Picnic and barbecue weather has made way for pumpkin spice lattes and mulled cider season. It may feel like summer is a distant memory; however, team members in UCLA Conferences and Catering already have summer 2024 and the fun and excitement of bringing tens of thousands of people to campus for events and conferences on their minds.
While the first half of next summer is largely booked, those planning mid-August to mid-September group events are encouraged to submit a request for proposal or contact the team at 888-825-5305 now to see what is available.
“Conferences have always been an important part of our work at UCLA,” said Williams, a senior financial and budget analyst who has been with the team since 1998. “Here, it’s not an afterthought. When it comes to summer conferences, we hold them in high regard. We look forward to the different groups and people each year, and we are so proud to see what we’ve been able to build over the past 35 years.”
UCLA is a popular group destination for a variety of reasons. Among them are the UCLA brand, the location, ample sleeping rooms, attentive service, and incredible food (UCLA has been ranked No.1 Best College Food in the nation for the past five consecutive years!).
“Once they’re here, they know they’re going to be taken care of,” said Williams, adding that she and her colleagues also play a key role in helping groups connect with campus partners for everything from booking space in Royce Hall, Ackerman Grand Ballroom, Pauley Pavilion and outdoor venues for large gatherings (500+ guests), securing filming permits, accessing campus recreational facilities for programming, getting campus parking passes and renting busses and vans from UCLA Fleet Services for excursions.
“Some of our groups – those who have been coming for many years – tend to know how to navigate the system, but we’re the team that connects groups with others on campus,” said Williams. Revenue from rooms and dining goes back into UCLA Housing to help keep annual rate increases for students minimal.
This past summer saw bookings from roughly 300 groups with stays lasting anywhere from two day to several weeks. They included English-language learners from around the world, high school students attending leadership programs, newly admitted UCLA students taking their first college classes and participating in college transition programs and hundreds of California teachers who gather for an annual conference, to name just a few.
One of the largest of these events was the City of Saints Teen Conference held by the Los Angeles Archdiocese. This three-day gathering brought together 650 high school students to experience community within the larger Catholic Church, build fellowship and learn how to demonstrate their faith within their communities. Established in 2015, this event has been held six times, all at UCLA.
“My understanding was that at the time the director was looking for a location to house young people that would be cost-effective to our participants,” said Jenny Jackson, coordinator of youth ministry events for the Los Angeles Archdiocese. “We figured in a college setting they could have their housing and meals included in the price of registration. UCLA was available that first year and is a nice central point among all of our parishes.”
This was Jackson’s first year organizing the event and she said that Williams and the team were always helpful and responsive. “UCLA is very attentive to our needs… Their sense of wanting to welcome us and feel at home was wonderful. Every question I had was answered. The hospitality they provide adds a different layer to the working relationship. It makes us feel like we’re part of the UCLA community, making the work and the process easier.”
Jackson also said that this conference marks the first time that some of the high schoolers have spent a weekend away from home. She said that doing that on a college campus is special because they get to experience what it’s like to be away at college, sleep in dorm rooms, eat in dining halls (the best in the nation five years running!) and traverse a campus.
“It’s an added bonus to have that. It’s a win-win for everyone.”