Graduate students gain new study space

University of Miami graduate students will finally have a place of their own to meet up on campus, due to the Graduate Student Association’s efforts to get a lounge in the University Center.

The lounge, located in room 213 of the UC’s I-lounge, opened Wednesday. The GSA invited all graduate students to check out the new space that day for a breakfast social.

The GSA hopes that the lounge will serve as a “home away from home” for UM’s 2,990 grad students, not including law or medicine students. Many graduate students spend long hours on campus.

“I’m always looking for a quiet spot on campus to sit and do homework before or in between classes,” RSMAS doctoral student Maria Cartolano said. “I’m sure the lounge is a nice place for grad students to meet up and work on group projects.”

Students hope that the lounge will bring the relatively segregated community, spread over nine schools and colleges, together in a way that had not been previously possible.

“I think the new center will act as a unifying factor among graduate students on campus,” graduate student Austin Swift said. “A shared common space will allow inter-departmental social relationships to form among various cohorts at the U.”

The lounge will have a coffee machine, UPrint printer, video data monitor, sofa and microwave, and active grad students will have access to the room with a swipe of their Cane Cards. In the past, the only lounging area designated for students was a small, half-sized classroom on the first floor of the Ungar building.

“Ungar 101 was assumed to be a quiet space,” GSA vice president Edwing Medina explained. “With this lounge, we are trying to change the culture. It’ll be mostly a work area, but it may also be a place to catch up on the news or have lunch.”

Funding for the lounge comes from the $42 activity fee every graduate student pays each semester. Many of the appliances being brought in for the lounge are items already donated to or purchased by the GSA in years past.

The lounge is just one of many steps in the GSA’s initiative to have a larger, more visible presence on campus.

“When you don’t live on campus, it’s very hard to be part of the community,” Medina said. “One of our primary purposes [in the GSA] is to shed some light on our students.”

The progress is moving slowly, but steadily. Graduate students were allocated a private study room on the second floor of Richter Library in the fall of 2012. In 2013, for the first time, graduate students were invited to participate in the university’s Homecoming events. A graduate school float even made its inaugural appearance in the parade.

“It’s very easy to be an invisible grad student on this campus,” Medina said. “We have to remind this university that there are [about 3,000] of us … and that just because you don’t always see us, does not mean we do not need services.”