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UConn 2000 buildings attract more conferences to campus

by Sherry Fisher & Chelsea Weiss - November 14, 2005

When Sally Reis and Joe Renzulli hosted the annual Confratute conference for educators of the gifted and talented some 28 years ago, UConn was a different place.

“The facilities were really rundown,” says Reis, professor and head of educational psychology.

“Now,” she says, “people come here and say, ‘This campus is incredible’.”

The air-conditioned Rome Ballroom, the South Campus residence halls, and dozens of other new spaces have made a big difference, Reis says. “Because of the new facilities, our conference participants say they are recommending UConn to their most gifted and talented students.”

Bob Seguin, general manager of conference services, says the UConn 2000 infrastructure program has been an important factor in increasing the number of conferences at the University.

“More faculty are excited about the new and renovated facilities and want to showcase the campus to their colleagues from other institutions,” he says. “I’ve definitely seen a difference in recent years in the number of meetings and conferences that are held here.”

Seguin helps plan and implement events ranging from small academic programs for faculty and staff and meetings for non-profit organizations to sports camps and large international conferences.

The new buildings and renovated facilities have attracted increasing numbers of summer residential events, he says: “The Nathan Hale Inn, air-conditioned residence halls, state-of-the-art meeting rooms, Rome Commons, and the chemistry and business buildings have been big draws. Before we had Rome Ballroom, all we had was the Student Union Ballroom. We were quite limited.”

If a group is too large for the Nathan Hale Inn during the summer, the extra guests are housed in what Seguin calls “premium spaces” – South Campus and Hilltop Suites. Charter Oak Suites usually house those enrolled in summer school or participating in small academic-based programs. “Before UConn 2000,” Seguin says, “many groups were reluctant to stay in Storrs in the summer without air conditioning.

He says the new Student Union will be an asset: “There will be a new ballroom, new meeting space, and new dining opportunities right in the middle of campus.”

Deborah Huntsman, executive director for professional studies in the College of Continuing Studies, says hosting conferences used to be very challenging. “Now, it’s a pleasure to host them here.

“The Rome Ballroom is of the quality and size of hotels in any major metropolitan city, and it’s always in demand. If a group wants to be sure for summer dates, we have to schedule a year in advance,” Huntsman says.

A file photo of an international conference on homeland security held in 2003 in the Information Technologies Engineering Building.
A file photo of an international conference on homeland security held in 2003 in the Information Technologies Engineering Building. The lecture hall is one of many up-to-date conference facilities available on campus as a result of UConn 2000.
Photo by Daniel Buttrey

She notes that “conferees can stop for coffee at the various cafés, or go to the Co-op to browse or pick up gifts to take home.”

The parking garages have made life easier for everyone, she adds: “We can now accommodate inside parking for large numbers of people without disrupting our staff and student population.”

Kenneth Noll, professor of molecular and cell biology, organized and hosted the American Society for Microbiology Summer Institute on campus this year.

“Our guests were housed in South Campus, and everyone was very impressed with the facilities there and in the new Biology/ Physics Building,” he says.

“The high-tech facilities worked well for our presenters.”

Noll says conference rooms on each floor in the Biology/Physics Building were used by speakers for practicing their presentations, as well as for special smaller sessions.

“Our guests left with a very good impression of our facilities and our research activities,” he says.

Charles Vinsonhaler, who enjoys using the high-tech lecture halls, says faculty in the mathematics department have hosted conferences here “that would have been impossible in the old days.”

Professor Amy Howell, associate head of the chemistry department, directs a Research Experience for Undergraduates site during the summer.

“One goal of the program is to recruit graduate students to the University,” she says.

“The newer residence halls and the Chemistry Building “have been instrumental in helping that happen.”

For more information about hosting conferences on the Storrs campus, contact Conference Services at conferences@uconn.edu or 860-486-9050.

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