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What We Did on Our Summer Vacation: Frostburg State University Hosts Thousands of Visitors Each Summer
08/31/2015

What We Did on Our Summer Vacation: Frostburg State University Hosts Thousands of Visitors Each Summer
FSU senior Sydney McFarland first came to FSU in high school to attend soccer camp. Now the exercise and sport science major works all summer to serve the thousands of visitors who come to campus each summer.

Frostburg State University students have returned to campus for the fall semester, but that doesn’t mean things stopped at the University over the past few months. Each summer, FSU hosts about 8,000 guests from around the world.

The Washington Metropolitan Association of Chinese Schools (WMACS) Summer Camp celebrates Chinese culture and heritage. Coach Wootten’s Basketball Camp develops skills and builds better ballplayers. The Phantom Regiment Drum Major Camp drills students into outstanding drum majors and conductors.

All of these groups, and dozens more, find relief from the sweltering summer in the cooler mountain air of Western Maryland. WMACS used to find a new location each year for its summer camp. The group now makes Frostburg its regular destination. Wootten’s world-famous camp, which started in 1961, just finished its 17th consecutive summer at FSU.

For David Treber, FSU’s director of conferences and events, hospitality comes first, and it is a team effort. Each year, he hires about 15 student workers. Those workers take on a dynamic role that often changes from week to week but always revolves around the guest experience. One worker becomes the liaison for each group, and they take leadership over the group’s experience.

“Pretty much you are the go-to person for that group,” said senior Sydney McFarland, an exercise and sport science major who served as the liaison for several groups this summer. “If there are any issues, they’re going to call you. You have to make sure all the doors are open for the morning. A lot of times it made for some early mornings and some late nights.”

“They need to work together to find solutions that show we’re looking after the guest first. We’re going to find something that works for the group,” Treber said. “Most groups come back year after year.”

Next summer marks 40 consecutive summers for Christian Appalachian Mountain Project Helping Other People Enthusiastically (CAMP HOPE), which brings roughly 400 volunteers to repair homes for impoverished people in Western Maryland.

“It was different every week,” McFarland said. “That’s one of the things I loved. You don’t know what you’re going to get thrown at that day.”

Every group brings different cultural expectations and norms, and student workers must learn to serve each one effectively.

“It’s a cultural learning experience for student workers,” said Treber. “When the Quakers are here, we stock Fair Trade coffee, and they tend to drink all of it. When we have a group of Mormons the next week, they don’t touch a drop of the stuff.”

That personal touch and willingness to meet various group requests keep FSU’s guests returning to campus. Treber reminds his workers that while they may see another day at work, for their guests it is different.

“This isn’t just a day for them,” Treber said. “These groups have looked forward to their camps all year. The little things matter.”

Some of his workers relate personally, having first encountered FSU during their own summer camps. Originally from the Frostburg region, McFarland first visited FSU in high school for a soccer camp offered by FSU head women’s soccer coach Brian Parker. This summer, she hauled mattresses, adjusted bed frames, gave campus tours, checked in campers, set up rooms and tables, helped children find forgotten parental phone numbers, gave people Wi-Fi passwords, reminded them of the hours for dinner and much more.

“This is a mini-vacation for them. It’s not just a camp,” McFarland said. “It’s a time to get away from Mom and Dad, a time to get away from annoying little brothers. I definitely tried to make it all fun.”

In hiring, Treber doesn’t look for students of any particular majors. “I want to see a thirst for knowledge, an innate curiosity. It’s really a problem-solving position.”

At the end of the summer, McFarland was glad she took the position.

“Especially since my major is sports science, I’ve gotten to work with a lot of amazing coaches and amazing programs,” McFarland said, adding that the Woottens offered to be a professional reference for her. “So I definitely think it helped open doors for the future.”

To learn more about FSU’s Office of Conferences & Events or to book an event, visit www.frostburg.edu/admin/confer, email summercamps@frostburg.edu or call the office at 301-687-4020.

- Robert Spahr

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu