Recreational Services Employees Shine at ERSL Conference
For many college students, the term networking incites feelings of discomfort and an association with phony self-promotion, which can make stomachs turn. As the theme of the Twenty Fourth Annual Emerging Recreational Sports Leader (ERSL) conference, networking was presented in a new light for students across the country, including two undergraduate student employees and four graduate assistants from Georgia State University’s Recreational Services. These students attended not only to learn, but to teach – to share their experiences with building meaningful connections through networking and to educate fellow students about the opportunities to shine through a career in campus recreation.
ERSL has a rich history of offering a platform for career networking and student development. In 1992, the Office of Intramural Sports at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale established the first ERSL Conference to encourage a strong future of leadership for minority students in the field of collegiate recreation. Ever since, the goal of the annual ERSL conference has been to offer educational programming, opportunities for mentorship, industry networking, and tools and connections to minority students to help them succeed in this dynamic and diverse field. The conference offers a welcoming environment for all students and encourages diversity in an effort to best reflect the populations and demographics that campus recreation employees serve.
The 2016 ERSL Conference was held February 25-28 at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Kacy Toberg, assistant director of facility operations, led the group of students who attended the conference. Toberg has been involved with ERSL since she was a student at The Ohio State University, and she now serves on the organization’s Advisory Board. All six of the students who attended chose to present at the conference.
The atmosphere for presenting at ERSL is so open and welcoming. It’s a great place to start out because everyone is so supportive. And of course I loved being able to work alongside my best friend, Sara, and my work partner, Brandon.
~ Sabrina Blackwood, a job-seeking second year graduate assistant
Speaking of Brandon and Sara, who are also both job-seeking second year graduate assistants, they hope attending and presenting at the conference will pay dividends for their futures as well.
The conference acted as good preparation for my job search. I got to take advantage of the mock interviews and networking opportunities. I met some really great people, which is something I really love about working in recreation.
~ Sara Augustinas.
Brandon Corley says he chose to present because he thinks there is no better time than now to become a leader.
I wanted to share my insights on the graduate assistant process with undergraduate students who were thinking about going into our field.
~ Brandon Corley
Presenting was not the only memorable piece of the conference, though. First year graduate assistant for intramural sports, Giovanna Beato Gonzalez, says she was impacted by the passion and drive of every student in attendance as well as the support of the professional staff.
There really wasn’t one person I did not learn from or connect with on a level that wasn’t personal and encouraging.
~ Giovanna Beato Gonzalez
Two Recreational Services undergraduate student employees had the opportunity to shine at the conference as well. Jamiya Brison and Chris Toliver, who are both seeking graduate assistantships in campus recreation, teamed up to present Students SUPERvising Students, a presentation that explored the skills required to effectively supervise a group of your peers.
Once I got past my nervousness, it felt like I was talking to a group of friends. I see myself getting more involved in conferences, whether I’m presenting again, volunteering as a session monitor, or serving on a committee.
~ Jamiya Brison
Toliver believes his experience at the conference will influence his future as well.
I look at the conference as a very necessary stepping stone for my pursuit of a career in campus recreation. The relationships formed and the knowledge gained will have a lasting impact on me.
~ Chris Toliver
The Division of Student Affairs strives to promote learning and success through offering students with meaningful and enriching experiences. Recreational Services continues to provide resources for its student employees to have those experiences through professional development opportunities at conferences like ERSL. Jennifer Pecoraro is a reflection of how Georgia State Recreational Services contributes to student success after graduation. Pecoraro holds two degrees from Georgia State, was a graduate assistant for Recreational Services and is now the Member Services Coordinator for Georgia Tech’s Campus Recreation Center. Pecoraro presented at the ERSL Conference as a graduate assistant last year and chose to team up with Toberg to present at this year’s conference.
The core group of dedicated professionals who continue to come back to this conference, year after year to present and interact with the students have a made a great impact in my life as both a student and as a professional, and it is great to be able to share this experience with a new generation. The future looks bright!
~ Kacy Toberg