College campuses have an inherent youthful vitality and an energetic vibe, and people love it, said Deana Pagnozzi, director of the Rutgers University Inn and Conference Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Meeting attendees love to chat with the center’s student staff and reminisce about their own college days.
“Campuses in general are becoming more popular for meeting places,” she said.
Besides having a slew of facilities and being flush with activities, colleges also have access to a host of resources that can support planners by helping with budgeting, catering, housing, team building, group activities and more.
University at Buffalo, State University of New York
Buffalo, New York
Some of the University at Buffalo’s “best meeting facilities are the campus itself,” said director of special events Bill Regan. For the past three years, the school, also known as SUNY Buffalo, has hosted Special Olympics of New York, including the closing ceremonies at the 6,100-seat Alumni Arena. The Center for the Arts is a performing arts venue with a 1,700-seat auditorium, a 400-seat auditorium and a two-story atrium. The Lippes Concert Hall has a custom Fiske organ and seats about 650. The university’s North Campus hosted the town of Amherst’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration.
“What sets us apart from other venues are some of the more unique aspects of a college campus: the athletic facilities, the performance venues, the green space,” Regan said.
The special events office acts as a single point of contact to arrange catering through SUNY’s own catering group, on-campus housing, parking and transportation, facility rentals, technical support, police support and more, he said. The office handles budget development and contract management and provides an in-house registration service that accepts payment for incoming events. Staff also remain on-site during the event to make sure everything goes as planned.
The office also programs the university’s Distinguished Speakers Series, which in the past has featured Steve Wozniak, Magic Johnson and John Oliver, so it can act almost as a speakers bureau. The office can also arrange for groups to visit the poetry rare books room or see earthquake-simulator shake tables in action.
Indiana University Bloomington
With its wooded, parklike setting complete with a stream running through campus and the limestone, Tudor-style Indiana Memorial Union, which looks like something out of Harry Potter, the Indiana University Bloomington campus is “a place apart,” said Mary Morgan, client development manager for Indiana University Conferences.
The 1909 Memorial Union houses the 180-room Biddle Hotel and about 15 event rooms in addition to the student union, all under one roof. The union’s function space ranges from a 10-person boardroom to the 5,000-square-foot Alumni Hall and a 400-seat auditorium.
Indiana University Conferences provides site selection and venue reservations for the “full spectrum of buildings and activities all across the university,” be that a gym, dorms or auditoriums. IUC handles event accounting and manages finances from start to finish, and its in-house online registration system allows attendees to register and pay for events.
Although the office generally doesn’t book speakers, it handles travel, scheduling and paperwork for event presenters and VIP guests, which has become “increasingly important,” Morgan said. IUC also oversees catering and on-campus housing for up to 8,000 people, and staff are on-site during the conference to ensure all goes as planned, Morgan said.
IUC provides these services on campus but also off campus. Over the years, IUC has built relationships with associations, conferences and symposiums and continues to manage those events all over the United States and in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico, and is even doing one in Bali this month.