportunities provide a safe and healthy option for students to build strong connections to campus and their peers.
Collegiate recreation has no regard for individual’s race, religion, or beliefs. Through facilitating engagement of the campus population, recreation helps to build diversity communities. This has been a very large influence on my own development. I have met and developed relationships with people through recreation that I otherwise would have never met. As a participant in Unified Sports, I love working with Special Olympics Athletes, an opportunity that I hadn’t searched out before being introduced to it in my recreation program. Recreation has also led me to the state of Mississippi, one with polar opposite demographics than my home state. Being introduced to diverse communities has helped me to become more holistic in thinking, considering points of views that differ from my own, and acting with other people’s thoughts and abilities in mind.
Through engaging students and developing diverse communities, collegiate recreation helps universities retain students. A 2014 study by Caelin Scott at Eastern Kentucky University demonstrated that first-year students, including first-generation and non-traditional students, had a higher rate of retention than students who did not participate in recreation programs. This is very important for university leadership as retention increases funding, keeps diverse minds on campus, and indicates the overall success of universities.
Collegiate recreation has various roles for its different stakeholders. For the students and community, recreation provides engagement opportunities to participate in open or organized programming. These programs also connect students who might otherwise never meet as recreation has no boundaries and can be used by people of all backgrounds and beliefs. For its other stakeholder, the universities, recreation is proven to raise retention rates. Students who engage with collegiate recreation programming are more likely than students who don’t engage to return to school each term.
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?
The biggest issue facing students today is overall health and wellbeing. Current events such as COVID-19 and social justice movements have been very taxing on the mental health and wellbeing of everyone, especially campus communities. The anxiety surrounding COVID-19 has been high on its own, but campus closures including recreation centers, and the discouragement of gathering with friends and family, has led to other mental health issues such as rising levels of depression and substance abuse.
Ongoing social justice movements also have been mentally draining for everyone, particularly students of color, as the fight for equality continues every single day. Being true allies for our students and peers during difficult times means hearing their voices, creating safe spaces, and allowing them to be themselves rather than claiming to be an ally and not following through. Listening has been an impactful tool that I have used with my students; hearing their thoughts and concerns has opened me to perspectives I haven’t seen before and continually helps me to be a better supervisor.
I would like to address overall wellbeing during my term as Region II Student Leader by collaborating with the Health and Wellbeing Task Force to ensure that both our member and non-member students are given access to wellness resources through their recreation departments that contribute to more aspects of health than just physical.
In my role on the Student Leadership Team, I would plan to utilize the NIRSA Mentorship Program to help address mental health and wellbeing by including mental health specific requests for both mentors and mentees. These requests as a mentee would be to access someone who is passionate or, ideally, trained in mental health response. Providing resources such as mental health first aid, to better serve our community of students and as a mentor to be available to the students seeking these more specific types of mentees.
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 first became a NIRSA member in October of 2018. I quickly became involved in the organization as I attended my first Annual Conference in Boston in 2019, including the J. Michael Dunn Preconference. This being my first exposure to NIRSA provided me with a strong interest in continuing to be involved in the global community. Getting to know and sharing experiences with other students at the J. Michael Dunn Preconference showed me the power of the organization and I have always sought to be a part of why NIRSA is so impactful. The spring after attending the 2019 Annual Conference, I was selected to be the Oregon State Student Leader. My experience in this role introduced me to NIRSA leadership roles and the dynamic between the state student leaders and the regional leader. This experience is incredibly valuable as I apply for the regional leader position as I’ve seen how this relationship works from the other side. I have seen successful strategies for communicating and working with the state student leaders that should help me to be successful in working with them quickly into my term.
Outside of a formal leadership position, I have been involved in the NIRSA community as a presenter at the Region II Student Lead-On and as a member of the Mentorship Program. Through presenting at and attending the 2020 Region II Student Lead-On and Conference, I have learned more about my new home. Coming from Region VI, I knew very few people in Region II, but through interacting with other students and professional staff members, I have learned what it means to be in this region and even that limited virtual interaction has helped me to understand issues facing this specific region. As a member of the NIRSA Mentorship Program, I have seen the positive effects of this program and can speak firsthand to the benefits of being a part of the program that the Student Leadership Team organizes.
Both my formal leadership experience and involvement meet the NIRSA Regional Student Leader position criteria and have qualified me to advocate for the students of our region. I have been a part of regional leadership calls and have been on one side of the Regional Student Leader/State Student Leader relationship before. I have also made the most out of my limited time in this region. I have presented at our regional conference, attended the virtual student socials, and connected with my peers from different states. These experiences have empowered me to advocate for and represent the students of Region II as the next Region II Student Leader.
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?
Through my experiences as an undergraduate student employee as well as a graduate assistant, I have developed my philosophy of student development to be: Through recreation, we can and should prepare our student staff for any job they pursue post-graduation. I have worked in multiple different program areas throughout my recreation career such as competitive sports, facility operations, and youth camps, as well as in two very different regions of the country.
In working at the University of Mississippi and the University of Oregon, I have interacted with many different students, with the vast majority of them looking to go into a field other than recreation after they graduate. NIRSA can develop great officials, facility managers, and group exercise instructors that intend on staying in recreation at the same time that we develop graduating students with a great work ethic, strong communication skills, and exemplary critical thinking to be ready for any field after graduation. Career readiness as explained by NACE includes critical thinking, communication, teamwork, digital technology, leadership, professionalism, management, and intercultural fluency. Recreation can provide firsthand experience in learning all of these skills and preparing students that come from our association for success in all fields. I can bring this perspective, as well as the skill of communicating these skills to the Student Leadership Team.
Communicating these skills and teaching how to communicate these skills is something I have worked on as both an undergraduate student and graduate student. As an undergraduate student, I attended workshops about how to show how the transferrable skills I’ve learned in my positions could apply to a job in the business field. As a graduate student, I push my students during professional development sessions to consider how what they’re doing in recreation could be applicable in their field, including thinking of interview questions that could come up regarding that subject or skill.