During the renovation of the Hall of Graduate Studies, the current location of the McDougal Center will be temporarily closed down. While the center will continue operating elsewhere, it is unclear whether it will return to its original location once the renovations are completed.
The center, which promotes student life and professional development for graduate students at Yale, offers meeting and music practice rooms, a common space for quiet studying, a printing station and resources for graduate student families. Moreover, it is centrally located in HGS.
Students interviewed said they feel that the center is functional as it is, and that it serves an important social role by bringing together students from across the University.
“It should be kept as it is. I think it’s lovely, beautiful and antique,” Hasan Alsulami GRD ’15 said. “I don’t think they should renovate it or add something to it.”
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Director of the McDougal Center Lisa Brandes said the center will continue to carry out its functions during the renovations, albeit in a different location. She added that she is currently working with Provost Benjamin Polak to find a new space. Whether the center will return to the same space after the renovation is unclear.
The renovation project — which will likely transform HGS into a central space for the humanities at Yale — will take several years to complete and will involve student input, Brandes said.
McDougal Graduate Student Life, the group of students and staff who organize and provide the services of the center, hosts more than 140 events every year, many of which take place in the McDougal main common space and adjoining meeting rooms in HGS. In the 2012–13 year, events held by the McDougal Center drew 8,500 graduate and professional student participants, Brandes said.
Plans for the current McDougal Center began in 1996 and were led by psychology professor and current University President Peter Salovey. The HGS common room and basement spaces were converted into what now constitute the McDougal Center. The decorative interior of the common space was also restored to its original 1932 appearance.
A monthly event called “First Friday at Five” offers free food and drinks for 4,000 graduate students every year. Students interviewed said the event was the most widely attended and popular one sponsored by the McDougal Center.
First Friday at Five is also an easy way to meet other graduate students, said Alice Eccles GRD ’15, who has attended the event in the past. But several graduate students also said that social events are only one part of the important functions of the common space.
“[The McDougal Center] is quite nice because it is an area where you can work but also chat,” Eccles said. Graduate students are often isolated from one another because of the nature of their work, and the McDougal Center helps them interact with each other, said Alsulami.
The McDougal Center also houses the Blue Dog Cafe, which sells coffee, drinks and pastries to over 100 students every day. The Blue Dog Cafe is convenient because prices are lower than at other New Haven coffee shops, Eccles said.
Students also said they are satisfied with McDougal Center’s current appearance, describing the space as both functional and attractive.
“It would be a shame to get rid of any of the wood paneling,” Nikita Bernardi GRD ’16 said.
However, she added that the space does need some improvements — the floor needs repairing, for instance, and many of the electrical outlets in the wall do not work.
Bernardi also said the space has an “old-world feeling,” something she said she hopes will be preserved during the renovations.
The McDougal Center was dedicated in 1997 after a monetary gift from Alfred McDougal ’53.