Siblings Gillian and Kyle Gardiner grew up together in the Charlottesville area and now live only steps apart as the residents of 33 West Lawn and 33 West Range, respectively – for a few more days anyway, until they graduate the weekend of May 20 through 22.
“It’s really nice, because this year we run into each other of all the time,” said Gillian, who chose her brother’s room number on a whim during the lottery that Lawn residents use to select their rooms. The Lawn rooms themselves are among the highest honors that UVA offers students, and are awarded to fourth-year students displaying exceptional leadership within and outside of the classroom.
“It’s awesome,” said Kyle, who admits that he enjoys popping over to “pester” his younger sister occasionally. “I never would have guessed it, even a couple of years ago.”
That both siblings would take up residence in the Academical Village did seem rather unlikely a few years ago, when Kyle was pursuing an undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech and Gillian was deciding between going out-of-state for college or staying closer to home and attending UVA.
Ultimately, she chose UVA because it offered the academic and extracurricular activities she was looking for while allowing her to save money for medical school.
“I could do a non-science major while on the pre-med track, join club soccer and all sorts of other clubs, and be a medical scribe at the hospital,” said Gillian, who is majoring in linguistics. “It ended up being perfect and I love it.”
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Kyle chose to pursue a dual master’s degree in public policy and urban planning through UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. The dual degree program, offered in conjunction with the School of Architecture, allows students to earn both degrees in three years instead of four. Kyle will complete the program in May, with a thesis on bicycle policy in Charlottesville.
“Urban policy is my passion. I am fascinated by all of the intricacies of cities, by how they run, how we can make people enjoy them more and how we can improve their efficiency. It was a pretty natural choice for me to go into that field,” Kyle said. “Batten’s program allowed me to do both programs and essentially shave off a year while coming out with two degrees, which was a pretty good deal.”
For the past three years, Kyle has lived on the Range, a series of rooms on the perimeter of the Academical Village that are reserved for graduate students. The Range is designed to counteract the narrow specialization of graduate school by encouraging scholars of many different disciplines – from medical students to sociologists to architects – to live as neighbors. Kyle found it to be an instantly welcoming community, aside from some good-natured ribbing about his Virginia Tech roots. (He cheers for Tech in football, but backs the Cavaliers on the basketball court.)
“The Range community is phenomenal. I lived in the same dorm for four years at Tech, and I knew I liked that style of community,” he said. “It’s a really nice experience for people who are not as familiar with UVA. They come in and have a natural community.”
His sister has found a similarly strong sense of community on the Lawn, especially after her close friend, fourth-year student Margaret Lowe, passed away suddenly in September.
“The whole Lawn community really came together and all of the Pavilion and Lawn residents put out flowers,” Gillian said. “I just really like how it is a center point for the University.”
Their unique living situation has also allowed the siblings to spend more time together before they both graduate in May. After graduation, Gillian will continue pursuing medical school, working as a scribe and studying for the MCAT, while Kyle will start a job in federal consulting. The Lawn is likely the last time they will share a home on a day-to-day basis.
“We grew up together, but this is probably the closest we will live to each other for the rest of our lives, so that is really special,” Kyle said.