The Last Word - February 2021
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NIRSA's Ongoing Mission: 70-Plus Years in the Making

By Emily Tipping


NIRSA began as the National Intramural Association in 1950 when Founder Dr. William Wasson, recognizing a need for knowledge and shared community within the profession, convened a meeting of 20 representatives from 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in New Orleans, the first conference for the organization.

Since then, the association has continued to adhere to this initial proposition, providing "…professional development, networking opportunities and resources so that campus recreation and well-being professionals can inspire healthy people and healthy communities worldwide," according to Pam Watts, CAE, executive director.

Now known simply as NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, NIRSA is comprised of campus recreation professionals who are motivated, passionate, lifelong learners compelled to create and advance opportunities for well-being through higher education.

"Out mission, vision and strategic values continue to guide the 'why' for our professional development offerings, networking opportunities and resources, as well as all strategic priorities," Watts added.

NIRSA is currently setting strategic priorities for the next three years, and while that process is still playing out, Watts said that resources will continue to be invested in:

  • Advancing the organization's work to be a driving force in an integrated approach to health and well-being.
  • Supporting member and association efforts to make programs and spaces that are more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
  • Delivering a reimagined approach to how educational, learning and networking opportunities are delivered.

"The global pandemic has created lasting changes to the ways we learn, access education and network with colleagues," Watts said, "Though in-person programs will surely come back, online is also here to stay. Ideas in Motion is a popular new series that we launched over the summer, and NIRSA 2021 Virtual Conference in February will be our first association-wide, all-virtual conference and expo."

Why join NIRSA? "NIRSA members are diverse, and so are their reasons for joining," Watts said. "But, in broad strokes, people and organizations usually join NIRSA to make connections, learn from experts, and explore a body of knowledge.

"The NIRSA network is filled with generous sharers, who want to see their colleagues succeed. Joining NIRSA makes finding and connecting with colleagues who have similar roles and responsibilities on campus easier than ever before."

In addition, NIRSA provides myriad opportunities to further your learning, a role that is underscored by its members roles at institutions of higher education. "Whether you're looking to master the core competencies of the profession or to strengthen your skills in a specific area of campus recreation, NIRSA's in-person and online learning opportunities are stepping stones to a successful career in campus education," Watts said.

"The body of knowledge for campus recreation is as deep as it is wide," she added. "Student leadership development. Intramural sports. Sport clubs. Facility operations. Aquatics. Fitness programs. Risk management. Social justice. Sustainability. Sports officials development. Integrated health and well-being. Transferable skill building. Government affairs. Experiential education. Esports. Et cetera.

"NIRSA is here to help professionals—whether they are emerging or established—navigate those waters."

Taking place 71 years after the organization's founders first gathered to talk about the results of "A Comparative Study of Intramural Programs in Negro Colleges," the upcoming NIRSA conference, taking place online from Feb. 23 to 25, will bring the latest campus recreation topics, research and speakers straight to your home.

"Participants will be able to attend live speakers and events, access on-demand sessions, attend fitness classes and tour new facilities from across the country, making NIRSA 2021 more accessible than ever before," Watts said.

With a "bundled" pricing option, NIRSA Institutional Members can pay a flat-rate registration fee, allowing unlimited students, professionals, faculty, colleagues or executives from those schools to register at no additional cost, regardless of their individual membership status. "It's a great opportunity to invite university collaborators or members of your team's staff who might not normally attend the Annual Conference to experience firsthand the critical role campus recreation plays in recruitment, retention and the overall student experience," Watts said.

"Additionally, for Recreation Management readers who anticipate new hires around the corner, I encourage you to add bluefishjobs.com to your recruitment strategy," she added, where a 60-day job posting comes with state-of-the-art services typically found on commercial job boards. "If you're looking for talented and enthusiastic people to help you operate recreational facilities and manage the programs and services you offer, there is no better pool of candidates." RM