Summer conferences serve variety of ISU visitors

Abbie Moeller

A wide range of activities and events will add flavor to the laid-back summer atmosphere at Iowa State, from a conference on string-instrument care to father-son basketball camp.

More than 100 conferences are held at ISU during the summer months, ranging in size from five to 7,000 people, said Ann Gansemer-Topf, summer conference coordinator.

Gansemer-Topf is in charge of coordinating food service and housing for the many sports, music, education and other camps and conferences that visit ISU during the summer.

The influx of people to campus requires extra staff in several areas. ISU students staying in Ames for the summer are prime candidates for many of these positions.

Carol King, senior in psychology and a student tour guide, said she is working at the conferences for the second year because it is exciting.

“I had a lot of fun last year,” King said.

King will be showing new freshmen around the residence halls in Towers Residence Association, Union Drive Association and Richardson Court Association. She will be answering the questions of worried parents and apprehensive freshmen.

During the summer, 30 to 40 ISU students are employed as summer conference staff. Several staff members said it was a convenient job that provides free housing and food.

King said she liked getting to know students from the other residence associations with whom she wouldn’t normally have contact.

Training for the student staff includes learning about customer service, computer usage, cash register operation and how to deal with homesickness and behavioral problems. The training covers three preliminary evenings and a few additional days during the summer.

The diverse size of groups and types of people who attend conferences create challenges for the residence hall staff, Gansemer-Topf said. She said staff members must be prepared to deal with the different ages and backgrounds of the people who come to conferences.

For example, the food that will be served to the Boy Scouts attending the Order of the Arrow National Conference in August will be different than what the Women’s Methodist Conference attendees will eat, Gansemer-Topf said.

The housing of conference-goers, from senior citizens to prospective students and children, also brings problems ranging from homesickness to aversions about sharing bathrooms.

“It’s almost like we have opening and closing every day,” Gansemer-Topf said about the differences between summer and school-year activities in the residence halls.

Gansemer-Topf is in charge of coordinating not only the housing and feeding of the people, but also of keeping the custodial and maintenance services employees informed about upcoming conferences.

“A really fun part of the job is working with people in the community,” she said.

Gansemer-Topf said she loves the challenge of trying to assess the needs of each individual group and training the staff to provide for the groups’ needs.

Gansemer-Topf has been coordinating summer conferences for three years and has four years previous experience in the Department of Residence.

“It’s a very rewarding [experience] in a variety of ways,” she said.