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 July 2007 • NIRSA news and information
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Tom Kirch
Leadership Notes

Embracing change

As I boarded the plane in Minneapolis to return to Corvallis at the conclusion of the NIRSA 2007 Annual Conference, I settled into my mouse-sized cubicle of a seat, and began to reflect on the happenings of the last week. The presentations, board meetings, socials, the interactions with colleagues, the greeting of new members, and all the rest of the activities associated with the ‘meeting of the members’. What struck me as different or unusual this time—I have attended 26 conferences—was the continual and ever-present conversations about change in the organization and the field of recreational sports.

Learning Reconsidered and LR2 have begun to frame our work in a different way; health and wellness is providing a focal point in our program and service delivery systems; the millennial students are challenging the way in which we interact both in the workplace and as participants. And we can speak endlessly of the growing level of engagement which parents have in almost all aspects of the students’ higher education experience. But what stood out for me more than anything else, perhaps because I have intentionally been in this conversation for some time, was the willingness of our members to talk about change in NIRSA.

In my observations, change is difficult, in large part, because it assaults the past. The efforts, creativity, imagination and passion of those who came before us have become their legacy, and our history. It is from that foundation that we have collectively built the association and our careers. So how do we honor and respect the past while positioning ourselves to address the evolving environment that surrounds us today and what the unknown may bring to us as we speed in to the 21st century? What a daunting responsibility.

Think about when Mark McGuire hit his 62nd home run. Amid the jubilation of this enormous accomplishment, he made a beeline into the stands to embrace the family of the man whose 37-year-old record he has just eclipsed. McGuire hugged the Maris clan, encouraged them, thanked them, and honored them. It was a moment of joy for all that were present and those who witnessed the broadcast. If you honor the past and create the future as McGuire did, the transitional leaders who are still with us will become our strongest advocates of change, just like the family of Roger Maris. 

What was so encouraging about the Minneapolis Conference was the willingness to address the need for change in our organization. This is coming from two different, converging perspectives: the transitional leaders’ understanding and openness to change based on their past experiences and the possibilities they see ahead of us; and a new generation, who have always found the means to challenge others on the status quo and find a ‘better way’. This meeting of perspectives and subsequent action will allow us to continue to adjust or reshape the association as necessary, so we can remain relevant, attractive and meaningful.

So where does that lead us today? As the NIRSA President, I have created a Governance Commission of highly regarded NIRSA Members who have extensive association involvement and a reputation of productive and timely work. At the recently completed Board of Directors Summer Meeting held at the NIRSA National Center, Consultant Bud Crouch, Tecker Consultants, engaged the NIRSA Board and the new NIRSA Governance Commission in significant discussion focused on trends and best practices occurring in association governance on enhancing both process and structure. The goal was to develop consensus on draft recommendations for revising and updating current NIRSA governance practices for consideration for adoption by NIRSA Members.

Look for future announcements concerning the Governance Review process and opportunities for engagement with the membership.

As we begin this journey, it is important to me that we have a transparent process that involves and incorporates all perspectives and opinions. Please keep me informed of any questions or concerns you may have as we move forward with this very important initiative.

Take care,

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