Skip Navigation
campaign story collage


Beyond These Towers

The Campaign for Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Spotlight on Unity Hall Donor Impact: van A Academic Advising Suite

March 8, 2022

Unity Hall enabled a major change for students: it centralized the Office of Accessibility Services, Career Development Center, Academic Advising, and the Office of the Registrar, all in one building. A committee of alumni rallied to raise funds and have the new Academic Advising Suite named in honor of Dean John P. van Alstyne, the legendary teacher, advisor, and mentor to so many WPI students and alumni.

Paul Reilly, assistant dean of Student Success, discussed the positive changes Unity Hall is already having on students and campus life, the positive impact of alumni philanthropy, and the inspiring van A.

What do you like best about Unity Hall so far?
This might sound really cliché, but honestly what I love best about Unity Hall is the amount of collaboration already occurring. The design of the building has provided numerous opportunities for students to connect with one another and their support team—academic advisors, accessibility professionals, and career advisors. From the fifth floor, the views of Worcester are incredible, and I think it is a nice reminder that we are an important part of this thriving city.

How will this new location for Academic Advising impact students?
When you walk through the building, you will meet students on every floor studying individually and in groups, as well as just relaxing. Our students bring a lot of energy to campus, and I think they are really enjoying the new space. With Academic Advising, Accessibility Services (OAS), and the Career Development Center (CDC) on one floor, students can avail themselves of a multitude of people who are here to support them. Students also love our new small group MASH tutoring during the day. Moving our office from Daniels Hall to Unity Hall has already resulted in more student utilization this term. It is also much easier for advisors to support students in getting the help they need from offices such as OAS and the CDC.

The Academic Advising Suite is named in honor of Dean John P. van Alstyne—van A—a WPI legend known for his mentoring and support of undergraduates. What does it mean to you that your space is named for him?
From the many stories I have heard about van A, he was indeed a legend. It is an honor to have the advising suite dedicated in his name. The legacy of van A lives on through the many alumni who had the opportunity to work with him, and I think it serves as a great reminder of the impact that high quality academic advising and mentorship can have. Universities are places where relationships are developed and nurtured. van A exemplified all the good that comes about when students are supported by caring faculty and staff.

What does it mean to you and the Academic Advising team to know that several hundred alumni supported the Dean van Alstyne Academic Advising Suite with their philanthropy?
It feels empowering and is a strong endorsement of the importance of supporting students. So many alumni dedicated their time and energy in bringing this to fruition because van A positively impacted them. What an incredible legacy to leave! I think they should be really proud knowing that van A’s dedication continues in our work today.