COLUMBIA — The building stands three stories tall, with windows overlooking MU. Stacks of old MU yearbooks dating back to the early 1900s fill a common area.
Each bedroom is named after a different school or college at MU. Now, after being closed for two years, the bed and breakfast on College Avenue just across the street from campus is reopening with the help of MU students.
The Gathering Place, 606 S. College Ave., will welcome guests later this month as a part of MU’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program. The University of Missouri Ag Foundation, a private group that supports the college, purchased the bed and breakfast from Shirley and Ross Duff and then leased it to MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
For students, it’s not a classroom building, but more of a laboratory — one that will provide them with a unique educational experience, said James Groves, Hotel and Restaurant Management program director. Students who enroll in the program as their capstone class will work alongside a university-hired innkeeper to deal with the daily functions of a bed and breakfast. James Hundle, assistant to the dean in CAFNR, said about 400 students are enrolled in the program.
“We want to give them as many opportunities to experience real-life challenges to benefit their education,” Hundle said. “It’s kind of like ‘The Apprentice,’ only we don’t fire anyone.”
Although the final details of the program have not been decided, Hundle said students could split up into teams to cover the various aspects of operating a bed and breakfast — marketing and advertising, budget and operations, room upkeep, guest relations and menu planning and meal preparation. Groves said students have participated in work programs like this before for their capstone class, mainly at local hotels.
But at a bed and breakfast, students have the opportunity to be more hands-on with the operational side of things, Hundle said.
“They’ll have absolute, full access, whereas in a large, corporate hotel you might not have that experience,” he said.
Groves said the students will benefit because they’ll be able to develop, implement and evaluate plans for the bed and breakfast.
“No other commercial lodging experience will allow students this level of access to management systems,” Groves said.
Hundle said another benefit of The Gathering Place is its proximity to campus. He said it will cater mostly to people visiting MU, such as guest speakers or candidates for university jobs.
“We want to give the colleges and various offices on campus the opportunity to provide the very best impression to candidates (for jobs),” Hundle said. “It’s a two-way street. It’s not just us looking at the candidate, it’s also the candidate looking at us.”
Hundle said The Gathering Place could also play host to small meetings and luncheons if faculty or administrators wanted to meet there.
The bed and breakfast’s rates have not yet been determined, but it will require reservations.
Hundle said the program would benefit the university, not only by providing students a learning environment but also by giving members and guests of the university a place to gather.
“We felt it was just too good an opportunity to pass up,” Hundle said. “It’s a unique experience for students to utilize.”