For five years, the Graduate School has brought students from different backgrounds and departments together through the McDougal Graduate Student Center.

The graduate school community celebrated the McDougal Center’s fifth anniversary Friday with toasts, a presentation about the McDougal Center, and remarks from Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield.

The McDougal Center, located in the Hall of Graduate Studies, is divided into three areas — Student Affairs, the Graduate Teaching Center and Graduate Career Services.

“It has had a transformative effect on graduate education and the graduate experience,” Hockfield said. “Our students are leaving now having had a much better graduate experience and much better prepared for their future.”

Fred McDougal ’53, for whom the center is named, provided financial support for the center’s opening five years ago.

“He wanted graduate students to have the same rich experience he had had as an undergraduate in the residential colleges,” said Lisa Brandes, director of graduate student affairs.

Brandes said the McDougal Center’s configuration is unique because it provides services for students from the time they enter graduate school to the time after they graduate.

Director of the Graduate Teaching Center William Rando said the proximity of Student Affairs and Graduate Career Services allows the Graduate Teaching Center more opportunities for collaboration.

“It creates an integration so that getting adjusted to graduate school, getting used to teaching, getting better at teaching and eventually going on the market become a part of the graduate experience,” Rando said.

Director of Graduate Career Services Mary Johnson said it is great to have career services located in the graduate school.

“There is a mix of services that are particularly geared for the academic job market,” Johnson said.

Brandes said 12 graduate students, known as McDougal Fellows, run the Center with help from the three primary directors. The McDougal Fellows apply in the spring and undergo training in the summer and begin to help with the McDougal Center’s programs in the fall.

“I like to think of them as the programming engine,” Brandes said.

When the McDougal Center started, there were four McDougal Fellows who helped with all of the Center’s programming. But now, the 12 fellows specialize in areas like career development, community service and arts and culture, Brandes said.

Johnson said departments are the home bases for many graduate students, but the McDougal Center serves as a larger home that cuts across departments to bring graduate students together.

McDougal Fellow Michael Seringhaus GRD ’07 said the center is a “one-stop shop” for academic services as well as a social community for students in all disciplines.

“I think a lot of scientists tend to get isolated up on the hill,” Seringhaus said. “I want to make it easier for scientists to come down here.”

Jeffrey Mankoff GRD ’06 said the McDougal Center helps graduate students and students from the professional schools feel that they are part of a larger community.

“I feel like graduate school can be very isolating,” Mankoff said. “You tend to only socialize with people in your department.”