In the November/December 2021 issue, Steve Mayer, the director at the University of South Dakota, shared advice on professional development opportunities.
What have been your top three professional development opportunities and why?
Steve Mayer: The first was as state director. I was able to serve my state for two terms in the 90s. It was great to communicate with colleagues of your state and region and help plan state conferences. The chance to meet other state directors from other regions was invaluable.
The second was as the host of a state conference. I was able to be part of hosting the South Dakota/Nebraska state NIRSA conference in 2012 right after we opened a new wellness center facility. It was awesome to have colleagues come to our brand-new facility and talk through construction while sharing ideas and learning about other campuses.
Finally, the NIRSA National Conference. It’s always a highlight on the schedule for the year. I look forward to meeting with other professionals and meeting with students. It’s a great place to interview and hire professionals and graduate assistants. My favorite part is talking to vendors and learning about new products that might enhance our facility.
How do you personally decide what to invest in next for yourself?
SM: I take a look at all the options of attending the state or regional conference and then dates of the national conference and making sure those are priorities on my schedule. I have personally become more involved with diversity and have made time for presentations and talks on this subject to better serve our students.
What steps do you take in helping staff determine their professional development needs?
SM: I sit down with each professional staff member and ask them what they are prioritizing this year and what opportunities I can help provide. However, each year is different. I want to play to their strengths and get them to places that will help their development.
What are some examples of top professional development opportunities your staff have been part of over the past several years?
SM: We did a leadership and customer service presentation for our student building managers that was really good. We used a guest speaker from a local business to help out.
Our assistant director of Intramurals and Club Sports has been an Official’s Committee member, director of Tournament Officials and on the All-Tournament Committee at various NIRSA state and regional basketball and football tournaments.
When it comes to professional development, what have you learned that you think other campus rec professionals should know?
SM: I feel we need to help our graduate assistants as much as possible. They are here to learn, put in their time, take responsibilities and prepare themselves for the real world. Giving them as much professional development as possible is crucial to their learning. So, we as professionals need to do our part for them.