Virginia Tech Magazine
Feature -|- Summer 2007

The Graduate Life Center: Preparing the future professoriate/professional
by Jenna Lazenby M.A. '04
Four years ago, Karen DePauw, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the Graduate School, came to Virginia Tech with a vision. In October 2006, that vision became a reality when the Graduate School celebrated the official opening of the Graduate Life Center (GLC) at Donaldson Brown, the former home of the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center as well as Alumni Relations.

Although graduate centers are not new to higher education, Virginia Tech's Graduate Life Center is unique among the first generation of graduate centers, which simply provided students with a place to study and live. In contrast, the Tech center houses all facets of graduate education--including academic, administrative, social, and residential--under one roof.

"The new Graduate Life Center has significantly enhanced the quality of life and educational experience of graduate students and is a place where students are able to develop skills for academic and professional success," says DePauw. "The center is a commitment to the importance of graduate education by the university, and strengthening graduate education is an integral part of Virginia Tech's strategic long-term plan."

Just one visit to the new center conveys what makes it so special. The Graduate Life Center is a hub of activity--students not only take advantage of the computer lab, study rooms, and reading room but also interact as colleagues and friends, creating a true sense of community across disciplinary backgrounds.

Graduate Life Center Graduate Life Center

"The GLC is not just a building, it's a physical representation of the graduate community," says Ennis McCrery, a master of fine arts candidate in creative writing. "Something is always happening, from classes and club meetings to improvisational theatre and poetry readings. No matter what mood I'm in when I walk into the building, when I leave the GLC, I feel encouraged. It's a place of connection."

Transformative graduate education draws upon the university's expertise in new and original technology to prepare students to become engaged contributors in modern universities and contributing professionals in their communities. The center offers graduate students both professional and social settings alike, where they can interact with one another and engage in cross-disciplinary discussion with students from other departments and with administrators and professors. These conversations and experiences, combined with the education received from academic departments, provide students with the skills they will need to thrive in their careers.

"Through quality scholarship and cutting-edge research with top-ranked faculty, we prepare our students for dynamic careers," DePauw says. "The transformative graduate education initiative is fundamental to the transmission of new knowledge, new research, new ideas, and new scholarship at Virginia Tech, which has profound effects on the community and the world."

Facilities at Virginia Tech's Graduate Life Center include

• Walls decorated with photos and art by graduate students

• Au Bon Pain, the Graduate Life Center's coffee shop

• A two-section graduate student lounge

• A high-tech computer lab with 24/7 accessibility (wireless network is also available throughout the first floor of the center)

• A study room with tables, chairs, a copy machine, and a courtesy phone for on-campus calls

• A reading room equipped with comfortable lounge chairs, tables and chairs, two Internet computer terminals, and a variety of reading materials. University Libraries also provides an on-site reference librarian for assistance, Monday through Friday from 1 to 3 p.m.

• A career, health, and wellness resource room

• An auditorium and multipurpose room*

• Graduate student organization offices for Black Graduate Student Organization, BOV graduate representative, Graduate Student Assembly, and Graduate Honor System

* The auditorium, multipurpose room, and meeting rooms can be reserved for academic, intellectual, and social interactions and programming.

Cultural and academic opportunities for graduate students have also increased significantly with the opening of the new center. Last year, DePauw and 10 doctoral students embarked on a journey to Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, to visit Virginia Tech's Center for European Studies and Architecture, and recently, the Graduate Scholars Society was launched to provide a stimulating learning and social environment for graduate students. In addition, a weekly speaker series was initiated to feature a different graduate student or faculty member each Friday, and a variety of educational seminars and workshops, career advising sessions, and yoga and other fitness programs are now offered at the center.

"Finally, there is a place to go to study and spend time," says Marcela Uribe, a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education. "When I was a master's student, there was really nowhere for me to go. Now I can come here and work, and if I get hungry or need a break, I can go to Au Bon Pain and grab a drink or a snack. Faculty also come here and meet with students--it's nice to have a space besides the department to go."

Some graduate students have the added convenience of living in the center. More than 100 students reside in the single- and double-occupancy refurbished housing facilities located on the top floors of the Graduate Life Center. The living space includes a centralized common area that features a fully furnished lounge, a kitchen complete with major appliances, laundry area, and mail rooms.

Janiece Blackman, a first-year history graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and a resident of the Graduate Life Center, says the center has made her transition into graduate school much easier. "Not only have I met people from different programs, different parts of the United States, and even different countries, but living with other graduate students is also conducive to my study habits."

It is this cultivation of community that exemplifies a new university-wide initiative--led by the Graduate School--to change the way students gain the knowledge and skills needed for meaningful and relevant contributions in the 21st century.

Jenna Lazenby (M.A. '04) is the former news bureau manager for University Relations.

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