University News

Rock to gain grad student study space

Project funded by donation from Sorensen family, expected to be completed by fall 2016

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 5, 2015

A new study center in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library will provide graduate students with a communal space to meet and work.

Next spring, the Rockefeller Library will undergo a renovation to add a graduate student study center, said University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi. The addition marks a change from the past 10 years, during which the libraries have undergone nearly a dozen renovations focused exclusively on undergraduate education, Hemmasi said.

The center will be located on the second floor of the Rock where the computer cluster is currently situated. While the project is still in its planning phase, graduate students should expect to find a “comfortable and functional space” with a lounge area, individual work stations, a small seminar room with audio and video equipment, small rooms to meet with undergraduates and a kitchen, Hemmasi said.

The renovation comes in response to graduate students’ lack of a dedicated space on campus to meet and work, said Joel Simundich GS, president of the Graduate Student Council. Among peer institutions, only Dartmouth does not have a dedicated center for graduate students, he said.

Currently, the only communal space for graduate students is a lounge in Graduate Center, which functions as a “catch-all” space that is badly overstretched, Simundich said. “There’s a lot of silo-ing in departments,” he said, referring to the fact that many graduate students do not get to know their peers in other departments.

Both Simundich and Hemmasi said graduate students are an integral part of the teaching experience at Brown, acting as teaching assistants in nearly every department, and that they need their own space. “The University is trying to think about how to be more inclusive toward the graduate student population, which has always been a big part of the Brown community,” Simundich said. 

Before the funds became available, Hemmasi wrote a proposal for this project in response to her perceived need for such a space on campus. Once a donation was made, the project began to take shape, she said. An architect has been hired, and three graduate students have been appointed to a committee to offer their input on how the space should look, she added.

The renovation is made possible by a direct gift from the Sorensen family in honor of Joan Wernig Sorensen’s ’72 P’06 P’06 father, Vincent Wernig P’71 P’72 P’79 P’82 GP’06 GP’06, who previously served as assistant to the chairman emeritus and executive officer emeritus in the Department of Chemistry. Joan Sorensen and her husband Paul Sorensen P’06 P’06 have already given a donation to modernize the central reading room on the first floor of the Rock, which was named the Sorensen Family Reading Room in their honor.

Wernig worked extensively with graduate students during his time at Brown, so he was “delighted” to learn of the gift made on his behalf, Hemmasi said.

The project is expected to begin after Commencement this spring and be completed around the middle of the fall 2016 semester, she added.


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