During NIRSA 2023, I had the opportunity to meet with campus rec professionals and vendors from across the nation for two days in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia.
I had numerous conversations. As such, I wanted to share some of the top trending topics discussed at NIRSA:
- Sense of Belonging. This is a growing dialogue especially among leaders. The question is how do colleges and universities which have served a specific subset of the population for so long shift to more culturally appropriate ways of serving students? The answers have yet to be found, but the questions are being asked and that’s a start.
- Summit Fever. I had so many conversations concerning the 2023 Campus Rec Leadership Summit. People cannot wait for the fun, the networking and the experiences the event brings every year — this summer located in Bonita Springs, Florida. If you’re interested in joining, we have a limited number of spots left. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Professional Staff Care. We are aware student conduct and mental health issues have been on the rise. However, the conversation is also zeroing in on professional staff needs. More conduct issues and mental health challenges have arisen within campus rec teams. How do leaders address these staff challenges today?
- Leisure and Play. I had a great conversation with a director about utilizing more of the outdoor areas that are located across campuses. Plus, from the vendors I saw exhibiting, it’s not just your typical sports or traditional activities found in a rec center anymore. We knew that of course, but it’s cool to see the industry leaning into this more and more.
On top of the above, I was able to attend a fantastic session in which a lot of great program ideas were shared.
- Jason Darby at the University of Florida spoke about an escape room at a previous job. They had converted an office space into a permanent escape room themed around the university’s mascot. It was open to the community for $20, but it costs students only $5 to participate.
- Nigel Harris at Kennesaw State University shared about their cardboard boat competition. Teams sail the boats to see if they can float and hold weight. It’s taken off so much that it’s a signature event during homecoming at the university. Awards for the competition include those for creativity, the Titanic, etc.
- An audience member explained how they did Puppy Palooza where puppies were brought in for students to interact with. But then one year there were no puppies at the shelter. As such, they use farm animals now.
- Stephanie Smith at MIT talked about purchasing a fleet of paddleboards. However, there was too much competition on the water. So, the paddleboards were sold to Boston University which now has a thriving program. It was a creative fix to a program that just didn’t work for MIT.
All in all, it was a fantastic time seeing friends and vendor partners, as well as tapping into the pulse of the industry. If you want to share any other trends, feedback, awesome programs, etc. please reach out to me at email@example.com. Just because NIRSA is over doesn’t mean the conversations have to stop. Let’s continue them through the months to come.