A photo of Healy Hall and its clocktower
Category: University News

Title: Georgetown To Transform Ground Floor of Healy Hall Into Student Hub

The new ground floor of Healy will triple the space dedicated to the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP), which provides scholarships, resources and support for students who are first in their families to attend college or from lower-income backgrounds; house a new Catholic Student Life Center, a community space for Catholic ministry; provide space for health and wellness programming; and offer a student lounge open to all students. 

Construction on the ground floor (also known as Healy basement), which is more than 7,000-square feet, is expected to begin spring 2023.

“We’re excited to offer students a fresh, new space on campus that supports their academic success, faith and well-being,” says Jeanne Lord, interim vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “And we’re grateful that students are returning to this historic space on our campus that has served many different student needs over the years.”

Healy History: A Bowling Alley and Indoor Track

A 1908 photo of Georgetown’s University Archives, which were then housed on the ground floor of Healy.

The ground floor of Healy Hall, a National Historic Landmark on Georgetown’s main campus built in 1879, has its own unique history.

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the ground floor was used as an indoor track for athletes such as Arthur Duffey, an Olympian track star who set a world record while at Georgetown. It also housed a bowling alley and laboratory.

In the 1950s and 60s, the space was used as an air-raid shelter.

A newspaper clipping of four people standing in Healy basement under the archway in the 1950s.
A 1962 clipping from the Georgetown Record featured university leaders assessing Healy Hall’s fallout shelter.

By the 1970s, the ground floor was turned into the University Center, a student center with a movie theater, art gallery, food co-op and record store, student offices, and the student-run Center Pub, where local rock bands played on weekends. By the time the Leavey Center opened in 1988, many of the amenities were transferred out of Healy, and the ground floor transitioned to administrative offices.

GSP was located in Healy until 2021, when its offices moved temporarily to the Leavey Center to accommodate the renovation of the ground floor, which included repairs on water and HVAC systems. 

The student financial aid office was also based on the ground floor. 

In the coming year, the student financial aid office will move from its temporary space in Reiss Science Building to the ground floor of White Gravenor, which will also be renovated to create a center for student services, including student financial services, the university registrar and revenue and receivables. Construction on the 6,800 square-foot-space in White Gravenor will aim to improve ADA access to departments, the service center and restrooms and increase the amount of flexible workspace for staff. 

“We hope to provide a one-stop-shop for student services in White Gravenor and offer a dynamic support center for students’ personal and academic needs in Healy Hall,” says Georgetown Provost Robert M. Groves. “These upcoming renovations reflect our continued commitment to enrich students’ overall experience at Georgetown.”

Construction is expected to be completed in White Gravenor by spring 2023.

An image of the exterior of White Gravenor, a building on Georgetown's campus

Healy Ground Floor Today: GSP

The new ground floor of Healy will be dedicated to student gathering spaces, well-being, faith and a central home for GSP. GSP will nearly triple its previous space in Healy, with approximately 2,300 square feet allocated to students and staff. The new space can accommodate a student lounge, several work spaces, private offices, meeting spaces, phone booths for private calls, a kitchen and storage space.  

Since its 2005 founding, GSP has provided robust support for more than 2,200 low-income and first-generation college students. This support includes scholarships, micro-grants for emergent needs, resources such as subsidized mental health counseling, a course on navigating the “hidden curriculum” of college, peer and alumni mentors, tutoring, dinners and events, and a community.

Sofia Chen Ma (B’23), president of GSP’s student board, said she used to visit GSP’s former office in Healy Hall every day before class during her first year. For Chen Ma, the space offered community and a sense of belonging on a campus where she often felt imposter syndrome, she says. 

“It wasn’t just an office,” Chen Ma says. “It was somewhere where I was comfortable. I felt like I was being heard. And a lot of my needs were met. I could always go in and feel home.” 

“It wasn’t just an office. It was somewhere where I was comfortable. I could always go in and feel home.” 

Sofia Chen Ma (B’23)

Chen Ma said that when she learned about GSP’s return to Healy Hall, which she and fellow scholars had advocated for, she felt relieved, particularly for future generations of scholars. 

“I think being able to ensure that students know they have a very visible location in a very iconic space at a university matters,” she says. “I think it’s going to be a milestone because we’re creating that space for years to come. Not just for ourselves, but for the next generation, so they can feel what GSP is.”

GSP students and staff will also be invited to use the space’s new well-being multi-purpose room.

Well-Being Support 

The redesigned ground floor will also prioritize well-being and health support for students. 

A new 800-square-foot multi-purpose room will be designed for health and wellness programming and activities, from grief support groups to nutrition guidance.

An adjacent space will be divided into smaller, private areas for students to participate in teletherapy sessions or for small-group meetings. Georgetown’s Capital Projects team, which is managing the project, also plans to create a mindfulness and reflection room.

Catholic Student Life Center and Lounge

The ground floor will be home to Georgetown’s new Catholic Student Life Center, a dedicated space for Catholic ministry at Georgetown. 

Georgetown’s Catholic ministry offers students Catholic retreats, faith-sharing communities, musical and liturgical ministry, spiritual direction, pastoral counseling and other resources and community support to help enrich their faith.

An image of student Abby Omaña (SFS’24) in the sacristy of Dahlgren Chapel.
Abby Omaña (SFS’24)

“Catholic Ministry is one of our oldest chaplaincies in Campus Ministry,” says Mark Bosco, S.J., vice president for Mission & Ministry. “The chaplaincy serves a wide array of Catholic students on the Hilltop. Having this Center located in Healy Hall not only provides our Catholic students with a dedicated space for growing and developing their faith, but also a centralized space for the ongoing work of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue that is so constitutive of the Georgetown experience.”

Georgetown’s Mission & Ministry offices are located on the first floor of Healy Hall and elsewhere across campus, and the construction project aims to centralize Catholic Ministry offices on the ground floor of Healy.

Abby Omaña (SFS’24), a sacristan in Dahlgren Chapel, became involved with Campus Ministry her sophomore year after looking for community on campus following a year of virtual classes. She says she’s excited to have a dedicated space for Catholic Ministry so that more students could access and experience Georgetown’s Catholic community. 

I dearly hope this space will be a place where all feel welcome, wherever on their faith journey they are, and where Catholic life on campus can flourish in friendship and in devotion.”

Abby Omaña (SFS’24)

“While the Catholic community has been ever strong and active without a dedicated place for social gathering and bonding, this new space will undoubtedly allow for more focused purpose in dialogue, faith formation and exploration, and relationship building between both students and ministers,” Omaña says.I dearly hope this space will be a place where all feel welcome, wherever on their faith journey they are, and where Catholic life on campus can flourish in friendship and in devotion.”

The ground floor will also feature an approximately 1,480 square-foot lounge for students to gather, relax or study. The lounge will include a kitchen open to all students. 

Next Steps

In the next few months, the Capital Projects team will engage an architectural firm and contractor with experience handling historic buildings to provide recommendations for involving and incorporating feedback from different university groups in the design process. 

The Healy Hall ground floor project is expected to be completed by fall 2023.