Healthy meeting initiative launched at Conference Center

Innovative new program launched at Conference Center

Healthy meeting initiative to be launched at Conference CenterStephanie Monastra wants guests to leave the Kent State University at Stark Conference Center differently than the way they walked in.

“At the end of the day, we want people to be armed with information. We want them to leave with not only a great strategic plan for their business, but also with the knowledge Kent State cares about health and wellness,” said Monastra, director of the Conference Center.

Enter the healthy meeting initiative. The innovative new program will provide more options for businesses and organizations planning their next session.

“From strategic planning to team building, it’s about giving our guests what they need to be more productive and have an engaged meeting,” said Monastra. “We see it as our responsibility, as part of an institution of higher learning, to be a conduit of information and share it with the community.”

And thanks to the center’s International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) designation, planners from across the country seek out the facility for its expert team, meaning the message of Kent State goes farther.


Regionally, healthy meeting strategies are on the peripheral, making the concept, spurred by Monastra and her staff, a trend-setting one.

While more people understand the importance of taking time to move, stretch and walk during the workday, others struggle to grasp the concept that food provides the body with energy. A healthy meeting package at the Conference Center would include informational and activity components. At break stations, guests will be provided with information about what a healthy plate should look like, and how eating for fuel positively impacts attention and focus. Yoga, walks around campus and stretching could be incorporated into breaks throughout the day.

That’s key, according to Melissa Celko, Kent State of Wellness director. Celko loathes the hours between 2 and 4 p.m. And with good reason.

“We’ve all been there,” she said. “Sitting in a daylong conference, dozing off either because you’ve been sitting for hours or you’ve just finished a high fat, high carb lunch. The likelihood is both are impacting productivity.”

The purpose of the business gathering is ultimately defeated. That’s why Celko says it is a  privilege to work with Monastra’s team on the new healthy meeting initiative.

The program fits the Kent State of Wellness endeavor, part of President Beverly J. Warren’s Strategic Roadmap to a Distinctive Kent State. The goal: create a healthy environment and prioritize health and wellness for students and the community.

“What I love so much about this fresh approach is just the understanding that when we sit for long periods of time we become disengaged with what is going on around us,” Celko said. “A lot of people kind of check out when the information is most vital. Being intentional about the structure of a meeting, including breaks and meal planning, makes for a much better outcome.”


Chad Christine, manager of culinary operations at the Conference Center, understands food powers the effectiveness of a meeting. 

That is why he and Executive Chef Joe Belinsky hold the philosophy that food preparation and the cooking process must be done in the healthiest way possible with accommodations for every dietary restriction – and palate.

“We want our guests to have an experience,” he said. “At our salad bar, for example, we give everyone the ability to be creative. There are base options that will always be available, but it is what you can do with them, that’s where it’s fun.”

And being the healthiest, most productive place to hold meetings is not only what Janet Capocci sells, it is what she believes in. “A good coach always asks, ‘What else?’ We need to do something differently, and that’s where the healthy meeting initiative comes in,” said Capocci, Conference Center sales manager. “If we can continue to coach guests along to meet their needs, then we’ve arrived at the winning combination.”

And, for Monastra, if visitors depart knowing healthy choices are possible, then “we’ve done our job.

“We want people to leave here with a great business plan, but also knowing Kent State cares about helping people be – and achieve – their personal best.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of Encompass Magazine.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 3:16pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 3:20pm
Melissa Griffy Seeton