Cara Lucia publishes article on inclusive excellence in collegiate recreation

The chair of the Sport Management Department addresses how NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation is expanding its knowledge and understanding about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as well as antiracism.

Cara Lucia, associate professor and chair of the Sport Management Department, authored a recent article highlighting how NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation is exhibiting action connected to diversity, equity and inclusion and acknowledged the continuous work that needs to take place.

Associate Professor Cara Lucia

In May, Lucia was officially named NIRSA’s president, overseeing what is considered the leading resource for professional and student development, education and research in collegiate recreation.

In 2011, NIRSA leadership, the NIRSA Board, and selected association members convened for strategic planning, where six strategic values emerged, including equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). While EDI was acknowledged as a value and volunteer leaders for the association were active in efforts around EDI, the past year’s events exposed the need for greater thought and action.

The National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS) invited Lucia to share insights about NIRSA’s recent undertakings. In her article, titled “Inclusive Excellence in Collegiate Recreation: How NIRSA is Exhibiting Action,” Lucia explored the significance of the association’s history, explained the areas of progress and the necessary work still required, and shared strategies that will contribute to positive change within the association.

To begin the conversation, Lucia delved into NIRSA’s notable history, which began in 1950 with intramural directors gathering in New Orleans to discuss intramural recreation offerings at historically Black colleges and universities.

The National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS) invited NIRSA President Cara Lucia to author an article for College Services, the association’s quarterly magazine.

Lucia wrote: “NIRSA’s founding is somewhat unique amongst our higher education association peers and our roots make our call to uphold our values of equity, diversity and inclusion all the more central to our work. The founding of our association in 1950 is grounded from the efforts of 20 male and female leaders from 11 historically Black colleges and universities marking the professionalization of collegiate recreation as a distinct field of practice; yet after the 1957 election of NIRSA’s first white male president, it took until 1989 for another Black male or female to be elected president. Additionally, despite its gender inclusive start, in 1959 association leadership made the decision to eliminate women from the membership ranks; they later reinstated women in 1971 – one year before the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Now, in 2021, all three positions of the NIRSA Board of Directors‘ presidential track are held by women.”

Lucia shared highlights of how EDI was integrated into the association’s structure and activities following its 2011 strategy planning process. She noted that an EDI commission was formed to help integrate the value into the “fabric” of the association. Evidence of the organization’s efforts can be seen in NIRSA’s Statement for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, NIRSA’s Statement on Marriage Equality, NIRSA’s Transgender Athlete Participation Policy, and the creation of the EDI Resource Guide.

In the article, Lucia outlined how NIRSA sought out a consulting group to help address system inequities within the association. NIRSA selected 122 Consulting and is working in conjunction with the firm to assess NIRSA’s climate, culture and structures to “determine areas in which the association supports inclusion and where there are barriers that prevent true equity,” she wrote. The assessment is expected to be completed by January 2022.

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“This is only the beginning to an intentional journey that will expand how we exhibit our value of EDI and live out our strategic priority that ‘NIRSA will strive for inclusive excellence through an anti-racist and equity lens,’” Lucia wrote. “Doing this work requires intentional time and energy from NIRSA Headquarters staff and volunteer leadership groups, as well as engagement from our members so we can approach this work collaboratively. It is imperative we understand that as this work is happening at the association-level it is concurrently happening on the ground at each of our respective campuses.”

With a membership of more than 4,500 individuals, the association offers professional development, educational workshops and networking opportunities to those active in the collegiate recreation profession. Lucia’s term in office follows her election to the presidential track of NIRSA’s Board of Directors in 2019. According to NIRSA, Lucia is the first full-time faculty and department chair to serve as NIRSA president.