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June 14, 2004

Summer conferences bring visitors, income to campus

By Louise Donahue

A wave of visitors is on its way to campus this summer. They come in all ages, and include everything from mountain bike salespeople to faculty-sponsored academics to soccer players and cheerleaders.

Photo of bicyclist in the air
The Specialized bike company is one of many groups holding conferences at UCSC this summer.
Photo courtesy of Specialized

The cheerleaders may be especially appropriate: The financial impact of summer conferences and sports camps is worth cheering about. Last year, summer events brought in $3.5 million in gross sales for the campus, said Martha Keeler, assistant director for Conference Services in Colleges and University Housing Services.

Seventy-five different groups will gather at UCSC this summer, beginning the week of June 20. Each year, the eclectic mix of events is a little different. Funding for some academic conferences may be reduced now, but music programs and bicycle camps have been proliferating in recent years, said Keeler.

Future rock stars can jam to their hearts’ content at one of two Soundwall Music camps, while others might prefer choir camp, or honing their skills at the Mandolin Symposium, or even a symphony session.

In some cases, the topography of the campus is a special draw.
Specialized Bicycles is holding six sessions on campus for a worldwide
introduction of its 2005 product line. The product will be introduced to
dealers, press, and the Specialized sales force, with hands-on training available throughout the bike trails on campus.

Hosting commercial events poses a special challenge for Conference Services, but such groups bring additional income and pay a higher rate than nonprofit and academic programs, Keeler said. “Everything still has an educational component, but they use these facilities at a different level.” The Specialized sessions require considerably more logistics than some academic programs, she noted, because they are accustomed to hotels.

The mix of international visitors, youngsters, and senior citizens keeps Conference Services hopping. Conferees arriving in the middle of the night because of flight delays is commonplace, and the SARS outbreak and homeland security regulations added new wrinkles in recent years, Keeler said. Coordination with other campus units is also critical.

“We’re on call pretty much 24/7 since any number of snafus can happen when no campus support services are available,’ Keeler said. noting that Conference Services staff is supplemented by a student staff of 30 over the summer.

Detailed information on Conference Services programs is available online at http://www2.ucsc.edu/conference/

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