Lehigh University
Lehigh University


New Graduate Student Center opens

Kathleen Hutnik, director of Graduate Student Life at Lehigh (first row, blue shirt) is thrilled that grad students now have a central gathering space.

The new Graduate Student Center, located in Packer House on West Packer Avenue, offers Lehigh's graduate students their own residential and office space, plus a common gathering area, close to Lehigh's laboratories and the South Side community.

The renovated facility—formerly the home of the Delta Sig fraternity—was converted into the university’s first student center for graduate students after a number of graduate students expressed a need for a central office/residence and gathering space.

In addition to offices and common areas, the center also houses 13 graduate students.

Work to convert the structure into combined living and work space began last spring, and continued through the summer, according to Kathleen Hutnik, director of Graduate Student Life at Lehigh. Hutnik and others worked with various offices on campus to furnish and stock the new center with all the amenities Lehigh students have come to expect in their residence spaces, including security features.

The campus community’s combined efforts were unveiled in August, when several graduate students moved in, and the administrative offices were relocated from their previous space in Christmas-Saucon. An official christening ceremony was held in early September.

“I am delighted to have this space for graduate students—the ones who are living here and the ones who just stop by,” said Hutnik. “We have a beautiful porch and living room that invite conversation and camaraderie and students are using the space both during the day and in the evening. We are going through tea like you wouldn't believe!”

The graduate students who occupy the new Graduate Student Center are a diverse group, Hutnik says.

“We have half men, half women, and ethnically diverse domestic and international students,” she says. “Some are Lehigh 5th years, some are doctoral students in their last stages of work, and some are brand new.”

High on the residents’ list of advantages of the center is its proximity to classes and labs, grocery stores and other South Side businesses and services.

“It is convenient to be close to the Library, labs, and classrooms because I prefer to walk rather than to drive to the campus,” says Issa Hakim, a grad student in engineering who lives in the Grad Student Center. “It’s also sometimes nice to have friendly conversations with other graduate students.”

Adds Hutnik: “The international students, especially, are appreciating the company of others during meal times or during the informal events we hold at the center, like our regular ‘Tuesdays at 10’ coffee hour.”

Hutnik says that other offices across campus are already expressing interest in using the new Grad Center for programming that will continue to enrich the graduate student experience at Lehigh.

“We will be holding regular graduate LGBTQA meetings, wellness programs from the Counseling Center, and also a support group for international students,” she says. “In addition, Career Services is using the center for workshops for grad students, the Community Fellows are planning to use the center for study sessions, and the Graduate Student Senate uses it for executive board meetings.”

Story by Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Friday, September 04, 2009

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