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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 famous female mathematician of ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. 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 integral to the formation of Hypatia after she went studied engineering at Tech and noticed this kind of support was lacking. She set up Black engineering support teams, then the Pre-College Initiative (PCI), and other programs before finally creating 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 this new LLC and receiving positive feedback about it from prospective students, Hypatia became the final product of her support programs. A living-learning community is one of the best ways to build a sense of community by forming academic, professional, and social groups that provide support to students. 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 running in Slusher Hall, occupying a small space with only around 40 young women. Shortly after results were collected, the LLC was showing significant changes in engineering retention rates for women. These Hypatians also had become more involved in the overarching Virginia Tech community compared to women who did not live in Hypatia.


Since Hypatia was fairly new in 2001, it needed to advertise its impact on the success of first-year college students. One method that was implemented was Women’s Preview Weekend. The Preview allowed incoming freshmen to live among minorities and women in the College of Engineering for a weekend in Hypatia's dorms. This meant many incoming freshmen had the opportunity to, among other factors, base their decision on whether to join Hypatia on their first-hand experience during the Preview Weekend!



2003 and 2004 introduced new enhancements to the growing Hypatia program along with new 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 to implement them promptly. The community soon realized how uniquely important Hypatia was; some women voiced the desire to continue living in Hoge to give back the support and care they experienced to future classes of Hypatians. A personalized mentorship program for Galipatia would come about later on. A group of women also planned nearly everything we see today with the seminars and committees.

Fun fact: the Office of Minority Engineering Programs (OMEP) changed its name to the Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED) in 2003!



2005 was a tumultuous time for Hypatia. Funding to continue programs such as the Black Engineering Support Teams (BEST), Academic Hispanic OutReach Alliance (AHORA), and Academic Summer Program Introducing Resources for Engineers (ASPIRE) along with Hypatia were jeopardized. 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 Hypatia. 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 former associate director of CEED.


The Supreme Court case with the University of Michigan criticized every slightly targeted program. The programs redefined their goals but they also received more funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant was required to incorporate a new program for general engineering, which became the General Undergraduate Engineering Student Team (GUEST). ASPIRE became open to all engineering students and was renamed the Student Transition Engineering Program (STEP). With this funding, Hypatia gained a brother: Galileo. This new 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, “ was generally a good thing. It raised the overall graduation rate of the college, the retention rate, and more.” The third-year program for Hypatia also began to be planned.



The years between the formation of Galileo and the inVenTs Community experienced involvement to help students outside of the LLC, but the LLC itself was still underrepresented and required help from CEED. The now well-known Council for the Advancement of Minority Engineering Organizations (CAMEO) Careerfest was created in 2006 to allow minorities a better chance at receiving internships and co-ops. Try to go to the Careerfest in the spring semester!


2005 to 2010 also ushered in a second-year program for Galileo. This addition was a promising sign for Galileo’s continuance and popularity with male engineering students. Other CEED programs like NASA INSPIRE (a K-12 summer camp) and RISE (a look into our College of Engineering in the spring) debuted.



The inVenTs community, detailed in the History of Galipatia Part II blog post, was created between 2010 and 2012, along with the studio and more Leadership Teams! To this day, the Galipatia Leadership Team, inVenTs Leadership Team, and Studio 1 & 2 contribute to much of Galipatia's success. Peer mentoring also became an integral part of Galipatia in 2010. Mentors could now live with their mentees, providing 24/7 in-person mentorship whenever needed!


Galipatia's engineers had begun getting lonely, so we invited 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 constantly that Galipatia was created for the students, by the students. This even applies to the coining of the term “Galipatia." Mrs. Susan Arnold-Christian explained, “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. Students also helped brainstorm the idea of a studio built into the dorms, an amenity that singled out Hoge Hall as one of the only dormitories to include a design lab right where its students live.


After the vast improvements to Galipatia and the inVenTs community, even more programs began springing up. Summer camps like C-Tech^2 (TechGirls), Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology (BLAST), and the JROTC STEM Leadership Academy all help more kids become acquainted with STEM and how special these areas of study are to 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. 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.

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