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Creatively adapting to new challenges

The budget planning and business development unit found ways to remain agile and creative throughout 2021-22. “Customer behaviours have changed since the pandemic,” says Sabrina Lavoie, executive director of budget planning and business development. “We’ve seen resulting changes in our activities and we’re adapting accordingly.” 

Despite COVID-19’s ongoing impact, Lavoie says she’s pleased by the way her team found innovative new business opportunities this year — from residence space partnerships to consolidating printing services under one roof. 

A return to residence life

After being closed for the 2020-21 academic year due the pandemic, Concordia Residences welcomed students back for the fall 2021 term. Residents returned to refreshed spaces throughout the university’s three residences, the Grey Nuns (GN) Residence on the Sir George Williams Campus and Hingston Hall and the Jesuit Residence (JR) on the Loyola Campus. Residence Life staff were excited to show off the work they accomplished with the Facilities Management team — from fresh paint to reinforced floors to new laundry machines that notify students when their clothes are ready.

Public health guidelines did require that residences operate at 50 per cent capacity, however. Lavoie says this meant seeking out other campus housing options. Residence Life partnered with the downtown Montreal YWCA, freeing up two floors of single rooms for students who would have otherwise remained on the waiting list for a spot. For Lavoie, this was an example of a successful business partnership, one that she hopes the university can build upon in the future, as the need for more residence space grows.

Hybrid events are here to stay

At the outset of the pandemic, Hospitality Concordia pivoted quickly to offer virtual event services. With some loosening of restrictions during the year, there was significant uptake of a hybrid model with both in-person and online components — from Board of Governors and Senate meetings to international conferences. 

The university has recognized the greater accessibility online events can provide no matter the public health context. So even as in-person programming became an option again, Conference Services continued to offer its suite of tools in addition to their in-person planning services, by the name of Digital Event Services, including the Grenadine event-management software, online booking and payments options, personalized conference website development, virtual conference rooms and more. 

By April 2022, capacity limits were lifted and in-person activities picked up speed. It was at this time that Hospitality Concordia launched an upgraded version of the MyEvents portal for booking spaces, with a user guide, the ability to browse hundreds of spaces on campus and the option to make recurring bookings on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Hospitality also worked closely with the Office of Sustainability to help develop the Sustainability Event Guide and Certification with the aim to help the Concordia community host more socially and environmentally sustainable events. The guide includes considerations for virtual, in-person and hybrid events spanning the digital to the local community impacts.

Creative approaches to business planning

Several key campus revenue sources reopened during the year. These include the newly renovated FB parking garage, which now incorporates 206 spaces for daily parking, providing more downtown availability for occasional drivers.

The Book Stop, now operated by Follett, also opened its doors, although Lavoie acknowledges that students are not buying printed books like they once did. “The first September they were back to school, there were no lineups since ebooks are now quite popular and the click and collect or click and ship options,” she reports. Lavoie adds that this was one example of the lasting impact of COVID-19 on purchasing habits.

In March 2022, the university centralized all its printing and copying through Concordia Print Services. Lavoie says this eliminated the outsourcing that was happening by various departments. The service ensures quality control by maintaining Concordia branding standards, plus it offers competitive prices, free on-campus delivery, the option for departments to pay using budget and research codes and the ability to provide Éco Enterprise Québec (ÉEQ) Paper Audit information.

Toward more sustainable food services on campus

Following the results of the 2021 Food Services survey, several community priorities were identified. These included waste reduction, fresh and healthy food at affordable prices, food that meets a wide variety of dietary and cultural needs and more.

With these in mind, the Food Advisory Working Group reviewed the Request for Proposal (RFP) criteria for the food services provider contract, which was up for renewal June 1, 2022. Ultimately, returning provider Aramark won the bid. The contract responds to Concordia’s aim in achieving best-in-class standards such as going further in satisfying the university’s local purchasing and nutritional best practices, sustainability targets and socially conscious requirements.

The contract commits the company to more plant-based options on campus, a new partnership with local fair-trade coffee company FARO, increased waste-reduction initiatives and active participation with the Solidarity Kitchens food-security initiative, among other concrete actions. It also earmarks at least $40,000 for student bursaries, emergency meal plans and other community initiatives.

Lavoie points out: “Our commitment to sustainability is of utmost importance and we are dedicated to having our agreements with external entities reflect our values.”


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