Think about the possibilities

by Amy Curtis

August 27, 2013

I graduated from UVA in May. During my fourth year I interned at OpenGrounds, the thin building on the corner with white board walls. I got pretty good at describing the studio to peers and potential employers. “It’s a place to connect, collaborate, innovate, and create, of course.” It might take skill to boil down complex ideas into a few words but it can be dangerous. Throw a word around too liberally and it starts to loose meaning. Take sustainability. People stamp the label on every new product, building, food system, and lifestyle choice without adequate definition. Even McDonalds can claim to be on “the road to sustainability” and get away with it.

In order to save OpenGrounds from being associated with McDonalds, I’d like to share a personal story of how the space connected me with an amazing mentor and helped create my interdisciplinary summer research project.

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The story begins last fall when I met April Ballard, the International Programs Coordinator for The Center for Global Health. She popped over to OpenGrounds and suggested I apply to be a Global Health Scholar. Since I failed to take a single course related to global health during my three years at school, I nodded along just to be kind. I did agree to attend a Global Health event at OpenGrounds the following week.

At the workshop, I met Dr. Catarina Krizancic, a brilliant cultural anthropologist who directs programs in the study abroad office. I explained to Dr. K my interest in revitalized communities, rust belt cities, and the gentrification happening in Washington, DC. By talking with her, I realized my interests all connected to community health. I applied for the Global Health grant that spring.

I recently returned from a rewarding, challenging and engaging summer in the Capital studying how gentrification affects residents’ perception of home and wellbeing. Without OpenGrounds, I would not have met Dr. Krizancic or found the nexus between my interests in architecture, sociology, and community health.

I share this story to encourage all students and faculty to spend some time in OpenGrounds this coming year.

It’s more than just a high-tech library even though it’s high tech and excellent for studying. The studio can be a great connector, the perfect meeting place for CIO’s or your alternative Starbucks.**

**Don’t abuse the free coffee

Last year OpenGrounds hosted concerts, videoconferences, visiting scholars, graduate student entrepreneurs, the CEO of Vonage, the Poet Laureate, and undergraduate classes.

I advise you (in all my postgraduate wisdom) to think about the possibilities. Do you want to start a documentary film club? Learn how to create Apps? Teach courses on design thinking? Curate an art show? Well you can.  OpenGrounds is fully equipped and waiting.

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