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.
I truly believe that collegiate recreation plays a key role in the mission, vision, and values of many colleges and universities. It provides a social, physical, and development opportunities for all kinds of students. I’ve witnessed transfer students, non-traditional adult learners, international students, and unified athletes all find a sense of community through a competitive sports program alone. As it continues to play a role in my professional development, I believe collegiate recreation plays a key role in higher education.
Collegiate recreation influenced my development while I was in high school, and without me really realizing it. I was a fencer at a local gym, which also happened to be where the Kennesaw State Fencing Club practiced. I got to see the community that a sport club could provide from early on. As soon as I started my freshman year, I was asked if I wanted to be an officer and help as a secretary. Once I started getting more involved, it was easy to want to do more with the Club Sports Program. Towards the end of my sophomore year, I was hired as a club sports program assistant, and got a sense of the bigger picture: I realized that each club had their own systems in place, and each group of officers had to run their clubs like a small business. The experience I was getting as a program assistant prepared me for a lot of the administrative tasks I still do today.
My first experience with NIRSA was the 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. After this experience, it was easy to see that I could make a career out of coordinating clubs and programming intramural sports. I realized then that I wanted to pursue my masters. Making this decision helped me shift my focus on how I could do more to serve within my own collegiate recreation community. I got a job as an intramural official, I participated in hiring committees, I accepted a role as a NIRSA Student Engagement Coordinator, and I started applying for graduate assistantships. Having experience within club sports and experiences to talk about in my interviews completely influenced my development.
Accepting an internship after I graduated from my undergrad was one of the best situations I could have put myself in. I found a new community and a new opportunity to learn. I was supported in volunteering at tournaments, attending conferences, connecting across campus, and gaining certifications: both American Red Cross First Aid/AED/CPR Instructor and American Red Cross Lifeguarding.
Collegiate recreation has given me such a direction with my life. I feel supported by my mentors and peers in the work that I do. I feel like interacting with students daily allows me to work on my management and leadership skills, all while building relationships. I am excited to have the opportunity to bring more awareness of NIRSA and provide opportunities for students through a regional student leadership role.
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?
One of NIRSA’s 2018–2021 strategic priorities is to “Evolve NIRSA’s structures to cultivate timely, relevant, and accessible learning opportunities.” I think there are many existing NIRSA members who we could do a better service of creating opportunities for. I believe that we can modify some of our current practices to be more inclusive of our population.
We have both student and professional members who do not feel supported by their institutions. As we were developing Student Lead On presentation material, one reason people didn’t get involved with NIRSA earlier was that NIRSA wasn’t really promoted within their institution. I would like to start utilizing state student leaders to have an active role within NIRSA as recruiters. As a regional leader, it would be impossible to present to each member institution about the various scholarship opportunities, for instance. However, if as a state student leadership team, there could be a committee that develops material for all to use, every member institution could use the resources to promote to their school. This year’s Student Leadership Team has made great strides in utilizing social media, so to continue off of that, next year’s team could make promotional videos as a resource for institutions to use as well.
Social media is a crucial tool that can be used for timely, relevant, and accessible learning opportunities. Many schools are charged with student professional development and have created leadership seminars to achieve this. Why not create a NIRSA Community of Practice for student professional development, and have institutions contribute with the great things they’re already doing? In participating in various student staff trainings, we struggle each time to develop relevant material to engage and connect to our students. If we, as student leaders in a work team, developed a framework, then schools can utilize it for their needs. One example of this would be a “Conference 101” framework, where it contained a video describing NIRSA, and then activities or discussion points to help start that conversation of conference preparation. This material could be posted on the Community of Practice, and then a webinar can be utilized before conferences to answer any additional questions students may have regarding a conference before they attend. Creating a learning opportunity with a NIRSA Student Leadership Workteam is one way to engage with our existing population, but to also provide materials to schools who might not know where to start that conversation of bringing NIRSA to their campus.
NIRSA provides so many conferences and workshops for individuals to have a seat at the table and represent their school. I was lucky enough to be provided with professional development funding as an intern at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but I realize that not everyone has institutional financial support to go to conferences and tournaments. Opening up the dialogue for individuals to be a part of the greater NIRSA conversation as an extension of attending a conference could make a large impact on the organization and its efforts to provide accessible learning opportunities.
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 have been lucky enough to attend numerous J. Michael Dunn Student Workshops, flag football tournaments and workshops, preconference volunteer opportunities, and be the recipient of a NIRSA Foundation Scholarship. I served as the NIRSA Student Engagement Coordinator in my undergraduate career and presented to Kennesaw State Students about the various facets of NIRSA. Although at the time I was just seeing it as a way to become involved to advance my personal professional development, I was learning about other schools, developing a community of students and professionals, and building my confidence. I am eager to talk about the growth that NIRSA has provided in my life to lead by example.
Currently, I am the only graduate assistant for the University Recreation at the University of Alabama. This presents me with a unique opportunity to develop and implement change in a program, but still have the chance to learn and grow as a student. I have to balance my time as a student and as an employee, and prioritize my tasks to meet deadlines. The opportunities that I’m presented as a graduate student, like utilizing connections throughout campus, prepares me for a student leadership role, because on a daily basis, I am required to problem solve and coordinate resources for the success of student-led sport clubs and intramural sports. Being the only graduate assistant for the department was something I thought I was prepared for, but it has definitely taken me outside of my comfort zone.
The experience that has prepared me for this role the most has been working as a member of the Student Lead On Committee for Region II this year. I’ve gotten to work closely with our current Region II Student Leader, and have gotten a better understanding of all of the responsibilities the role includes. We had to coordinate and delegate roles among our committee, among the Student Professional Development Committee, and among the state student leaders. Specifically, I was on sub-committees for the Student Lounge, a “Conference 101” session, and a leadership activity. Coordinating with five other students on these various tasks allowed me to see what a work team could truly accomplish, and gave me a perspective on all the moving parts that are required to make an event successful. We served approximately 200 students in this one workshop, which presented us with a tremendous opportunity to show first time conference attendees exactly what NIRSA is all about.
All of these opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of allows me to advocate for the Association. Regional student leaders only have one year to make an impact, and I think that’s something that must always be kept in mind. I would be excited to be a part of a progressive team that is also ready to influence change among student members.
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?
As a student leader, I bring a perspective from three different member institutions: Kennesaw State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Alabama. All three universities prioritized NIRSA involvement in various ways. I have worked primarily in club sports and intramural sports, but I have experience as a lifeguard and in a rock climbing facility. By far, my favorite experience has been getting to know students at each institution and developing relationships with my competitive sports platform.
Stepping into a new role always seems daunting, especially when there have been so many strong regional student leaders in years past. In starting at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was especially nervous, as I was stepping into a one-year internship, expected to oversee students who had been there four or more years. Earning the trust and respect of the students I oversee is important to me, but this was the first time it was majorly tested. All of my fears dissolved by October, when one of the senior program assistants asked for my assistance in her graduate school applications. I knew that I had earned her trust in a short period of time by respecting her knowledge of the program and her role on staff. As she was accepted into physical therapy programs, I knew I had helped make a lasting impact on her and in turn, her small request made an impact on me. I have had numerous mentors play a role in my development.
With regional student leaders having only one year to make an impact, I think purposive interactions and daily wins need to be celebrated. Making an impact towards creating quality, consistent content to existing members will be a positive contribution our regional student leadership team can leave as a legacy. Having an understanding of Region II and the various roles and committees helps me appreciate the daily wins that an individual can have. Whether it’s communicating to a team on a video conference call, spending time working on a presentation, or talking to students about my collegiate recreation journey, intentional conversations are important.
As I become more established in my current institution, I’m ready to take on more responsibility during my second year as a graduate assistant. I’m ready to start mentoring students within NIRSA, and helping guide others as my mentors have guided me. With a strong foundation of professionals to look up to, institutional support, and the encouragement of peers, I feel like my network is excited for each accomplishment I achieve. Being a regional student leader would be a win for not only me, but everyone who has helped me get to be where I am.