A Newcomer’s View of OpenGrounds

OpenGrounds is an initiative across the University of Virginia looking to foster new, disruptive, creative, inter-disciplinary, bold, fun, intellectual, and engaging ideas. We occupy a studio on The Corner next to the Women’s Center. Thanks for coming to the blog to discover a little more of what we are all about.

As an English Major, I have spent my time here at UVA reading widely across a variety of voices. I decided early in my first semester at UVA that I wanted to study literature because there was one aspect of the field that has continually captured my attention and my earnestness. Through my studies, I have found that a transformation takes place within oneself when listening to another’s story. Over and over again, I have found myself strengthened by engaging the unique worldview of someone other than me, whether in terms of gender, era, ethnicity, religion, experience, or some other category that makes up a person’s identity. For a class this semester, I read from a book called “The Poetics of Reverie” by Gaston Bachelard. In it, he makes the pithy claim that “poetry is never as unified as when it is diversified.”

I have so far found his claim true within my own field of study; and it has been incredible to see the relevance of such a claim manifested in OpenGrounds. When the university recognizes the potential is has to synthesize new ideas out of the diverse work already ongoing, the unity within UVA strengthens.

I joined the OpenGrounds team toward the beginning of this Fall Semester, about two months ago now. I had heard of OpenGrounds previously, and knew of a few events that had been hosted here, but as I continue to spend more and more time with OpenGrounds, I become more aware of the many connections that it makes possible throughout UVA. By spending an afternoon every week at OpenGrounds, I have been privy to a much greater portion of the university’s intellectual life than I would have been otherwise. There is so much more happening at UVA beyond the department I call home.

In just the month of September, I have witnessed many events come through our Corner Studio. OpenGrounds showcased the collaborative projects of Art and Environmental Action Student Scholars. We hosted the UVA undergraduate iGEM team for a discussion of synthetic biology. Photographer John Shearer used the studio to share the history and relevance of his work, and Professor of Architecture Karen Van Lengen filled the space with a presentation of her multi-faceted project on how sound affects interior design. These were only a few of our larger events, featuring guests from outside the university.

Additionally, the opportunities to connect with other students and projects from within the university have benefitted me even more greatly. I have met students as they organized an open mic night for Global Health’s promotion of mental health in the university context. I have enjoyed chances to observe professors and Charlottesville professionals present flash seminars on their area of interest, and inform students how to get involved. Students from the Engineering and Architecture schools have come in to study the design of our studio and collaborate with each other on how to improve its utility and aesthetic. Both undergraduate and graduate students take advantage of our OpenHours to study, either independently or in groups. Consistently, there’s something happening in the Studio, and I get to be a part of it simply by showing up.

OpenGrounds is still evolving as an initiative for collaboration across disciplines at UVA. We want to encourage any new idea that takes advantage of UVA’s wide range of knowledge and talent. While we continue to unify our university through bringing together its diversity, I invite you to come be a part of our conversation.

And (free) coffee is in the back.