Project Description

NIRSA Elections
NIRSA Elections

Candidate for Region VI Student Leader

Amber Mateer
University of the Pacific

Biography/Summary Resume

Amber Mateer started her collegiate recreation journey during her first year of undergrad as an Intramural Sports Official at the University of California where she earned bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Art. After officiating through the various sports Santa Cruz had to offer, Amber got more engaged with the program by applying and becoming an Intramural Sports Supervisor during her second year. She continued to work for the Competitive Sports Office through all four years of her undergraduate career, ending as a Competitive Sports Supervisor and Program Assistant. Her passion for collegiate recreation led her to become the NIRSA NorCal Student Leader for 2019-2020 and the Graduate Assistant of Competitive Sports at the University of the Pacific where she is currently pursuing a Master’s in Communications: Media and Public Relations.

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.

For students, the recreation center can simply be the place they work out, the place they hang out, or the place that might be too daunting to enter. Even with a mixed student use of recreational facilities, campus recreation programs have the potential to exist outside of recreation buildings and engage with all different types of students. Collegiate recreation holds a special place within the context of higher education because of the endless academic and non-academic opportunities it can provide students. You can become a sports club officer, a team captain for an inner-tube water polo team, a front desk attendant, or even an outdoor trip leader; all in relation to this broad umbrella of collegiate recreation. This casts a wide enough net to support the notion of there being something for everyone, and if it doesn’t already exist, there is enough flexibility to create it.

Collegiate recreation for our employed student staff might just be a part-time job for some, but these jobs have the ability to effectively guide students through their time at a college or university by teaching them soft skills for later career path applicability. Supporting our employees beyond the technical skills of the job is extremely rewarding since seeing them reach personal milestones throughout their time at college makes engaging with them worth the extra bouts of emotional labor.

Although I come primarily from a sports background in collegiate recreation, I was also engaged with the Orientation Office, the Merrill Programs and Leadership Office, and University Relations during my time at the University of California, Santa Cruz. While I am continuously excited about developing officials in intramural sports, knowing the needs of students outside of “traditional” recreation makes collegiate recreation worth the investment and time.

Collegiate recreation allows us the chance to positivity affect students’ overall wellbeing as well as their outlook of their undergraduate or graduate career. Experiences made outside of the classroom will forever be apart of students experience during college, so collegiate recreation is the vehicle for which we as collegiate professionals can disseminate knowledge and experience to our students. Even in the context of an intramural sports conduct meeting, we can help teach respect and the values of communication to the students who participate in our programs. Everywhere you look in a recreation department is an opportunity to help develop and support students in their time at a higher education institution.

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 first point in the NIRSA Strategic Plan for 2018-2021 is focused on health and wellbeing which highlights the state of our student population; their mental and physical wellbeing needs to be readily recognized and supported. While many recreation departments produce programs to engage students in reflecting upon the status of their wellbeing, I always look to our student staff to see if their wellbeing is being addressed. If our own student staff are struggling to find balance within their collegiate academic and work life, then we need to address their issues in the same wave of wellbeing as with our larger student population. In that respect, I would like to consciously address the idea of supporting the wellbeing of our collegiate recreation student staff population.

You might be able to tell when a student is off their game when they come to a shift, that they might make a mistake that is out of character for them. Even if you can’t tell something is off, students nowadays are balancing a plethora of responsibilities besides academics. Focusing inward to our recreation department’s student staff needs to be a readjustment within the scope of a wellbeing focused model for collegiate recreation. As a student leader within the NIRSA member network as both an undergraduate student last year and now as a graduate student this year, I know how efficiency is prioritized within recreation departments. Taking the time to purposefully check-in with staff members might fall to a task that we can do without, but revitalizing the idea that we need to support the wellbeing of our student staff (and by extension our professional staff as well) is an issue well worth the time.

Bringing in the FISH philosophy (“play, be there, make their day, & choose your attitude”) as well as models for student development, wellbeing, and leadership will support my efforts academically for the sake of keying in wellbeing for our student staff. During my term, I would want to create and promote checklists and activities to be used during staff meetings as well as individual meetings that would increase wellbeing transparency within our students. In order to have a positively energetic and productive workforce, we as collegiate professionals need to support our staff outside of their mandated tasks as employees. Having some guidance with these tasks is something I would pursue and create during my term as the Region VI Student Leader.

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.

Although my involvement with NIRSA began just in February of this year, my ability to advocate for my fellow students began far before then. With the support from my previous institution, I was able to help transition all our co-ed intramural sports to open leagues and rewrite the gendered sport policies. I have directly advocated for students’ needs by serving on a multitude of hiring committees for full time positions between collegiate recreation and campus program offices at UC Santa Cruz. For times where infrastructure was lacking for students, I was able to create a Basic Supply Fund and Hub while Co-Chair of the Senior Class Council to help students access basic supplies, such as clothing and personal hygiene products. My role as a student leader has always been focused on supporting other students and carrying their voices throughout campus programs, offices, and other higher education spaces.

After attending the NIRSA Annual Conference in Boston in 2019 and pursuing a Graduate Assistant position for Competitive Sports at the University of the Pacific, I saw the NorCal Student Leader position as another space for which to advocate for students. Leading the Student Lead-On at the California State Workshop in August of this year allowed me to connect with students who had no previous knowledge about NIRSA. I was able to engage with them on a peer to peer level and humanize the organization in a way to make it approachable and attainable for students.

Understanding their motivations for attending an event such as the Lead-On, or really any NIRSA event, helps me to understand our current student population. Students are ready to be engaged partners in their future, whether that be in collegiate recreation or not. They are simply searching for guidance and support. I have been fortunate enough to find supportive professional staff at both my undergraduate and graduate institutions who empower my voice within collegiate recreation. With the platforms I continue to access, I see the Region VI Leader position as another level for which I can help support student’s journeys and strengthen their voices through the institutions of NIRSA and recreation in general.

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?

In any new environment, especially in a field that might seem daunting to new recruits, being welcomed in a genuine manner is of my utmost concern. During my undergraduate career, one of the only reasons I joined student government was because of the people bringing me into the space. Although I did end up staying in student government for the three years following, I kept coming back during the first few weeks because of the people who were fostering an environment I wanted to return to. I have made it a point in any space to make sure that new members feel welcome and valued for their individual personhood.

You don’t have to immediately know your reason for joining something new but if we can get people into the doors of NIRSA, then it is our duty to help them see the benefits of being part of the NIRSA family. When I attended my first NIRSA conference in Boston back in February, I had zero clue what I was getting myself into. Every person I met at that Annual Conference was engaged during the presentations I attended and interacted with me as an equal, something that made me see the value in coming together as students and professionals within collegiate recreation. People within NIRSA already have an underlying connection of being involved in recreation, in some shape or form, so we can only build upon these connections to continue to keep people engaged and involved. From all these interactions, I have embraced the identity of being personable, to actively break down barriers of perceived difference for the benefit of connecting with others.

With all that being said, accessibility and inclusivity are two core ideas that will only help recruitment and retention within NIRSA. Coming from an academic background of sociology helps me to be critical about institutional access and membership diversity within our communities. Showcasing just how diverse this NIRSA family is an important aspect in promoting and encouraging new individuals to join and stay. Making NIRSA spaces accessible to new members, both physically and figuratively, is also key in continuing to grow membership. Continuing to host social media Q&A sessions within the member network creates access for potential members to engage with their student advocates and leaders on a peer to peer basis.

Lastly, in response to student development, I am always asking myself and my staff the critical question of “why,” or rather the reason that they are in the positions and roles that are. Critically understanding your “why” for collegiate recreation, or really anything, is essential to then understand your ability to access change. As recreation professionals, we have access to the tools to support our students, but we cannot fully engage with them without knowing their key motivations for their involvement in our programs. Knowing where I started nine years ago, officiating youth basketball and soccer as the only female official empowered me to find a voice where there were none that looked like me. Returning to my “why” in recreation keeps motivated to help others find their “why.” The opportunity to serve as the Region VI Student Leader would not only let me spread my joy for collegiate recreation but also help others find their passion within this field of endless opportunity and adventure.

NIRSA Elections: Amber Mateer