The Value of Student Members

August 1, 2013, Department, by Steve Thompson, CPRP

Steve Thompson, Chair of the Board of DirectorsThe importance of student recruitment and membership for NRPA should not be undervalued. People who join as students have the potential to become active, dedicated members, gaining leadership and association experience that begins at the start of their careers. For NRPA, which needs dynamic, long-term members, and for students, who seek professional guidance and career opportunities, a mutually rewarding relationship is clearly foreseeable. We would do well to continue to emphasize the student sector in our campaigns for a flourishing membership.

A huge advantage of NRPA recruiting students is that brand loyalty is built early on, potentially even before they apply for their first jobs. In a number of universities around the nation, national and state association materials are integrated into classroom study. Many professors use the field’s national and state associations’ magazines, newsletters and brochures as required course materials. Others actually require membership in a state or national association as part of their curriculum. Can you imagine if all the park, natural resource, recreation management and therapeutic recreation students in the nation were to become members? We would have a vibrant national association that would enhance our profession down the road. 

Recruiting and integrating student members can be challenging, but the right efforts can produce very satisfying results. Students and NRPA form a partnership that uniquely fortifies both groups.

As with most people, career development and networking opportunities are the main reasons students seek association membership. Access to online resources, such as the NRPA Career Center, publications, Networks and learning tools, are extremely valuable, particularly to those just starting their careers.

The key to targeting students is making sure they understand the immediate and long-term benefits of NRPA membership, which may not be obvious to them at a glance. They are a group that inherently seeks information, and NRPA should be there to fill any gaps. Through this partnership, NRPA has the opportunity to get a jump-start on retaining young people in the industry, making them more involved members over time. These students are able to get solid industry guidance and advice from seasoned professionals, giving them a competitive edge in the employment market. As with all successful relationships, the benefits must go both ways, and they do.

My best to you in parks and recreation.