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Inside the 65th Annual NIRSA Conference

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The 65th Annual NIRSA Conference and Recreational Sports Exposition will be held April 23-26 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn. Last year, NIRSA co-located with the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities (ACPA) in Las Vegas, requiring the show to be hosted across a variety of venues. This year, everything will be housed in one central location.

"We had a wonderful experience last year, but we're excited to go to Nashville and be under one big roof," says Pam Watts, executive director of NIRSA. This year's theme will be "Harmonizing Our Values," focusing on key NIRSA strategic areas, including health, wellbeing, leadership and sustainability.

"What campus recreation does is not singularly set on any one of those areas, but adds them all together in sport to create that learning environment that helps all of us be better," Watts says. "At this year's show, you'll see a real thread in the values of the educational content and a real focus on that part of what we do."


Six preconference workshops will be offered this year, including "Nine Principles of a Sustainable Campus." This workshop will discuss the specific challenges participants face implementing sustainability initiatives, as well as ways to successfully overcome those challenges. This workshop will also help promote sustainability initiatives; help attendees understand how college recreation, its students and sustainability are connected; and promote sustainability as a way to enhance personal and community wellbeing.

"Advocates for Wellbeing: The Role of Higher Education for a Healthier Nation" will explore best practices that embrace collaborative learning within the fields of health and wellbeing. It will explore creative and collaborative programs that enhance health behavior and outcomes both on campus and within the surrounding communities. "Health and Wellbeing: Mental Health First Aid Certification" is an eight-hour certification course aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and treatment.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in a discussion about ADA recreation programming compliance called "American Canoe Association's Adaptive Paddlesports Clinic." Attendees can explore the nuances of boating launch site accessibility and then learn and apply basic outfitting principles that enable individuals with physical disabilities to get out paddling in kayaks and stand-up paddle boards as safely and comfortably as possible. Risk management considerations will also be explored during this hands-on interactive clinic.

"Preconference workshops always offer an opportunity for some learning in a smaller setting," says Watts. "You get to do a deep dive on a topic because you have either a half or full day. We have some recurring themes that are key competency areas for the association, and we have some of those emerging areas or hot topics."

Another highlight of the 2014 NIRSA Show is the more than 140 educational sessions and roundtables that cover nearly 30 topics, including aquatics, fitness, facility management, officiating, outdoor programming, risk management and sport clubs, to name a few.


Award-winning speaker and author Connie Podesta will kick off the opening general session with her keynote that addresses diversity, leadership, change, teamwork, empowerment, service and innovation.

Also speaking at this year's show will be Tony Clements, an active NIRSA member for 40 years; Dr. Mitchell Thomashow, an expert in sustainability and ecological learning; John Dugan, assistant professor in the Higher Education graduate program at Loyola University Chicago; and Juan Meraz, assistant vice president of Multicultural Services at Missouri State University.

Now in its fourth year, NIRSA's annual community service project will involve Open Table, a local group committed to helping the homeless. "It's going to be one of those real hands-on, engaging service opportunities," says Watts. "It's not just do your service and go home. We'll come back to do reflection and really talk through what we learned and how we were impacted."

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