Last month, the University of Washington hosted both NIRSA Northwest and Northwest FitFest. Within the span of a week, the university campus recreation team provided both students and staff in the Pacific Northwest with numerous engagement, networking and professional development opportunities.
While hosting two events in one week was a challenge, the coordinators share highlights and takeaways from each event.
CR: What were some of the preparations that were involved with hosting these events?
“For NIRSA Northwest, we had a planning team with a number of folks from across our department who started working in the late fall. That was when we picked our dates and we started getting things moving,” said Adam Serafin, the associate director for communications and development. “It was a lot of work. We met weekly and divided out tasks and responsibilities — some folks taking on registration and communication, others logistics, food and all those things. We had a fantastic team that put in a lot of work. The rest of our staff outside of that team volunteered during the week for set-up, cleanup, session monitors, and check-in — all of those things. It was a great opportunity to get our staff involved with volunteering, but also attending and brining professional development into our space.”
CR: What was one of the biggest challenges?
“Northwest FitFest was definitely a bigger turn out than we were expecting,” said Jaron Burke, a student lead for the event. “We were expecting around 50 people, but we ended up having just over 80 people register. So we had to shift our plan as the registration numbers were coming in to accommodate those increased numbers, and make sure everyone could still get the same experience, even though we had so many people. It was a great challenge to have. We were happy to host that many people.”
CR: What was one of the highlights of the events?
“I attended both the NIRSA and the FitFest sessions and for me the most valuable thing is what happens in the space between. So what happens while sessions are changing or during breakfast, lunch or dinner,” explained Jessica Norman, fitness coordinator. “Really connecting with colleagues, networking and hearing from students. Those informal conversations that happen in the transition times are what I find to be very valuable and keeps me connected to individuals after the conference is over.”
CR: What advice would you give to others who might want to do something similar?
“Start early, but definitely do it,” suggested Serafin. “We had such a committed and amazing planning team that made it work. But it was just really special to bring folks together from across the region and take pause from their day-to-day to be able to build those relationships. It is so important to the work we do. There is so much great work happening at other campuses, we have a lot to learn from one another. It was so valuable and worth it for our staff to be able to experience something like that.”
*Serafin noted none of it would have been possible without their sponsor, Precor. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at the sponsorship and tips on how to make a successful partnership work.