Students with children during Summer retreatThe Smart Choice for Summer

University Launches Conference and Hospitality Initiative

By MICHAEL COLANERI

If you want to earn extra money with your car, services such as Lyft and Uber will help. Do you want to rent your house while traveling? Airbnb, Homeaway and several other sites will facilitate the transaction. More and more websites, apps and services enable us to use our existing assets (like cars and homes) to earn some extra money.

Here at Salem State, Director of Summer Conference and Hospitality Services Deborah Melnick ‘09G is trying to do the same thing with our campus. “We have this tremendous asset that is largely underutilized during the summer,” she says about many classrooms, dining halls and residences for most of June, July and August. “We want to put people in those places and bring in more revenue for the university.”

It’s all part of the Summer Conference and Hospitality Services initiative, which was launched earlier this year as part of the university’s strategic plan to increase financial vitality.

Its leader, Deborah, has been part of the Salem State community for almost 20 years. Since 2000, she’s been an adjunct professor, teaching classes in English and world literature. She was also a faculty associate at the Center for Teaching Innovation and has been director of the Hillel center on campus for nearly nine years. Her new role, which began in early 2018, is part of a larger endeavor to uncover new revenue streams for the university.

Even though the program just started this year, many diverse groups have already taken advantage of Salem State’s campus. For example, a Philadelphia-based film production company shot several scenes for an upcoming movie, Selah and the Spades, in the Bertolon Building and Ellison Campus Center in early July. Additionally, members of the production crew were housed in residence halls for weeks before and after the shoot.

“The overarching goal is to monetize the campus during the summer.” But, Deborah adds, “there are secondary goals, especially enrollment. Many of the groups we hosted over the summer included potential future Salem State students.”

“For instance, we had a group from Worcester come in with 40 high school students. Those teenagers may not otherwise have seen our campus and facilities, and so may not have considered Salem State, but being here on our campus in July may have changed that. We also partnered with Mona Savastano, who directs our Upward Bound program, to host a statewide event. The 2018 Upward Bound Jamboree took place at Salem State, and more than 225 high school students from all over Massachusetts attended. They had a great time and were able to hear from author and newscaster Cheryl Wills and Executive Vice President Scott James in the Sophia [Gordon Center for the Creative and Performing Arts].”

In addition to the local groups, Salem State hosted dozens of international students during the summer of 2018. “Education First, the international study abroad program, brought young students from Russia, Mexico and China here for most of the summer,” Deborah points out. “The students came and went at different times, but there were nearly 140 international students on our campus through July and August. And we hosted 25 Chinese college students through InAmerica Education who used our campus as home base while they took classes at MIT and explored the Boston area.”

Deborah’s plan is to continue expanding the types of groups that are hosted on campus. “We’re looking for people who need a home base on the North Shore. We’re not trying to be a hotel, with one-night stays here and there, but a one-stop shop for conferences and events that need classroom, conference space, food -- the whole nine yards. That’s my role: the person or team planning the event just needs to contact me and tell me what they want, when they want it and how many people, and we will make it happen. We are also the perfect place for summer interns working in the Salem area who need short-term housing and large groups that want the flexibility of the additional spaces we have in our residence halls.”

To find out more about Summer Conferences and Hospitality Services, including how your event can be hosted at Salem State, contact Deborah Melnick at 978.542.7173 or dmelnick@salemstate.edu.