University News

Grad student reading room officially opens

Reading room offers exclusive space, affirms U. support for grad education, experience

Contributing Writer
Monday, October 31, 2016

Students, staff members and administrators attended a ceremony at the Rockefeller Library that officially dedicated and opened its new Vincent J. Wernig Graduate Student Reading Room Saturday.

The room, which overlooks downtown Providence and includes a large seminar room and kitchen, gives graduate students the opportunity to collaborate and study with fellow grad students. The Graduate Student Reading Room’s creation is one step the University has taken to provide more exclusive communal space for graduate students, as undergraduates do not have swipe access to the space.

Over 70 percent of grad students use library resources, said University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi. Because students in the humanities and social sciences are extremely “book dependent,” grad students in those programs especially rely on the Rock for resources and space, she added.

By creating a reading room catered to the needs of grad students, Hemmasi hopes the University can rectify the longstanding issue of a lack of grad student-exclusive library space on campus, she said.

Adrien Stoloff GS, vice president of social events in the Graduate Student Council, said the room marks an “important step” in creating a space for grad students to feel like “valued members of Brown’s intellectual community.”

“Sometimes you want to be in a space where the students you are TA-ing aren’t there,” he said, adding that the University has been responsive to grad students’ requests for more spaces on campus.

The space has granted grad students more opportunities to interact and work with each other. Bryan Leyva MD’18 echoed Stoloff’s sentiment. He said he “seldom (had) the chance to meet other grad students,” but the reading room fosters a sense of community among grad students.

Still, the reading room has not fixed all the problems some grad students have faced in finding spaces to work on campus. Peter McGrath GS, a grad student in the math department, said not all students in his program have offices within the math department building itself and have to, instead, work in the Sciences Library away from their colleagues. Though space allocation varies by program, the University “can definitely allocate more space” for programs like his, he said.

President Christina Paxson P’19 spoke at the ceremony about the role of graduate education at Brown and Brown’s image as a university-college. Paxson argued that while the concept of a “university-college” has been used as a critique of policy changes made at Brown, she has come to embrace the term because she believes it is a reflection of Brown’s most fundamental values.

Brown has “deeply integrated” the values of a university, such as  “advancing knowledge and discovery” with the values of a college by “creating an intimate community of scholars,” Paxson said. She said the reading room is an important affirmation of the University’s support for the distinctive role graduate education and graduate students play at Brown.

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