The roots of the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) go back 60 years, when a group of 22 African-American men and women from 11 historically black colleges convened at Dillard University in New Orleans and formed the association in 1950.

NIRSA will reconnect with those roots during its 60th annual conference and recreational sports exposition, April 1-4 in Charlotte, NC. On display at the conference will be commemorative pins, memory books, a poster presentation, a “NIRSA Legends” video and a slideshow of photos from the past 60 years. T-shirts will be handed out to the first 60 people who donate to the NIRSA Foundation, and attendees can participate in a NIRSA History Challenge game show.

Although Charlotte is a first-time host for the NIRSA event, it provides a lot of what the organization is looking for in a host city, says Katherine Otten, editor and assistant director of marketing for NIRSA. Those qualities include opportunities for social activities, the proximity of colleges and universities, and the proximity of hotels to the Charlotte Convention Center.

The theme of this year's conference is “60 Conferences, Unlimited Connections.”

“The connections people make at the NIRSA Annual Conference and Expo can lead to big or small changes in their facilities and programs, or even change the course of their careers,” Otten says.

Like many organizations, NIRSA member institutions are feeling the effect of the economy. In fact, there will be a special panel session during the conference titled “Successfully Navigating the U.S. Economic Slowdown.” Travel freezes and budget cuts at NIRSA member institutions have had an impact on registration numbers for the conference, Otten says.

“In a typical year, we would see more than 2,000 attendees, but as everyone knows, this is not a typical year,” Otten says. “It's too early to project what our final attendance numbers will be. However, we will still have more than 130 exhibitors, right in line with past years, and more than 100 educational sessions.”

The opening general session begins at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1, during which Jo Ann Vaught will deliver the keynote address titled “Leadership, Managership and Chickenship.” Vaught is an Oxford University scholar and is a master facilitator and certified organizational consultant with a concentration in human behavior, executive coaching and group development from Georgetown University. She also is certified as a mediator by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

The expo hall hours are from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 2, and from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3. The annual T-shirt exchange takes place from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday. A new Fitness Forum area for workouts and a new Club Victory lounge exclusively for NIRSA associate members are added features to the expo this year.

During the NIRSA conference, attendees can participate in the annual golf tournament on Wednesday or in one of two preconference trips that day. One trip is a whitewater rafting/adventure challenge on the banks of the Catawba River in Charlotte. The other is designed for “gearheads,” or NASCAR fans, with a tour of Raceworld USA, Joe Gibbs Racing and JR Motorsports. A typical tour involves watching crew members build race cars, pit crews practice speed and technique, and crew chiefs and drivers prepare for their next race.

The all-conference welcome social begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the North Carolina Music Factory in Charlotte's trendy Uptown neighborhood, with entertainment provided by the Swingin' Richards. The annual People of Color social begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Westin Charlotte. Two more events take place later that night, a social called “Jazz, Java and Generosity” at the Westin Charlotte and NIRSA City Limits at Coyote Joe's.

If that isn't enough fun and excitement, NIRSA conference attendees are invited to watch an NBA basketball game between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Miami Heat on Friday. The Bobcats are offering attendees special discounted tickets and a free Bobcats rally towel.

The conference concludes with the annual honor awards banquet, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Westin Charlotte.

For more information on the conference, visit http://www.nirsa.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Conference_and_Expo.

2009 NIRSA Schedule of Events

Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, NC (As of Feb. 17, 2009)

Wednesday, April 1
8 a.m. - 3 p.m. NIRSA Foundation golf tournament
8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Preconference trips and workshops
Noon - 3:30 p.m. NIRSA Foundation career opportunities center
4 p.m. - 6 p.m. Opening general session, featuring keynote speaker Jo Ann Vaught
6 p.m. - 10 p.m. All conference welcome social, North Carolina Music Factory
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. New member welcome
Thursday, April 2
8 a.m. - 6 p.m. NIRSA Foundation career opportunities center
8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Budget review session
8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Educational sessions
8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Workshop
9:45 a.m. - 11 a.m. Educational sessions
11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Educational sessions
12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. Sessions and roundtables
12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. New committee chair meeting
2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Educational sessions
3:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. Recreational sports exposition grand opening
7 p.m. - 9 p.m. People of Color social and program, Westin Charlotte
9 p.m. - 12 a.m. After program social, Westin Charlotte
9 p.m. - 11 p.m. Jazz, Java and Generosity, Westin Charlotte
9 p.m. - 2 a.m. NIRSA City Limits, Coyote Joe's
Friday, April 3
6 a.m. - 7:30 a.m. Expo workout
7:45 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. NIRSA Foundation career opportunities center
8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Educational sessions
8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Workshop
9 a.m. - 11 a.m. Student business meeting (check-in begins at 8:30 a.m.)
10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Recreational sports exposition final day
11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. NIRSA Foundation career opportunities center
11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Educational sessions
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Sessions and roundtables
12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. Past presidents lunch
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. T-shirt exchange in the expo hall
1:45 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Committee meetings
2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Educational sessions
4 p.m. - 6 p.m. Regional business meetings (check-in begins at 3:30 p.m.)
6:30 p.m. - 11 p.m. Independent socials
7 p.m. Charlotte Bobcats-Miami Heat basketball game (optional)
Saturday, April 4
8 a.m. - 9 a.m. NIRSA Foundation career opportunities center
8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Educational sessions
10 a.m. - noon Annual business meeting (check-in begins at 9:30 a.m.)
11:45 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. NIRSA Foundation career opportunities center
Noon - 1:30 p.m. Take a student to lunch (meet at business meeting)
1:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. Educational sessions
3 p.m. - 4 p.m. Educational sessions
5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Honor awards banquet, Westin Charlotte