For the first time in nearly 50 years, the University has opened a new graduate student residence hall, the Munger Graduate Residences on Central Campus. And while everything from its first-floor media room to its rooftop garden is state of the art, the residence is more than a building.
The living-learning environment will provide graduate students in 70 different programs from 36 different countries the opportunity to collaborate. “It’s not just a building, it’s a program,” says Amir Baghdadchi, assistant director of communications in University Housing. “It’s all about transdisciplinary living.”
Charles T. Munger, x’43, HLLD’10, provided the vision for the community in 2013 when he gave $110 million to fund the construction of the hall. Munger, vice chair of the investment company Berkshire Hathaway, included $10 million in the gift to fund fellowships.
Five Coleman-Munger Planning Fellows helped design the community, and seven senior fellows (one for each residential floor) will live there along with 19 junior fellows (one from each school or college). The balance of 72 percent of U.S. students and 28 percent of international students matches the overall U-M graduate student body.
Students, both current and incoming, had to apply to live in the hall. And as part of the application process, they wrote an essay explaining their commitment to working across disciplines. Those who live together will collaborate on goal-oriented projects to address real-world issues, such as the environment, poverty, and social justice. They will conclude projects by showcasing solutions through presentations, such as TED-style talks or case competitions. Upon project completion and graduation, the University will map where the Munger residents go and trace how they make a difference in the world.
The design of the building reflects the commitment to diversity of ideas. Each of the 96 apartments includes six or seven bedroom suites as well as a 1,000-square-foot living-dining space that allows interaction with others. Each apartment will house students from at least four different disciplines.
“If you need to immerse yourself in study, then . . . you can close that door,” says Baghdadchi. “But, because this space has so much light, it’s so open, it’s going to also pull people in to have conversations, to live, to meet the other people.”
On Aug. 1, students will begin moving into the $155 million building, situated between Division and Thompson streets at Madison Street and neighboring West Quad and South Quad. The eight-story building, the first U-M residence hall to be on track to be Gold LEED certified, will house 630 single graduate students on its first seven floors.
The eighth-floor community center, with glorious views of campus and Ann Arbor landmarks, includes a fitness room and study spaces as well as large areas to congregate. Baghdadchi said the center was purposely placed at the top rather than the first floor.
“In other buildings, you might see the community center lower down, but the idea was that people gravitate toward where there is the most light. So it makes sense to have the heart of the community here.”