for an executive development program at the Minnowbrook Adirondack
Conference Center sounds like a welcomed escape from the business
world: fireside chats, team-building exercises, sessions on effective
decision making, and a graduation ceremony. What the agenda doesnt
convey, however, are the elements that make Minnowbrook an ideal
location for professional development conferences and other educational
gatherings. Tree-lined paths through fragrant woodland, the tranquil
sounds of birdsong, the all-season beauty of a clear blue lake circled
by the Adirondack mountains, and the rustic elegance of the lodge
itself provide an atmosphere of seclusion and comfort that allows
visitors to ease into their most creative and productive selves.
Its the perfect educational setting, very scenic and
very relaxing, says Sherry Mossotti, executive director and
CEO of Leadership Greater Syracuse, a nonprofit organization that
is one of many conference center clients that returns to the facility
year after year.
privately owned mountain retreat designed in the tradition of the
19th-century Adirondack Great Camps, Minnowbrook celebrates
its 50th anniversary this year as Syracuse Universitys educational
conference facility. Located about 2 1/2 hours northeast of Syracuse
and overlooking Blue Mountain Lake, the main lodge and surrounding
buildings rest on 28 acres and can accommodate up to 56 overnight
guests. A member of the International Association of Conference
Centers, Minnowbrook features well-equipped meeting rooms (including
a 70-seat classroom and several smaller seminar rooms), lodging
and dining facilities, a new health and fitness room, and recreation
areas. The average group numbers 30, although groups have ranged
in size from 6 to 70 people.
year, the conference center serves as a meeting place for members
of the University community, including those from various college
departments, the Graduate School, many independent study degree
programs, Project Advance, and student leadership and Honors student
programs. It also hosts corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit
organizations. Mass Mutual, for instance, has used the retreat annually
for nearly 30 years, and the New York State Council on the Arts
has held its annual gathering there for the past several years.
Programs often focus on long-term planning and goal setting,
team-building, and interpersonal skills, says Jim Moore, the
centers director and a 31-year employee of University College,
which manages and promotes Minnowbrook. Getting away from
their regular place of business inspires and relaxes people, and
gives them a new perspective on the big picture.
Wilbur G70, G76, the Universitys associate vice
president for undergraduate studies and executive director of Project
Advance and the Center for Support of Teaching and Learning, has
used Minnowbrook for 30 years for departmental strategic planning
retreats and other purposes. Minnowbrook is a great conference
center that offers a combination of wonderful instructional resources
with recreational facilities, comfortable housing, and fine dining,
he says. The environment is conducive to creative thought
and camaraderie. And its a chance for staff to meet in a fresh
setting and see each other differently than they do at work.
love us, Moore says, citing the high level of repeat business
the center attracts. Besides the beauty of the location, Minnowbrook
clients also appreciate the staff. They are our strongest
attribute, and Minnowbrooks shining star, Moore says.
The centers staff consists of a live-in caretaker, a head
chef, 2 assistant caretakers, and between 10 and 14 full- and part-time
kitchen and housekeeping workers, all of whom Moore describes as
loyal, thorough, and versatile. Guests often comment on the staffs
quality, impressed with their ability to accommodate a group while
remaining virtually unseen. The staff is absolutely wonderful,
says Leadership Greater Syracuses Mossotti. They are
always very attentive to our more than 40 guests and work with us
to ensure all the details are taken care of.
Plans are under
way for enhancing Minnowbrooks capacity with an additional
building that includes 10 bedrooms with private baths, a meeting
room, and a social room. When Moore first began working at Minnowbrook,
the concept of conferencing was in its infancy and visitors
were comfortable rooming with two or even three others. Now, however,
increased competition among conference centers for clients has amplified
the need to provide guests with single rooms and private baths.
The plan for a new building allows for increased privacy and would
give Minnowbrook the flexibility to house more than one group at
a time. My personal philosophy has always been to look for
ways to make Minnowbrook a little bit better, Moore says.
Every year I present that challenge to my staff, saying, Were
excellent, but theres room for improvement. And theyve
never let me down.