One of the better professional development opportunities in the field of campus recreation is attending state, regional and/or national conferences. A rewarding aspect I have found about attending conferences is getting involved as a volunteer. In 2016, I had the pleasure of serving on the host committee for the NIRSA Region II conference in Atlanta, Georgia. That was a tremendous and gratifying professional opportunity to take part in.
That experience gave me motivation to apply and serve as a volunteer in multiple capacities within the field. This past month I was selected to the Program Committee for the NIRSA annual conference. Since being selected to that committee I have learned quite a bit about the level of planning, organization and teamwork that goes into the event. Let’s look at the different levels of volunteerism with the NIRSA annual conference.
Submit a Presentation Proposal
The most prominent way to get involved at the NIRSA annual conference is by submitting a proposal to present. The conference is dependent upon students and professionals in the field to serve as presenters to fill out the extensive program schedule. I found presenting at a conference to be a fulfilling opportunity to take part in. The presentation process entails submitting a proposal, being selected as a presenter, preparing for the presentation and delivering it. Each time I have presented at a conference, I have learned something new about the experience.
In fact, there are multiple ways of presenting at the NIRSA annual conference. The committee is currently seeking proposal submissions in multiple areas for the conference held February 16-19, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. The first proposal submission deadline was June 11 for pre-conference sessions which will take place on February 16. These are extended educational opportunities structured for half-days (3 to 4 hours) or full days (7 to 8 hours).
For educational sessions or lightening talks, the deadline was June 18. For educational sessions, you have the option to submit as an individual presenter or team up with other colleagues. Lightening talks are another great opportunity. For these 10-minute talks, you will be paired up with five other presenters related to the chosen topic. If you’re looking to test the waters of presenting at a conference, this is a great way to get started.
The final submission proposal deadline is August 17. This is for poster and fitness forum programs. The poster presentation highlights research at an institutional program while the fitness forum is a 40 to 45-minute exercise class taking place in the expo hall. The most updated presenter information can be found here: http://nirsa.net/nirsa2019/welcome-presenters/.
Another upcoming volunteer opportunity is serving as an educational program proposal reviewer. The deadline to apply for this position is fast approaching and can be completed through the NIRSA conference volunteer page: http://nirsa.net/nirsa2019/welcome-volunteers/. The review of proposals will take place between June 25 and July 11. This is an annual opportunity. If you’re not able to make this year’s deadline, look at this for future conferences.
The criteria for serving as a proposal reviewer is to be a current NIRSA member and a presenter from a previous NIRSA-related event. It also helps to have recognition for current trends in the field and to understand the NIRSA core competencies. The core competencies consist of programming, philosophy and theory, personal and professional qualities, legal and risk management, human resource management, facility management, business management, and research and evaluation.
When submitting a proposal, presenters will be asked to identify a maximum of three core competencies the presentation will address. This is one of the main points of evaluation for the proposal. As a reviewer, you will be assigned 10 to 20 proposals to examine and asses. After review, you will submit your evaluation ratings online. Based off these ratings, the program committee will put together the conference program. The final note to make when submitting a proposal and reviewing presentations is to consider the conference theme. The theme for the upcoming conference is “join the health and wellbeing revolution.”
On-Site Volunteer Committees
Another way to get involved with the NIRSA annual conference is to sign up for on-site volunteer committees. Monitor the volunteer information page for the latest updates on how to sign-up: http://nirsa.net/nirsa2019/welcome-volunteers/. The volunteer opportunities include registration greeter, ribbon wall attendant, conference navigator, expo volunteer, career services center volunteer, photo and video author, session host, and education table staff.
One of the first volunteer roles I took part in was being a session host. This role allows you to participate in an educational session by introducing the presenters. Another quality experience is serving in the career services center. This entails assisting and directing students looking for positions in the field. This is a great opportunity to interact with students and candidly share your insight on job searching. One final role I recommend is registration greeting. This role allows you to meet and greet attendees and assist with the registration check-in process. This is a solid opportunity to meet first time attendees and even catch up with old friends.
Overall, volunteering at the NIRSA annual conference is an extremely satisfying experience. Volunteering fosters continued professional development while also adding to a network of contacts. Think about how you want to spend your conference time — there is something for everyone. Research different opportunities, get involved and make the most of it.