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MSDS Students on the range are making the most of their living, learning community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five MSDS students live on the Range this year - Bev Dobrenz, Michael Pajewski, Joseph Wysocki on the West Range and Prab Singh and Ben Cosgro on the East Range. The Range is part of the historical academic village at UVA, reserved for graduate students. It is considered an honor to live on the Range and students have to go through an application process to be accepted.
Joseph Wysocki is from Michigan and attended Oakland University outside of Detroit for his undergraduate education. There, he majored in Finance and minored in Business Analytics. For the next two years after graduation, Wysocki worked as a financial analyst.
“After two years my job was shifting more towards qualitative stuff, but I wanted to get more into the quantitative side,” Wysocki said. “That’s when I decided to go back to school, and I was really excited that UVA had its own school of data science.”
Michael Pajewski is a Charlottesville native but attended Clemson University, where he studied Industrial Engineering. After graduating, he worked at BMW as an Industrial Engineer, and he grew more interested in analytics. Pajewski then took a job at the Center for Diabetes Technology at the University of Virginia before applying for the MSDS program.
Bev Dobrenz graduated from UVA in 2015 with a degree in Systems Engineering. Since then, she has been working at the State Department. Dobrenz is still working at the State Department, but she is taking this year to get her MSDS to be able to apply those skills at her job.
“I've already learned a lot in this program that is applicable to my work,” Dobrenz said. “I'm really excited to return to the office after graduation and apply all of my new skills!"
Wysocki noted that the first time he had ever been to Charlottesville was when he moved into his Range room.
“I looked at the housing options and figures. I wanted something that was University Housing in case school got shut down, because I thought it would be a better financial move,” Wysocki said. “I thought the Range price looked pretty cool. I decided to apply and then it's been a hit. I've loved it.”
Pajewski explained that growing up in Charlottesville, he always knew about the Lawn/Range.
“As I was going into my graduate program and I wanted the whole experience being part of the university community,” Pajewski said. “I thought it would be really good to be able to connect with people, both in my program and also outside of my program.”
For Dobrenz, her time as an undergraduate student walking by the Lawn and Range inspired her to apply for the Range. She also added that her older sister lived on the Range, and she now lives in the same room as her.
“I mean she was so excited when I got the room - my whole family was all really excited,” Dobrenz said.
Wysocki, Pajewski, and Dobrenz walk together from their West Range rooms to Elliewood Avenue, where the School of Data Science has work space. They go there to log onto class on Zoom, study, collaborate, and maintain separation from their school work space and living space on the Range.
“Joseph is always outside, doors open, or in the rocking chair,” Pajewski said, of the Range social dynamics. “Whenever I need to go walk or just get out of a class or just have a meeting, or something like that, I walk outside and peek out, look left and right, and if I see someone, go talk for a minute.”
Wycoki added that students on the Range often get together outside for a socially distant, de-stressing break.
“We had a de-stress frisbee session,” Wysocki said. “I had a rough day of class and just went outside and threw the frisbee for an hour.”
When these students moved into their Range Rooms, they learned that this living community is described as a “meeting of the minds.”
Wysocki added that this is a very accurate description of what it is like to live on the Range.
“A lot of my neighbors are in Batten and my direct neighbor had a project that involved scraping a bunch of information from the internet and he was like ‘hey it's taking me forever. Is there something that you could help out with?’ It was great practice, because I'm doing the same in class right now so I collaborated on a project, which is the whole purpose of the range and also very good practice for me and really good to know other people in the program.”
On the East Range, Ben Cosgro and Prab Singh represent the School of Data Science.
Cosgro graduated from UVA in 2017 with a double major in Economics and Middle Easter Studies. After working as a project manager for a property management company in San Diego for two years, he decided to come back to Charlottesville for his MSDS.
Singh also graduated from UVA in 2019 and worked as a Management and Program Support Intern at GTMRX Institute.
Amidst COVID-19, there have not been the usual large social events on the Range, but smaller, socially distant events have been possible.
“We try to have small social events,” Pajewski said. “We had pumpkin carving. On election night, I had my neighbor Austin over and we had pizza. A lot of that happens, smaller events with three to five people.”
As the weather is getting colder, these MSDS students are enjoying their fireplaces.
“It’s nice as it’s getting colder too, because firewood was delivered,” Dobrenz said. “I had a fire in my fireplace the other night and had a couple of neighbors over.”
Wysocki lives right by Edgar Allan Poe’s Range room and noted that he and his block had a “Poe-tober Fest” with beer and pretzels.
“It was a fun, small little gathering,” he said.
He also described what it is like when he takes a moment to realize where he lives.
“It's always weird because like you can become so quickly desensitized like the history of it,” Wysocki said. “Laundry is on the East Range, and every time I do laundry it’s usually at night and it's dark. I'm walking across the Lawn with a bag of laundry, and I think to myself ‘the Rotunda looks so cool,’ and I try to take it all in.”
Dobrenz added that on the weekends there are often visitors and tourists walking around the Range and the Lawn.
“It reminds me how special it is,” she said.
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