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All The Extras

By Selena Fragassi


If there’s one thing colleges and universities love, it’s extra curriculars. Remember the push to complete them to look appealing on your entrance application? It’s no different today, except that now extra curriculars like culinary, arts and sports programs on campus are available to visiting groups as part of an engaging, entertaining itinerary. After all, if you’re going to be at a place of higher learning, you might as well take the time to learn something new.

That’s the idea at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. Here you can build kaleidoscopic quilt blocks, take a jewelry making class or try your hand at silk painting—no experience necessary. All are taught by active professors in the college’s Art Department who instruct on playing with symmetry, color, pattern and texture in cutting and adhering fabrics; how to properly bead jewelry with pearls, semi-precious stones and crystals on silver wire; and blending techniques of vibrant silk dyes to create stained-glass effects on fabric. Or really anything else you might desire, says Kristen Franco, corporate event manager.

“We have a really strong arts program here with multiple resources and connections, so if a group doesn't see something that interests them and has something else in mind, we can provide it in some way.” Classes are ideal for 10 people but can be tailored for up to 30 “students” and run about $150 an hour for the facilitator fee and an additional $10-20 per person for supplies. The activity has its reward, too, as each participant gets to take home his or her own self-designed souvenir. And for those really into art, Franco says, “We also have three art galleries that are open to the public.”

Also open to the public is the Misselwood Estate, a private building the college acquired about seven years ago for corporate outings, weddings and year-round add-ons like cooking classes for up to 20 people. These are led by popular culinary professor (and author) Brendan Cronin—so book early for the academic year; summers are more flexible. “The estate is right on the Atlantic Ocean so after the instructional part is over, the group can enjoy the meal together with this great view,” says Franco.

Cooking classes on scenic grounds are also a popular option at Loyola University Chicago’s Retreat and Ecology campus tucked away in an “ecological mecca” in Woodstock, Illinois.

Here there are four acres of vegetable and perennial gardens to give guests the full farm-to-table experience with the freshest, local products and the new, state-of-the-art Duchossois Food Systems Lab and Kitchen that continues the property’s strong culinary tradition. Their former executive chef just won a season of “Hell’s Kitchen” and was recently replaced by John Schnupp, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and owner of the upscale Schnupp’s Place in Wisconsin, who leads all the instructional group courses. Recent options have included “The World of Italian Cuisine,” “Tapas 101,” “Desserts and Cakes” and a variety of food and wine pairings, some even themed for holidays. Classes are for a minimum of six people; they run about three to four hours and are roughly $45-65 per person.

“It’s great for team-building and to do something else in the day that’s a little different and hands-on—and who doesn’t like to eat and drink,” says Daphne Stojiljkovik, marketing and sales specialist, outlining the benefits of the program that include “building rapport, fostering teamwork, and enhancing planning/organizational skills.”

That also extends to the campus’ other food-focused items such as an Iron Chef Experience where teams work with chefs from the university in a friendly competition or the upcoming Farm Workshops that provide guided tours of the property’s gardens where guests will learn how to plan and harvest, attain tips for food preservation and understand cooking techniques for fresh produce.

All options are add-ons to both multi-day retreat programs and daytime meetings held at the year-round campus, which can host up to 200 people with overnight accommodations. They can be scheduled for half-day and full-day itineraries or more limited schedules.

“If a group comes to us with even two hours to spare we can build a customized option,” says Stojiljkovik,, noting that Chef Schnupp can, at the very least, present a talk on a particular food topic. “He has really taken off running in his new role and is in the process of building new events as well, so I’m sure we’ll have even more to offer in the very near future.”

Physical activities also have a prominent role in extra curricular options. Loyola University has one of the largest ropes courses in Illinois and just hired a full-time challenge course director and Endicott College has indoor and outdoor basketball courts, a yoga studio, hiking trails, fishing ponds, an in-progress hockey rink and two public beaches among other options. And at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, there is a whole Active Living department to develop sports-focused programs that also offer instructional elements.

“When a client asks what they can do on campus, we work with them to narrow down what interests the group, and then we partner with The Outdoor Centre to set up times based on availability and cost,” says Michelle Pellerin, event planner, meetings and special events with the university. Examples include kayaking or whitewater rafting down Alberta’s beautiful rivers, rock and ice climbing and trainer-led yoga, fitness classes (including belly dancing and hip-hop dance classes) and boot camps like the Hard Core and Total Body Blast options. “We also can rent soccer fields for soccer games or book ice time for skating at the Olympic Oval,” she says. “Here on campus, we are so unique in what we can do.”

Unique doesn’t even begin to explain the activities at the Outdoor Centre’s Olympic-sized Aquatic Centre with underwater hockey games, the creation of synchronized swimming routines (they’ll record it for you so you can watch later), inner tube water polo and deep-water group fitness. “We also provide practical skill group training, including first aid, swimming and diving lessons,” says Pellerin, reflecting on the advantages booking such excursions can have for a planner’s bottom line. “Fun challenges can encourage collaboration, and overcoming it together promotes better communication. It helps attendees really get to know each other on a personal level,” which really may be the biggest learning lesson of them all.

Get Connected

Endicott College
(978) 232.2128

Loyola University Chicago Retreat & Ecology Campus
(815) 338.1032

University of Calgary
(403) 220.3111