For GW students living at the Mount Vernon Campus, affectionately dubbed “the Vern” by its residents, the urban life of Foggy Bottom may seem a world away. But many MVC residents said they have found many opportunities to work and play on both campuses.
The 2001-02 school year will be MVC’s first year as a coeducational campus in more than 150 years. Pelham and Somers residence halls will take men and women. The other three – Merriweather, Clark and Hensley halls – will remain all women and will house the Elizabeth J. Somers Women’s Leadership programs in science, politics, international leadership and the arts, said Mount Vernon Executive Dean Grae Baxter.
The three “halls on the hillside” that host the programs will accommodate women who want to live in a single-sex environment, she said. Of the more than 200 freshmen living at Mount Vernon, about 50 will be males, Baxter said.
The Women’s Leadership Programs are one of the reasons why many women choose MVC over Foggy Bottom, but some students said they chose it for their own personal reasons.
“I decided to live at the Vern for a couple of reasons,” sophomore Amie Edminston said. “First of all I liked the idea there were smaller classes, which would give me the ability to get to know my professors better. Also, it seemed like a unique experience, and boy was I right.”
Others cited Mount Vernon’s environment away from the city as a draw to the campus.
“I thought the Vern would be a nice stepping stone towards living in the city for a little ol’ country girl like me,” sophomore Katie Baron said. “I wouldn’t be living among office buildings, and there would be at least a little grass on the campus.”
But for some, it was their parents’ choice, not theirs.
“My parents decided it would be best since I am easily distracted,” sophomore Lori Kopperman said.
MVC is located three miles from the Foggy Bottom campus, but it can seem like much more when students are late for class because of the wait for the shuttle to Foggy Bottom. Many students learn to live by the shuttle clock instead of their own watches.
“I learned about time management,” said sophomore Maralyn Tocco, who lived at MVC her last year. “So much time was wasted going between the two campuses.”
The shuttle runs daily but more frequently on the weekdays than the weekends. It runs about every 20 minutes from 7 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. on weekdays and until 3 a.m. on weekends.
“With more and more students not only from MVC but from Foggy Bottom taking classes at Mount Vernon, there will be a need to enhance the shuttle service,” Baxter said. “We will be able to meet the need through having more buses or bigger buses.”
If a student misses the last shuttle or needs to get to the main campus at a time when the shuttle doesn’t run, University Police will give the student a cab voucher to get a ride home.
Tocco is a member of the GW dance team, the Sensations, and had to be at the Smith Center three days a week all year long at 7 a.m. Since the shuttle didn’t begin running until 7 a.m., she received cab vouchers to get to practice, she said.
Waiting for the shuttle and being separated from the action of Foggy Bottom can seem hard to take at first, but getting involved and meeting different people is what will help MVC residents, former MVC students said.
“The worst part (of MVC) was the way I felt at the beginning,” said sophomore Megan West. “I felt not only isolated, but like a sort of half-student who rode a bus to get to class and then had to walk up a hill through mud and piles of red dirt to go `home.'”
West said she found her place at GW after trying to find her niche.
“I had to work to find what would make me happy,” she said. “Getting involved at GW seemed much harder when it required a trip downtown. Though it sounds corny, I learned patience, determination.”
Baxter also encouraged Mount Vernon students to put effort into getting involved.
“I recommend after you are squared away with your classes and roommate that you look for ways to participate,” Baxter said. “At MVC there are many opportunities such as the campus paper, The Voice (formerly Martha’s Voice) or through programming council.”
Many Foggy Bottom residents are friends with MVC residents and welcome them to come downtown any time.
“The best advice I can give to MVC students is that they need to explore all of D.C. to get the GW experience,” sophomore James Brooks said. Brooks, not a resident of MVC, took four of his freshman classes there and spent many hours in Ames Dining Hall. “The best way to experience both campuses is to have friends from both, so one doesn’t feel segregated from the other.”
Former MVC students also warn not to get discouraged by the stereotyping from others.
“Don’t let the stigma of living at Mount Vernon get to you,” sophomore Jasmin Paulson said. Paulson was in the Women in Science and Technology program her freshman year. “You’ll probably have a better time than most of the Foggy Bottom people anyway. You’ll make better friends, you’ll do better in school, and with all the changes that are happening on campus, it won’t be that much different from Foggy.”
“I learned to brace myself for the inevitable: `You live at Mount Vernon? Oh . how is that?’ which seemed to begin every conversation with a new girl,” West said.
While it might be hard to meet as many people as students in Thurston Hall, many students said the close friendships they formed at Mount Vernon are ones that last.
“The best part was all the wonderful friends I made,” Paulson said. “Everyone was very close and I know I’ll keep in touch with the friends I lived with.”
Next year MVC will have additional attractions, Baxter said.
Baxter said she believes that with a new pub opening in the fall, an athletic center and new athletic fields, MVC will have the “best of both worlds.”
“Try your hardest to make friends on Mt. Vernon and on Foggy Bottom,” Baron said. “It’s easy to make friends with people on your campus, but when you want to get off the campus, it’s convenient to have friends down there too to hang out with.”
Most former MVC students said to survive at the Vern, students must get involved at Foggy Bottom because of the number of opportunities.
“Attend activities on both campuses, take classes on both campuses, go clubbing. Learn to appreciate the better aspects of each campus and you’ll have a great time,” Paulson said.