the history of galipatia
The name Galipatia didn’t come to fruition until years after the very first engineering living-learning community (LLC) was created at Virginia Tech. The community was named Hypatia, after the first well-known female mathematician. Hypatia was involved in the works of Ptolemy, Theon of Alexandria, and other notable male mathematicians and astronomers. Some of her most significant inventions were hydrometers and the astrolabe .
Dr. Watford was the critical factor in setting up Hypatia after she went through the engineering school at Tech and realized that this kind of support would’ve been beneficial. She started off with Black engineering support teams, then the Pre-College Initiative (PCI), and other programs before finally coming up with Hypatia. The essential question she asked herself was “What would have made my life easier here as a student?” After testing out the idea of another LLC and receiving positive feedback about it from prospective students, Hypatia became the final product of her support programs. A living-learning community continues to stand as one of the best ways to build a sense of community, academic support groups, and social groups. Some specific statistics about the benefit of Hypatia to standard living, along with a testimonial of the community’s effectiveness in supporting women engineers can be found at our History of Galipatia Blog Post.
In 2001, the planning was complete, and the journey began. Hypatia was finally up and running in Slusher Hall. Taking up only a small space with around 40 young women way before nearly filling up all of Lee Hall today. It was Hypatia in the midst of so many other students. Hypatia against the world, you could say. Shortly after that results were collected, and Hypatia was showing noticeable signs for engineering retention rates for women. These Hypatians also became more active in the Virginia Tech community compared to women who did not live in Hypatia.
Since Hypatia was fairly new around 2001, there needed to be some way to advertise its impact on the success of incoming first-year college students. One way that was implemented was the Women’s Preview Weekend. The Preview gave incoming freshmen a chance to live the life of minorities and women in the College of Engineering, particularly Hypatians. This lead to many incoming freshmen having the opportunity to base their decision on whether or not to try Hypatia on their experience during Preview Weekend, among other factors! Talk about testing the waters before jumping in!
Both 2003 and 2004 introduced new enhancements to the growing Hypatia program along with various amounts of funding. Grants for underrepresented students, like the STEP and NSF Grants, left the program with the opportunity to explore and test many ideas early on. The grants allowed Hypatia not only to receive feedback from students but also implement them promptly. The community soon realized how unique Hypatia was, and some women wanted to continue to live in Lee to pay it forward or give back to the community. The idea to continue involvement with Hypatia for a second year led to a puzzled response from Dr. Watford which you can read about in the History of Galipatia's Part I and Part II blog posts. A group of women soon drew up plans for nearly everything we see today with the seminars and committees. A personalized mentorship program with Galipatia would come later on.
Fun Fact: The Office of Minority Engineering Programs (OMEP) changed its name to the Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED) in 2003!
The year of 2005 erupted into a tumultuous time for Hypatia. Funding to continue programs like Black Engineering Support Teams (BEST), Academic Hispanic OutReach Alliance (AHORA), and the Academic Summer Program Introducing Resources for Engineers (ASPIRE) along with Hypatia came under jeopardy. To add to the urgent situation, the early 2000s political climate related to Title IX (which originated from trying to give girls equal opportunities in sports) finally caught up with the living-learning community for girls. People started asking questions which led to “a push-back that all students have to have equal access [to resources],” as stated by Mrs. Susan Arnold-Christian, the current associate director of CEED.
The Supreme Court case with the University of Michigan criticized every slightly targeted program. The programs redefined their goals, but in lieu of the situation, they also received more funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant had to also incorporate a new program for general engineering. The program that was created became named the General Undergraduate Engineering Student Team (GUEST). The program ASPIRE became open to all engineering students and changed its name to Student Transition Engineering Program (STEP). With the funding, Hypatia also gained another investment in its future and a brother. The third-year program for Hypatia was underway, and Galileo was born. The Galileo program for men soon showed the same results as Hypatia, as touched on briefly in our blog posts. Dr. Watford herself stated after following the research, “...it was generally a good thing. It raised the overall graduation rate of the college, the retention rate, and more.”
The years between the formation of Galileo and the inVenTs Community had a lot of things going on to help students outside of the LLC, but still underrepresented and in need of help from CEED. The well-known Council for the Advancement of Minority Engineering Organizations (CAMEO) Careerfest formed in 2006 to give minorities a better chance at receiving internships and co-ops. Try to go to the Careerfest in the Spring semester!
This time between 2005 and 2010 also ushered in a second-year program for Galileo. The program was a good sign for Galileo’s continuance and popularity with men. That’s not the end to the addition of things CEED was busy getting to the students. In fact, there was a lot more that was developed that indirectly impacted Galipatia, also! Programs like NASA INSPIRE, a K-12 summer camp, and RISE, a look into our College of Engineering in the Spring, came to stage.
The inVenTs community, described in detail in the History of Galipatia Part II blog post, along with the studio and more Leadership Teams, was born between 2010 and 2012! The Galipatia Leadership Team, inVenTs Leadership Team, and Studio 1 & 2 really make Galipatia all that it is to this day. Peer mentoring also became an integral part of Galipatia in 2010. The mentors could now live with their mentees, essentially providing 24/7 in-person mentorship whenever it was needed!
The community of engineers started getting quite lonely, though, so we decided to invite the Biological & Life Sciences community to live with us. As a matter of fact, with their help, we received more funding to create Studio 1 & 2 as you see them today. We hear a lot that Galipatia was created for the students, by the students. However, did you know that the term “Galipatia” wasn’t named by the people in charge of Galipatia, but by the students? As Mrs. Susan Arnold-Christian says so herself, “In one of the very first Galipatia Leadership Team meetings,” a student was tired of saying “Galileo and Hypatia” and uttered the famed word Galipatia. It stuck instantly. If that isn’t enough to convince you that students indeed created what you see today, think about the studio. Students helped think up the idea of having a studio with the students. The studio became made Lee Hall one of the only dormitories to include a design lab exactly where the students live.
After the vast improvements to Galipatia and the inVenTs community in general, everything else started to settle in. Summer camps like C-Tech^2 (TechGirls), Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology (BLAST), and the JROTC STEM Leadership Academy all popped up to help more kids become acquainted with STEM and how it has made an impact here at Tech.
Whichever year you’re reading this as a freshman or incoming freshman, whether that be 2019 or 2025, you’re now the future (or soon to be) of Galipatia. It’s a significant weight to carry, but it’s fulfilling in all aspects. The mentors, committees, and leadership teams are all beside you with good intentions, though. As Galipatia will continue to grow, the sense of community will remain a defining characteristic within the living-learning community. So, with every successive year, we usher in a new wave of diversified engineers ready to lead within their respective fields.