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In a Semester Unlike Any Other, Auxiliary Services Adjusts to Meet the Needs of Its Community
Throughout the fall semester, members of Auxiliary Services stepped up and adapted quickly to public health guidelines, continuing to ensure quality service.
A Quiet Semester in the Adirondacks
In a typical year, theUniversity’s Minnowbrook Conference Center in Blue Mountain Lake, New York, hosts dozens of conferences with hundreds of guests. The Adirondack getaway is a favorite for campus groups and other educational organizations from throughout the Northeast.
However, like many other parts of the hospitality industry, Minnowbrook was hit hard when the coronavirus spread to the United States in March. The staff adapted quickly to the new public health requirements. The dining room was rearranged so that guests could have 6 feet of distance between their tables. Their bedrooms, many of which have two beds, were made into single rooms. All rooms sit untouched for 72 hours before they are deep cleaned and sanitized for the next group of guests.
The classroom was also reshuffled to accommodate 32 participants safely socially distanced, with sanitization occurring between each meeting. And of course, guests were encouraged to take advantage of the center’s greatest attribute—its access to the great outdoors. The site’s 28 acres of woodland and large patio overlooking the lake made for safe gathering areas for the groups that made the trip.
The efforts of the staff were rewarded in late September, when the property was inspected by the New York State Department of Health and was deemed to be operating safely, with no recommended changes.
The staff welcomed its first group of students in September, the lake retreat led by Father Gerry Waterman from Hendricks Chapel, and safely hosted other groups throughout the fall. The winter is typically a slow time for the center (an average snowfall of 125 inches per year makes travel difficult during the winter months), but Minnowbrook director Kevin Callahan is hopeful about what spring 2021 may bring.
“We are glad to be operational and to do what we do best, and that is to host conferences,” says Callahan. “We all enjoy our guests and look forward to having many of them return next year.”
Graduate Student Organization, Food Services Collaborate to Stage a Socially Distanced Picnic
The Graduate Student Organization (GSO) holds an annual picnic for its members—usually, they can count on 1,500 attendees and a spread of burgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, desserts, and more. This year, with COVID-19 making any large gathering unsafe, Food Services and the GSO put their heads together to design an event that would maintain the spirit of the picnic while still adhering to public health guidelines.
For Jessica Montgomery, the external vice president of the GSO, it wasn’t an easy process and required a little out-of-the-box thinking.
“I decided to do a drive-thru style picnic because the safety of the graduate students was my top priority,” says Montgomery. “We wanted to uphold our GSO fall picnic tradition, even if it meant that it would look different than what we have done in the past.”
By working with Joe Sidoni, associate director of Food Services, Montgomery and the GSO arranged for hundreds of graduate students to drive through the parking lot of the Inn Complete. Food Services staff lined the lot with balloons and then handed out boxed picnic dinners—prepackaged hamburgers, hot dogs (and their vegetarian counterparts), chips, cookies, apple cider and more. Following New York State guidance surrounding takeout food, Food Services was also able to provide a lidded cup of beer or wine for students over 21.
Of course, an event at Syracuse University isn’t truly complete without Otto the Orange. The beloved mascot was on hand to greet the almost 500 graduate students who were served during the three-hour event, adding to the festive atmosphere.
“The graduate students were very receptive to this event,” says Montgomery. “Joe Sidoni is amazing! He has worked with GSO for so many years, and he’s very familiar with the type of food that’s a hit with the students. I am glad the Graduate Student Organization was the first organization [in fall 2020] to conduct such a successful event.”
A Piano in Quarantine
The Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center was the temporary home for hundreds of Syracuse University students during the fall semester. Deemed close contacts of other students who had tested positive for COVID-19, students were quarantined in the hotel, which meant that their entire academic life needed to take place within the four walls of their hotel room. The staff at the Sheraton were committed to helping the students in their temporary care fulfill their academic requirements. For one student, a music major in the School of Visual and Performing Arts, that meant continuing his coursework on a keyboard. While the student and the Sheraton staff expected a small, portable keyboard, a full-sized piano was delivered to the lobby.
Since the piano didn’t fit into any of the standard rooms in the hotel’s quarantine block, the student was upgraded to a Junior Suite, where he and the piano remained throughout his 14-day stay.
Thanksgiving Meals for the Community
In a typical year, the Sheraton hosts a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner for members of the Central New York community. This year, with New York State’s “orange zone” restrictions prohibiting indoor dining in the city of Syracuse, the staff of the Sheraton reached out to Hospice of Central New York to see if their organization could distribute Thanksgiving meals to families with loved ones in hospice care. On Thanksgiving Day, 40 meals were distributed to 13 grateful families.
For Kris Klinger, associate vice president of Auxiliary Services, these stories are just a small sample of the extraordinary effort put forth by the department’s staff this past semester.
“We view it as our mission to provide an unparalleled Syracuse University experience,” said Klinger. “I could tell a hundred stories about our staff—essential workers here on campus every day—going above and beyond to meet the needs of our community.”