New commons to replace Corbett Circle this November

A circular driveway around a green lawn on the graduate campus.
Leo Bernstein Newman / The Mossy Log

Heart of graduate campus’ new design includes places for students to socialize, study, relax outdoors

The Corbett Circle on the graduate campus is scheduled to be revamped into the Graduate Student Commons starting in November. 

Associate Vice President of Facilities Services David Ernevad and Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Counseling Scott Fletcher have worked with a team of collaborators to bring the plan to life. Ernevad primarily handles logistical details such as procurement, contracting and scheduling, whereas Fletcher focuses on planning and design.

“The new commons area will help unify the graduate campus and will be a welcoming gathering area for students, faculty, and staff.” Ernevad said via email. “It is designed around the flow of pedestrian traffic to the grad campus’ various buildings, as well as areas for community members to interact informally.”

The Grad Commons will consist of multiple outdoor gathering spaces and improved landscaping. The Kalapuya Commons located in the York Graduate Center already exists as an indoor space for students to study, socialize and eat at the Food for Thought cafe. An outdoor commons will allow students to have the option of convening in the fresh air. The new commons will also incorporate the surrounding buildings including York Graduate Center.

Some of the new features include concrete walkways, paved gathering areas, grass turf, meadow areas, benches, lighting, trees and storm drainage swales. The drainage swales, which will reduce runoff and act as a natural filtration surface for water, are part of an initiative to make LC more sustainable.

Although the project is expected to be complete in early November, according to organizers the full effect of the construction will be appreciated this spring and over the summer when the newly planted trees and shrubs will have had a chance to grow and bloom.

“Dean Fletcher has championed the installation of a new Grad Commons as a key development in the history and operation of Graduate School.” Ernevad said. “It is also rooted in the College’s Master Plan as the southernmost point of a ‘spine’ that unites the three schools. The commons will be the new “front door” to the grad campus and is designed to be a welcoming gathering place for students, faculty, and staff.”

The 2019 Campus Facilities Master Plan accessible on the LC website outlines the short and long-term visions for all intended updates and improvements to all three campuses. 

“The plan introduces a new signature plaza within the existing Corbett House courtyard to improve the sense of arrival to the Graduate School campus, while a new 80-space surface parking lot provides needed parking capacity,” the Master Plan states.

Three years after the completion of the Master Plan, this new parking lot has been completed and the Grad Commons (referred to as a “signature plaza”) is scheduled to be finished in November. This is part of a larger, ongoing effort to bring LC’s interconnected campuses into the future of liberal arts education.

Like the construction projects on the undergraduate campus, once the Grad Commons are completed, they will have a lasting effect on unifying and enhancing the community culture of the graduate school. However, in the short term, access to the Corbett Circle will be restricted and fenced in, though some noise from construction vehicles will be audible. 

“The commons reflects the Graduate School’s commitment to community, collaboration, and collegiality as key values.” Ernevad said. 

Despite minor inconveniences due to construction, Ernevad and Fletcher are adamant that this project will vastly improve the graduate school in many ways.

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