Virginia Tech’s award-winning Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown celebrates its 10th anniversary this month. 

“The Graduate Life Center is the only center of its kind in the nation,” said Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw. “Other graduate schools are looking at us as a model for what we are doing to enhance the education experience for our students and to create a welcoming, inclusive graduate community.”

The graduate center gathers administrative, academic, social, and residential functions under one roof, in a space that once housed the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center and Alumni Hall. It's a collaboration of the Graduate School, Housing and Residence Life, and Student Engagement and Campus Life.

Former hotel rooms and faculty apartments now serve as residences for graduate students. Conference rooms have become spaces students and departments can reserve free of charge.

The center is home as well to reading, computer and study rooms, a lounge, and student organization offices. The auditorium provides space for classes and organization activities, and the multipurpose room is used for dinners, receptions, orientations, and research symposia. Additionally, the Writing Center, Cook Counseling Center, statistical consultants, and Career Services all maintain a presence in the building.

“It’s a centralized location and the resources are there when you need them,” said Danya Hakky of Blacksburg, an architecture and design research doctoral student. “It’s very valuable because it is for graduate students, and on a campus that’s pretty big and geared toward undergraduates, it’s nice to have a place.”

Hakky regularly works at the center’s welcome desk. She also lived in the graduate center during her first year at Virginia Tech. “It was incredibly convenient,” she recalled. “It has a hotel feel. It’s not like a dorm at all.”

Brett Netto, of New Orleans, Louisiana, a politics, governance, and globalization doctoral student, called it his home away from home. “There’s a sense of community. It’s nice having something geared toward graduate students.”

Netto also works shifts at the welcome center desk and said he regularly fields room reservation requests and questions about the computer lab.

“Another thing we offer that’s fairly popular is bike rental,” he added. “There are at least four bikes and they are in use a lot.”

Monika Gibson, the Graduate School's director of student services,  said a variety of activities are planned this week to celebrate the center.

Throughout the week, students can participate in a photo scavenger hunt competition. Staff are posting a different clue each day on the Graduate School’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Students can solve the clues and shoot photos of or with the object or person associated with them, and then post those photos to social media with the hashtag, #GLC10. All students who post photos of the correct answers will be entered in a drawing for a prize.

Gibson also wants students, alumni, faculty, and staff to “leave their mark” on the graduate life center as part of a community art project. A large white canvas with the legend GLC10 is in the lobby near a palette of tempura paints in primary colors. Students, staff, alumni, and the public are invited to use the paint to leave a mark. Gibson said when the artwork is finished, it will hang in the center.

On Thursday, October 22, from 3:30-5 p.m. graduate students are invited to gather in the multipurpose room for the weekly graduate life center social event. Staff will hand out anniversary mugs while the supply lasts, and will serve complimentary cookies, coffee, and tea.

On Friday, October 23, the center will host a reception from 3:30-5 p.m. in the multipurpose room. The event is open to the public, though RSVP is requested via email. The community art project and historical photos will be on display. Birthday cake and refreshments will be served.

More information can be found on the anniversary webpage.



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