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 in higher education is more than just an outlet for students to get exercise. It offers students the opportunity to excel in an inclusive environment. Collegiate recreation builds a sense of community where people of all expertise, fitness levels, and diverse backgrounds are welcomed.
Students are constantly looking for ways to express themselves and feel comfortable among their peers. Recreation is the best medium on campus for students to feel comfortable and do things they love.
I came to Central Washington University as a freshman in 2014. My primary objectives were to graduate (of course) and to play collegiate football. After playing for two seasons, I realized that I needed to focus on my studies. Fortunately, I accepted a job with CWU Recreation as a flag football official the following spring. Initially, I decided to work in recreation because I could get paid to watch sports all day.
However, I began to realize over time how much of an impact being a part of the recreation community had on me. Everyone accepted me for who I was, and I was surrounded by people who were extremely like-minded. It was powerful to have so much support in a time when I was trying to find a new identity after playing football—which is something that many athletes struggle with. Often, athletes are defined by the work they put in on the field, and by their statistical accomplishments. When their playing days are over, they have a hard time finding a new identity for themselves. Collegiate recreation opened the door for me to excel in something I enjoyed, and I began to see a new identity and passion for myself as a recreation professional. Previously, I had planned to pursue a career in marketing, but after my experience with recreation, I decided to go back to school to earn a master’s degree in athletic administration.
While my experience with recreation may be more extensive than that of the average student, there are some similarities. Having a sense of community is extremely important for personal development and academics. Those who participate in collegiate recreation are shown to stay in school and perform with a higher GPA. Students are shrouded by stress in college, so offering them creative outlets to relieve that stress through recreation is important.
Inclusivity has an important role on college campuses. Colleges are one of the most diverse places people will ever encounter. Recreation designs their programming to fit the needs and interests of every group on campus. They put an emphasis on building a community by finding common interests through activity. One organization that I truly admire is the You Can Play project, spearheaded by the NHL’s “If you can play, you can play” advertising campaign. It started with a goal to end homophobia in sports and is a great example of inclusivity and letting people participate in sports regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Recreation endeavors to accomplish many of these same goals.
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 that students face today within the scope of the NIRSA Strategic Plan is having a concrete sense of health and wellbeing. The fitness industry is crowded with supposed best practices for being healthy, and new fads that are “guaranteed to work.” With so many different opinions and programs, it’s difficult for students to decipher how they can begin to take steps toward a healthy lifestyle. Also, higher education professionals need to be convinced of the benefits of collegiate recreation to help influence students toward healthier lifestyles.
According to the CDC in 2016, there were approximately 93.3 million obese adults in America. This number is astounding and is a direct result of lack of education on health and wellbeing. Recreation in many facets helps to better the wellbeing of its members. Educating students about the importance of a healthy diet and participating in recreational activities is a huge step in the right direction. Recreation has an abundance of benefits such as reducing depression, controlling weight, improving morale, improving physical condition and appearance, among many other benefits. Students are unaware that recreational activities consist of more than just being physically active. It’s also about finding something that you enjoy and reaping the underlying benefits of the activity.
Health and wellbeing in the past were assessed by a person’s appearance. However, according to the book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Roth, wellbeing is defined by career wellbeing, social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing and community wellbeing. Participating in collegiate recreation offers career wellbeing by giving students something to do every day that they enjoy. It offers social and community wellbeing by giving them the opportunity to be a part of a group, having a sense of belonging, and fostering lasting relationships. It offers physical wellbeing by promoting good health. Finally, it may be a stretch, but it does factor into financial wellbeing by relieving stress, so monetary decisions can be made with more clarity.
It’s imperative that students are taught how to be healthy to improve their wellbeing. Another roadblock that students face in learning about health and wellbeing is addressed in the NIRSA Strategic Plan.
Students are at universities first and foremost to earn their degrees through academic success. For this reason, higher education professionals may not recognize the benefits of collegiate recreation on students and may not encourage its use. As a NIRSA student leader, I will make it my focus to advocate for the impact of campus recreation on student success, primarily by expressing the students’ need for health and wellbeing and statistical evidence showing the academic impact of being associated with recreation. I will also offer creative ways to program activities to cater to elements of health and wellbeing to diverse communities within the recreation student body. It starts by convincing higher education professionals that collegiate recreation is a major factor in the success of their students. The students need an advocate, and I believe that I can be that person.
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.
As an undergrad, I participated in my first NIRSA event last fall working on the Officials Committee at the Regional Flag Football Championships in Pullman, Washington. I had no idea what to expect before the event. Many participants and staff already knew each other from past NIRSA experiences, which made me realize how important and useful networking would be at NIRSA events. NIRSA prides itself on offering the best professional development, the best networking opportunities, and the best resources for recreation professionals. Being a part of the staff who helped make the event run smoothly gave me an inside look at how to operate a sports tournament. I was later invited to be a participant in the NIRSA Regional Basketball Championships at Eastern Washington University. Being a participant gave me a vastly different perspective on the event. It was beneficial to see things from a participant’s perspective as well as an organizer, because it gave insight on both elements of the event.
I was fortunate enough to attend the NIRSA Annual Conference in Denver last year, which was truly one of the most influential events in my life. It influenced me to “elevate my path” and pursue a graduate assistantship in collegiate recreation. Being around so many like-minded people was beneficial because it gave me clarity on what kind of career path I might want to take. The networking opportunities and professional development seminars were like nothing I’d ever seen before. My experience as a graduate student at the NIRSA Region VI Conference in Bellingham, Washington last month confirmed that I want to become part of the NIRSA organization.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to present at a NIRSA Conference yet, but I plan to present on being thrown into the fire as a graduate assistant at future NIRSA conferences. The bulk of my involvement that meets the position criteria qualifying me to advocate for and serve the students of the Association comes from my experience as a graduate assistant. The assistant director who formerly oversaw my position resigned shortly before school started, so I’ve been tasked this past fall quarter with running CWU’s collegiate sport clubs. I had no experience with sport clubs coming into my position, so I’ve had to learn quickly. Every day I am trying to help clubs solve issues among their members and their budgets. I spend a decent amount of time thinking of new ways to promote sport clubs on campus and help clubs recruit members, because it is an issue they are currently facing. I am fortunate enough to oversee a staff of three students who I assist with their professional development and work skills on a daily basis. And of course, I am the point person who advocates for the sport club athletes and their needs. I am very familiar with the four pillars that drive NIRSA student leaders because I endeavor on the same core mission to give students the opportunities they need to be successful.
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 within NIRSA I could bring a lot of experience to the table regarding student member recruitment & retention and student development. I pride myself with being an exceptional public speaker. I articulate things in ways that help everyone understand as efficiently as possible. I lead by example and consider myself a situational and servant leader. My focus as a leader is to make those around me better than I could ever be. I am situational in the sense that I am flexible and capable of taking on different styles of leadership roles that benefit my peers the most.
I worked for a year as an intramural supervisor overseeing nearly 30 sports officials. Professional development was always a large goal of ours. We trained our officials to NFHS standards, so they could become officials off-campus and possibly pursue a career in officiating. Another factor that influenced our decision to train officials to NFHS standards was to increase the recruitment and retention of our workers. Those who saw the benefit and potentially a career (or a hobby) in officiating have stayed on staff as officials. As a supervisor, I also evaluated officials on their communication and professional skills and worked with many of them on perfecting these skills to help benefit them in any career path.
Currently, I oversee a staff of three sport club supervisors. My supervision is a lot more hands-on because there aren’t as many employees. I spend time working with each of them one-on- one to help them develop skills and accomplish work inside the office and out on the competition fields. I also hold a weekly staff meeting to hear their questions and concerns, with the intent to make their experience working for recreation easy and beneficial. As we move further into the academic year, it is one of my goals for my employees to complete tasks which will help boost their resumes for their individual career paths. For example, if their career path is marketing, I’ll task them with completing a portfolio of social media posts throughout the quarter.
I have been a part of committees with similar goals as NIRSA, on a smaller scale. In high school I participated in captains’ council, which was made up of elected captains of each high school sports team in my school district. We made decisions and offered input on behalf all the student-athletes in our district. Similarly, I was a member of the leap (leadership through education, activities, and personal development) committee for the WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association), where I, among 14 other individuals, acted as the voice of all 225,000 High School student-athletes in the state of Washington. In my experience with recruitment & retention, I’ve found that the most valuable piece of information is a solid mission statement. While working for leap I helped devise a mission statement for the program. I believe that this kind of experience is valuable to success in the NIRSA student leader position.