Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

The NWACHO 2017 Mid-Level Challenge

By Drew Satter, Pamela Altmaier, & Ben Medeiros

We asked the winners of our new Mid-Level Challenge to give us their thoughts on the experience and its importance for continued development in their roles. Here are their thoughts…

Gamification or simulation of a situation is something that can be quite fun and our team got to experience that at the 2017 NWACUHO Conference in Spokane, WA.  The scenario that we received was that we needed to work with our corporate partners who were in attendance at the conference to outfit a new, 500-person residence hall complete with dining from scratch.  We were given an allotment of money and needed to come to agreements with our partners who had a separate set of instructions.  The goal of this was to come away with the best experience for our students with the allocation of money we received.

L to R: Kurt Haapala, Mahlum Architects; Joe McQuillin, Corporate Relations Director; Craig Whitton, President; Pamela Altmaier, Oregon State University; Ben Medeiros, Oregon State University; Drew Satter, Gonzaga University

In the conversations with our corporate partners, we acted as senior housing officers given full autonomy to create a small housing system.  In conversations, we initially weren’t sure what to expect.  We entered our conversations with our vendors with a little more uncertainty because our fictional dollars didn’t directly transfer to real life dollars, so we wanted to feel out the market and hunt for deals.  We quickly ascertained that the corporate partners were also feeling out the market, so it was a bit of a dance with them.  We were able to secure quotes and feel out the rest of the emerging market.  This was a valuable lesson in creating relationships with corporate members as well as doing a very simplified version of a request for quotation (RFQ) that is an alternative version of a request for proposal (RFP), which is common in our field.

We had a great time wheeling and dealing with our corporate partners.  Many times, we thought we were going to come away with one thing, but they did a great job of bundling, up-selling, and many other selling techniques.  We also learned and got more in depth about their products because we had to visualize how we were actually going to deploy these items in our residence halls.  We initially were going with a bare bones or absolutely necessary approach since we didn’t know exactly how far the money that we were allocated would stretch.  We eventually found that once we locked in some revenue generating agreements – in addition to our below-market expenses with other companies due to the emerging market situation – that we would be able to afford all of the highest end amenities while making back almost all of our money.

In the end, we were chosen as the winners of the mid-level challenge and we learned a lot along the way.  We increased our relationships with our corporate members, learned more about their products, acted as a simplified senior housing officer, and got to spend some time with our colleagues as a team in a new and unique situation.  We enjoyed our experience and hope there is an updated iteration at Victoria, BC in 2018.

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