University invests in grad life

GW is working to create an Office of Grad Life to serve graduate students’ non-academic needs.

The office, which is in its initial stages, will sponsor social events to create a cohesive environment for graduate students. A Web site, which was launched earlier this semester, also addresses graduate students’ questions about various aspects of campus life.

Students can access the site at gradlife.gwu.edu.

“(This is a) one-stop-shop approach to student services in terms of utilizing a single Web site to answer and access their various needs,” said Michael Walker, associate dean of students, who runs the office.

Walker said it is too early to tell how much the initiative will cost.

So far, the office includes a listserv for graduate students and a Graduate Life Programming Committee, which works to plan events and hosts monthly meetings with graduate leaders.

The office, which exists in a sub-division of the Dean of Students Office, houses fewer than 10 staff members, but Walker said he plans to hire at least two more staff members next semester.

The office will also eventually provide a housing resources page to assist graduate students in finding apartments in D.C.

Campus housing is currently focused on undergraduates because of “our obligations under the campus plan and the mandates of the city,” said Linda Donnels, assistant vice president and dean of students. A city order mandates that the University house 70 percent of its students, including all freshmen and sophomores, on campus or outside Foggy Bottom by fall 2006.

“We look forward to the day when we can offer graduate student housing on campus,” Donnels said.

For now, law, medical and graduate students can request housing in the Columbia Plaza apartment complex.

“Although pace is limited, we have been able to house many law students and several other graduate students through this program,” Walker said, adding that interested students can contact 202-994-CLLC.

Some graduate students said they are concerned with housing.

Apooru Chaturvedi, a business student, said he would prefer to live closer to campus and would benefit from a housing resources service.

Walker said the office would eventually like to start meeting with students in various academic departments to in focus groups “to learn more about their distinct needs and issues.”

In a November 2003 survey administered to graduate students by the Dean of Students Office, Walker said students said they were concerned that “there’s no individual resource where they can go to get information about the myriad services at GW.”

Vik Bakhru, vice president for graduate policy for the Student Association, co-founded the office with Walker because “Program Board and the Student Association only cater to the undergrad population.”

“I loved undergrad at GW, and then when I came to the grad side, I didn’t experience the same outreach,” said the second year medical student.

Bakhru said because graduate students’ schedules are very different from undergraduates,’ with many of them working during the day and taking classes at night, it was necessary to create “simple things like study space in the Marvin Center and movie nights” geared toward their lifestyles.

A variety of programs, such as “UJazz It Up!”-a monthly Jazz series for graduate and professional students in the University Club-have already been successful. Grad Life week, held from March 8 to 12, featured movies, bowling and career workshops. Between 50 to 60 students attended events.

Many graduate student, said they would benefit from more opportunities to mingle with others in their programs.

“I’m a part-time student, and it’s hard to get together with other part-time students,” said Richard Ingham, who is working toward his Master’s of Business Administration.

He said there is not much support in the MBA program for social opportunities among part-time students and he would like to attend events that bring grad students together.

Graduate students can e-mail gradlife@gwu.edu with questions or ideas they have about graduate life.

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