Here come the summer campers

With some 20,000 summer camp and conference visitors – mostly youths – Stanford is, in many ways, just as busy from June to August as it is during the academic year.

Some 4,000 campers and conference goers checked into university residences last week, marking the beginning of the summer camps and conferences season on campus.

Summer visitors participating in a rowing camp make their way from dorm to gym.

Summer visitors participating in a rowing camp make their way from dorm to gym. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

By the middle of August, when the camps and conferences begin to wind down, some 20,000 peoplemostly youthswill have visited to study, learn, practice or play at one of the nearly 280 programs offered under the auspices of Residential & Dining Enterprises’ Stanford Conferences.

Until that time, on any given day, the campus will be filled with camp and conference participants, making the summer in many ways busier than the school year itself.

According to Phillip Gin, executive director of Stanford Conferences, his office helps oversee the lion’s share of the summer camps and conferences. Others, primarily day programs for adults, come under the auspices of various schools and departments.

“We are pretty much at full capacity from the beginning of our season, which starts right after Commencement, to the second week of August, when camps are pretty much over,” Gin said.

Academic mission

The programs Gin and his staff oversee are selected to align with the university’s teaching and research mission. All must have sponsorship from a university organization or department and many engage Stanford faculty in their programming.

While the summer programs help the university meets its academic mission, they also generate revenue that is used to keep down the price of room and board at Stanford. Stanford Conferences’ summer programs also have the advantage of offering employment to students and university workers who might otherwise be off during the summer.

Gin cites Envision as an example of a program that supports the university’s mission. Envision partners with Stanford Law School to offer an Intensive Law & Trial program. Stanford Medical School sponsors an Advanced Emergency Medicine program. Both are for high school students. Another program, Listen to Me, helps children with cochlear implants and their families adjust to their new realities with the help of Stanford health care professionals.

Many of Stanford’s summer offerings are extensions of ongoing internal programs, like Pre-Collegiate Studies, which gives educational opportunities to academically talented students.

“By and large, our most popular program in terms of participants is Pre-Collegiate Studies,” Gin said. “They use most of our Row house-type structures.”

Students in grades 8 through 12 can choose, for instance, among Pre-Collegiate Studies’ humanities and arts institutes, a math camp, and medical science and artificial intelligence programs. New this year is the Sports Business Academy, which gives 10th and 11th graders the chance to experience the world of sports and entertainment in conjunction with ESPN, Electronic Arts, the Golden State Warriors, the 49ers, the San Francisco Giants and the San Jose Sharks.

Among the most popular camps offered by external vendors is iD Tech, which has offered computer- and technology-related camps for youths at Stanford for 17 years.

There is a great appeal to hosting a conference or camp at Stanford, and many programs would like to offer camps and conferences at Stanford. The university has limited residential space, especially given renovations that occur primarily during the summer. To accommodate even the 4,000 per day mouths to feed, R&DE’s Stanford Dining has to add extra tables and chairs to the dining halls.

“We try to accommodate the internal programs first,” Gin said. “But it is tough. We don’t always have the space available.”

Issue leadership

Gin, who has been working at Stanford for 11 years, is a past president of the Association of Collegiate Conferences and Events Directors International and a leader in helping his profession face some daunting challenges, including protecting minors and ensuring camp and conference safety and security.

Gin said sexual abuse controversies involving another school in 2011 prompted colleges and universities nationwide that offer programming for youths to redouble their efforts to protect minors under their care. Gin said Stanford, like many institutions, worked hard to ensure that everyone involved in youth programminginternal constituents as well as external vendorsunderstood their obligations to protect minors. Today, Stanford is recognized for leadership in this area, and Gin’s office is a cornerstone in managing Stanford’s stringent policies involving minors.

“All programs that host minors now register with us,” he said. “We help make sure they are compliant with university requirements. It is not an easy thing, and we try to make sure that programs that have minors on campus are aware of the university and legal requirements. It’s a whole new area for us and one we see as a campus service.”

Another priority for Gin and his staff has been ensuring that camp and conference organizers are part of the university’s emergency proceduresincluding the AlertSU systemand able to receive notifications of concerns on campus.

Once the summer ends and the 20,000 visitors have departed, Gin and his staff members won’t necessarily breathe easier. His group also offers meeting planning and conference management services throughout the year, serving faculty and staff who are sponsoring and organizing events.

“Our meeting planning operations are a very different kind of operation for us,” he said. “We represent campus faculty, sometimes staff, who want to host a conference but don’t have the wherewithal to oversee it. That’s not limited to the summer, nor is it necessarily residentially based.”

“Summer camps and conferences offer rewarding educational experiences to so many visitors to our campus,” said Shirley Everett, senior associate vice provost for R&DE. “We are delighted to be able to support the university’s mission in this way.”