Every summer, Stanford Conferences hosts between 250 and 300 conferences on campus with a total of between 16,000 and 20,000 guests. These conferences cover a broad spectrum of subjects and audiences of nearly all ages. All Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) revenue generated from summer conferences hosted on campus is used to subsidize the cost of room and board for students during the rest of the year, according to University officials.
The Stanford Conference Office was opened in the 1960s and has grown significantly in the decades since then. It is currently one of the largest collegiate conference operations in the world; in fact, Stanford represented the largest conference operation sample in a recent study by the Association of Collegiate Conference and Event Directors, International (ACCED-I), which represents conference professionals in institutions of higher education.
“Every conference . . . is directly aligned with and tied in some way to teaching, learning and/or researching at Stanford,” wrote executive director of Stanford Conferences Philip Gin in an email to The Daily. “Typically, that means that faculty and/or students are involved with teaching the content of the conference, or they are attending the conference to learn more about the content.”
The largest of these conferences include the Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), an academic opportunity for middle and high school students that has run since 1991; All Sports Camp, a daytime sports activities camp for 7- to 12-year-old boys and girls that has existed for over 30 years; and High School Summer College, a program that allows 16- to 20-year-olds who have not yet attended college to take summer classes at Stanford for college credit.
The University also allows non-Stanford undergraduates and graduate students to take Stanford courses during the summer for transfer credit to their university or college.
“Student Housing facilities are used by a variety of groups and organizations each summer,” wrote executive director of Student Housing Rodger Whitney in an email to The Daily. “This usage of our residences makes it possible for students to stay on campus in the summer for work, study or research; supports programs across the campus and helps keep academic-year room rates down by providing income.”
Branner Hall, Crothers Hall, Mirrielees Apartments and Manzanita Park (Castano and Lantana), as well as parts of Escondido Village, Rains Apartments, Munger Graduate Residence and Lyman Graduate Residences are used for student housing in the summer.
All remaining facilities are used for summer conferences. All Sports Camp uses a variety of the athletic facilities. EPGY residents live in 16 campus facilities: Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Narnia, Kappa Alpha, Jerry, Slavianskii Dom, Durand, Synergy, Phi Kappa Psi, Kairos, Bob, Xanadu, Terra, Zap, Pi Beta Phi, Delta Delta Delta and Kappa Alpha Theta. The program also uses around 35 classrooms.
The University registrar handles classroom scheduling, and Stanford Summer Session has first priority on the rooms before conferences can use them.
“Because R&DE is a self-funded department at Stanford, R&DE must generate its own revenues required to provide services to Stanford students,” Gin said. “Without the contributions of revenues from Stanford Conferences, the cost for those services to Stanford students, primarily housing and meals, would be significantly higher, and Stanford students would then have to carry the burden of those costs.”
Because it is a private institution, Stanford University is not required to release financial figures for summer revenue. Several University and conference officials declined to provide an exact dollar amount for how much R&DE makes during the summer and how much this lowers the cost of student living during the year.
The ancillary benefits of summer conferences, while harder to measure, are nonetheless valuable, Gin said. According to Gin, R&DE employs between 60 and 80 Stanford students each summer to support the business of Stanford Conferences.
Many of the individual conferences employ Stanford students as support staff. For example, EPGY employs close to 100 Stanford undergraduates each summer as well as graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. High School Summer College hires several dozen undergraduates as residential mentors.
Additionally, summer conferences use many campus services and facilities during a period when few Stanford students are on campus, helping to keep various Stanford employees from being laid off during the summer.
“Although EPGY makes money for the University, that is not its mission or motivation,” Rick Sommer, managing director of EPGY, wrote in an email to The Daily. “EPGY is a program that provides outstanding academic opportunities to talented pre-college students, and it serves the University in a variety of ways.”
“Teaching and learning comprise a large part of Stanford University’s academic mission,” Gin said. “And each summer, a great deal of teaching and learning occurs at Stanford through the conferences hosted on campus. In this way, Stanford Conferences is not only aligned with Stanford’s mission, I believe it directly contributes to it.”