Ah, campus life: a period of growth and exploration, a sense of security, stimulating thoughts and discussion, the building of friendships and, at one of America’s many religious colleges and universities, an opportunity for spiritual growth.
For those fortunate enough to have experienced campus life, that time probably produced fond memories that outweighed the angst and anxiety of passing a critical exam or calculating for the umpteenth time the number of credit hours you lacked to graduate.
Those memories, complemented by excellent facilities and an inviting atmosphere, are why having a meeting on a religious college or university campus can be quite appealing. If you do book a meeting, see whether you can book a professor for a lecture you want to hear.
Anderson, South Carolina
Anderson University isn’t as well known as Clemson University, its neighbor barely 20 miles away, but it is staking a claim for itself in the rapidly growing Upstate South Carolina region. Its city neighbors are Greenville and Spartanburg.
With Southern Baptist ties, Anderson has an undergraduate and graduate enrollment approaching 3,700 and is among the fastest-growing private universities in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
“After COVID, we’re eager to work with corporate and other types of groups,” said Jennifer Garrett, director of guest services, echoing a sentiment of many of her counterparts around the country.
Meeting groups can use several breakout rooms for up to 30 people, a computer-friendly multimedia room and a 412-seat theater/auditorium in the student center. Henderson Auditorium, a 1,000-seat multiuse facility, is the biggest space available to outside groups.
Mature oak trees shade much of the campus, and the six-acre Alumni Lawn and several early campus buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Anderson College Historic District. Catering is provided through the onsite AVI Food Services, and alcohol is not permitted.
When on campus, check out the Vandiver Gallery exhibition space. It does not have a permanent collection and, instead, hosts a frequently changing series of art exhibitions in many media.
Spring Hill College
Spring Hill College, founded in 1830, is Alabama’s oldest institution of higher learning. It’s also the first Catholic college in the Southeast and the third-oldest Jesuit college in the U.S. Approximately 1,500 students enjoy a 381-acre campus in one of Mobile’s prettiest neighborhoods. In addition to huge oak trees and azalea-lined walkways, there’s an 18-hole golf course. Its athletic teams are the Badgers, although they may be the only badgers in Alabama.
Meeting planners are welcome to check out a variety of locations. Byrne Memorial Hall will seat 350 people theater-style and can accommodate 220 for seated dinners. It works well for lectures and corporate events. The LeBlanc Conference Room in the student center offers 4,600 square feet of space and can operate as one large space or be divided into three smaller rooms. The most eye-catching venue is Stewartfield, a Greek Revival raised cottage with a view down one of Mobile’s landmarks, the century-old Avenue of the Oaks. It is a memorable location for dinners and receptions.
Residence hall space is available in summer, and commercial lodging is nearby. Off-campus caterers are permitted, and alcohol is allowed. The college’s recreation center is accessible in summer, and Yenni Hall’s teaching rooms work for conference and seminars.
“We welcome inquiries,” said Sharon Williams, director of facilities and special events. “We don’t want to be a best-kept secret.”
Mount Vernon Nazarene University
Mount Vernon, Ohio
Take your pick of meeting arrangements at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. One option is a four-story Victorian-style hotel on Public Square in this 17,000-population community 60 miles northeast of Columbus. And the other is a more modern one-story building that obviously began its life as a church but today is a conference center.
The university owns and operates the Mount Vernon Grand Hotel, a 46-room gem built in 2016 and honoring the heritage of its 19th-century predecessor. Its ballroom seats 125 people for banquets, and its breakfast room can be used for groups of up to 30. It also has a boardroom that seats eight. Breakfast is included in lodging rates, and lunch and dinner service can be arranged with the university’s food service provider or catered by nearby Mount Vernon restaurants.
Though the university does have some downtown buildings and classroom space, the main campus for its 2,100 students is two miles away, and on one edge of the campus is the Gathering Place, the one-time church that was donated to the university.
The church was adapted into a multiuse conference facility in late 2020. The former sanctuary became the main meeting space, there are three breakout rooms, and a second large meeting space has direct access to a kitchen. Catering can be by the university or outside caterers. All university facilities are dry.
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University, with the Wasatch Range rising behind it, is an impressive setting for a campus that serves more than 33,000 students. The BYU Conference Center extends the university’s mission by hosting nonacademic events that require classroom facilities.
The center has 18,000 square feet of schedulable space in 18 classrooms and eight small executive rooms. Its largest room can accommodate 364 people theater-style and 270 for banquets. An outdoor pavilion of more than 5,500 square feet and an adjacent grass field for outdoor events add meeting options. Twelve Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregations use the conference center on Sundays.
Spenser Hansen, the center’s manager, notes that the center’s emphasis is on programs with an educational focus, including events for employee training. BYU has an on-site caterer and maintains a list of approved off-site caterers. The center also has an on-site audiovisual staff. Church guidance requires campus guests to abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse and to follow the university’s dress and grooming standards.
For some after-meeting excitement, head for the Sundance ZipTour. It has a vertical drop of 2,100 feet, which it says is the most of any zip-line tour in the U.S.
University of Puget Sound
The Pacific Northwest is one of the prettiest regions of the U.S., and the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, lets you soak in that beauty in an academic setting. Shimmering waters are on one side, and majestic Mount Rainier looms large only about 50 miles away in the opposite direction. It’s fitting that the university’s motto is “To the Heights.”
Mid-May through early August is meetings and conference time here. Using classrooms, concert halls, auditoriums and other facilities across the 97-acre campus, the university works with groups as small as 10 to as large as 3,500. Schneebeck Concert Hall, which holds 500, is one facility that gets considerable use, according to Terry Halvorson, director of dining and conference services.
Halvorson said virtually all meeting clients get the full college experience by using on-campus housing. Puget Sound has plenty of choice, with 10 residence halls that range from 75 to 200 beds. Meetings patronize university dining facilities for the most part, and the on-campus caterer handles special meal functions, including plated banquets. Meeting clients can arrange appropriate permits for alcohol service.
Methodist clergy founded the university in 1888, and although an independent board of trustees now governs the university, it maintains an affiliation with today’s United Methodist Church. Enrollment is 2,600.