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Inside Look: Campus hospitality centers

Campus locales used by business guests and travelers—often providing valuable learning experiences for students
University Business, December 2015
  • Diverse conference centers: Northern Arizona University built its High Country Conference Center in partnership with the city of Flagstaff in 2008. The multifunctional, $26.4 million facility houses meeting areas, a ballroom and a production kitchen, and it provides food service. Students take advantage of the space, too, as the facility hosts academic labs for the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Architect: Ayers Saint Gross (Tempe, Ariz.) (Photo:
  • The University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh demonstrates the flexibility that can be achieved with a space that is luxurious yet utilitarian. Its $13.1 million Alumni Welcome and Conference Center, open since 2014, features meeting spaces with adaptive lighting and easy BYOD access for business needs. Outdoor spaces are booked for weddings, cocktail parties and other social events. General contractor: Miron Construction (Neenah, Wis.); Architect: Uihlein Wilson Architects (Milwaukee) (Photo: UW Oshkosh)
  • The Great Hall in the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh’s Alumni Welcome and Conference Center features two-story floor-to-ceiling windows, offering an abundance of light to guests and reducing energy use for the building. Donations raised by the UW Oshkosh Foundation contributed $8.6 million to the $13.1 million center. (Photo: UW Oshkosh)
  • Camden Community College created a unique destination-in-a-destination with the Connector, a structure linking the Otto R. Mauke College Community Center and Madison Hall, a classroom building. Built in 2007 as part of a $22 million renovation of Madison Hall, the Connector offers an intimate conference room, an amphitheater, an event/banquet space, a full-service kitchen and a 330-seat lecture hall. Recent public usage of the space includes fashion shows, fundraisers and college/job fairs. Architect: Duca
  • Texas Woman’s University offers plenty of professional space with its Administration Conference Tower, while Hubbard Hall can accommodate weddings, luncheons and retreats. Connecting the two buildings is a walkway displaying the Texas First Ladies’ Historic Costume Collection, an exhibit of historical dresses from the last 150 years that’s worth an estimated $250,000. The walkway was built in 1975, then renovated in 2008. Architect: Page Southerland Page (Houston) (Photo: Holly Nelson)
  • From conference to retreat: The UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center has undergone steady renovation projects since it was transferred to the university from the California board of regents. Condolet Bathrooms: Project Management Office in UCLA Housing & Hospitably (Los Angeles); Kitchen Remodel: Belzberg Architects (Santa Monica, Calif.); Arts & Crafts Building Addition: Cunningham Group (Los Angeles)
  • UCLA’s Lake Arrowhead Conference Center now includes three conference rooms along with 42 opulent two-story guest rooms for conference and retreat participants.
  • UCLA’s Lake Arrowhead Conference Center can host 10 to 200 guests from September to mid-June. The center makes event planning simple with an all-inclusive complete meeting package at a per-person, per-night rate which provides: Overnight accommodations, meeting space, three meals a day, coffee breaks, access to integrated audio visual technology, recreational facilities and more.
  • A fresh place to stay: The Inn at Water's Edge, housed in the College of DuPage’s Culinary Hospitality Center, doubles as a retreat for travelers and a learning lab for 1,600 students preparing for jobs in the hospitality industry.  Architect: Loebl, Schlossman, & Hackl (Chicago, Ill.)  (Photo: Kardas Group)
  • Learning opportunities are integrated throughout the six-room The Inn at Water's Edge: For the bathrooms, the architect was instructed to include every possible surface used in the hospitality industry—tile, marble, granite, wood, glass, frosted glass, mirrors and chrome. Built in 2011 for $26 million, the center also contains meeting space, classrooms, labs and two restaurants. (Photo: Kardas Group)
  • The Alfond Inn at Rollins College aims to offer a community feel and a sumptuous guest experience. Its library lounge, gardens and restaurant are used by Rollins students and travelers, resulting in a communal space that’s unique among other hotels in Winter Park, Florida. Most of Rollins’ Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art—which features works that represent liberal arts learning values—is housed at the inn, built in 2013 with a $12.5 million grant from the Harold Fond Foundation. Design and constructio
  • Unique Eateries: Ferris State University refreshed its student center in early 2015 to better serve students and diners from surrounding Big Rapids, Michigan. The University Center has meeting rooms, conference spaces, student organization offices and the Quad Cafe (shown), where members of the community are invited to enjoy the rejuvenated offerings. Architects:  KSS Architects (Princeton, N.J.) and Neumann/Smith (Southfield, Mich.) (Photo: Maconochie Photo LLC)
  • Hospitality is a rapidly evolving industry, and The Marriott Foundation Hospitality Teaching Center at Washington State University’s Carson College of Business incorporates the latest trends into its teaching portfolio. Students use the restaurant-grade kitchen and multipurpose dining room to plan and host events for outside groups. The “Business of Wine” classroom (shown) is a separate but fully integrated facility that can hold private receptions. Its wine cellar showcases 1,000 bottles from local and uni
  • The White Lodging School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University, Calumet offers concentrations in food and nutrition, fitness and hospitality management. Originally designed as a banquet hall in 2011, it was renovated to become the hospitality school for $4.5 million. The center now includes a wine and beverage lab, a computer lab, two kitchens, classrooms and a fine dining restaurant (shown) that offers student-prepared specialities on Wednesdays during the fall and spring semesters. Ar
  • Event independence: Featuring an e-conferencing room and lobby designed for social activities, the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania hosts an eclectic mix of events. To offer privacy and allow event independence, the Toretti Auditorium—a 632-seat space with a screen, projector, and audio, lighting and curtaining systems—has its own entrance. The complex, completed in 2011, cost $61 million. Architects and engineers: Kimball & Associates (Ebensburg, Pa.) and
  • The Richard and Margot Warch Campus Center at Lawrence University houses a movie cinema, convenience store, mailroom and more for its students; and its public event areas are even more unique to the campus. River views and elegant terraces attract a myriad of outside social events, including galas, fundraisers and weddings. Built in 2009 for $34 million, the center integrates responsible touches such as green roofing and strategic use of daylight for heating purposes. Architects: KSS Architects (Princeton,
  • Wedding venue charm: Built in 1939 as a public works project by local architects and Texas Woman’s University students, the Little-Chapel-in-the-Woods was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to bring relief to the American people during the Great Depression.
  • With its stained glass windows depicting scenes of women ministering to human needs as well as original woodwork,Texas Woman’s University’s chapel is a popular wedding destination today. Architects: O’Neil Ford and A.B. Swank of Dallas (now deceased)

Given the amount of innovation transpiring daily on the American college campus, it’s not surprising that higher ed institutions have become destinations for the broader community.

Outside groups host conferences, retreats, weddings and other social events at campus facilities, while travelers can sometimes find a room for the night.

These hospitality centers serve as living classrooms and functioning businesses. They provide students with hands-on learning opportunities, integrate the surrounding community into the campus and open alternative revenue streams for the institution.

At Virginia Tech, students in the Pamplin College of Business and department of tourism will staff alumni events and other activities held at the university’s Skelton Conference Center and The Inn at Virginia Tech. Students get a comprehensive view of the hospitality industry by rotating through different job functions that are based on their majors.

For example: Food concentration students will take turns in the kitchen, lobby and restaurant areas of the conference center. Students in the room division cycle through reservations, housekeeping and bellhop service shifts.

The complex, which includes 27,000 square feet of conference space, averages 60 to 80 events each week, and student workers are paid around $8 an hour.

Tom Shaver, general manager of both The Inn at Virginia Tech and the Skelton Conference Center (both of which share a building with the Holtzman Alumni Center), says his operation is technically a nonprofit—after covering expenses, all revenues go into reserve accounts used to maintain and upgrade the inn.

Virginia Tech requires the inn to pay an administrative fee of roughly half a million dollars annually to cover operational overhead, such as accounting, security, grounds maintenance and the parking facility.

Virginia Tech’s hometown of Blacksburg has few lodging accommodations outside the university. The school offers loyalty programs to give parents and other travelers an incentive to stay on campus—such as discounted rates and special reservation offers, Shaver says. Another perk: Students of participating parents eat free at Preston’s, the inn’s restaurant.

The higher ed hospitality centers pictured above provide learning opportunities for students and memorable experiences for guests—as well as long-term revenue sources for their home institutions.