Math, computer science, and science students find a home in the "Glounge"
When the new wing of Glover Building was dedicated in the fall of 2019, a news post on the ribbon cutting rightfully touted the Hanflig Computer Science Center, the computer science programming lab, the two math/computer science classrooms, the office space for computer science and math teachers, and the new robotics space. Almost as an afterthought, the article listed “an open space for collaborative efforts.”
Fast forward to 2023 — okay, with the pandemic, crawl forward to 2023 — and no one refers to it as “an open space for collaborative efforts.” It’s the “Glounge,” a campus-wide nickname that is a portmanteau of “Glover” and “Lounge.” And it’s the heartbeat of a vibrant space on campus where many students have formed their own caring community.
“The camaraderie of the Glounge creates a true sense of belonging,” said Maddie Stearns ‘23, who now attends Harvard University. She called herself fortunate to have had three classes in the Glounge area; she also spent a considerable amount of time in the computer lab, the robotics lab, and at the couch- and table-filled spaces adjacent to them during her time at Thayer.
“I could often be found in the Glounge starting 45 minutes before school started, during every one of my free periods, and after school or practice,” she said.
In fact, a typical morning will see roughly 15 students already in the Glounge well before the start of school. Numbers wax and wane, but the spot is always busy until late afternoon, and the three vertical mounted glass boards in the Glounge are filled and refilled with math problems, complex diagrams, and the like.
“The Glounge, in a short span of time, has become home for nearly all of our top math, computer science, and science students,” said Upper School Computer Science and Math Faculty Kevin Cedrone P ‘22, ‘27. “It’s a wonderful part of the school because the kids have embraced it.”
And such community and collaboration, said Cedrone, who spearheaded the expansion of Glover’s footprint to create the new wing, is not by chance but by choice. Well before construction, Cedrone and Upper School Science Department Head Don Donovan P ‘10, ‘13 toured similar cutting-edge computer science and robotics spaces, such as those at Brown University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, with a “measure twice, cut once” philosophy. That research resulted in the wing’s natural light which fills the space, the customized tables and boards, the rolling chairs intended to encourage movement, and the periphery of faculty offices providing an unobtrusive supervision that even Holden Caulfield would approve of.
“That was always the plan,” said Cedrone, who acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on such collaboration until recently. “We wanted vibrant lab space, but we also wanted a dedicated community space.”
The collegial atmosphere of the Glounge serves as a backdrop for a computer science program which is seeing results and growing year by year. Pre-pandemic, 35 to 40 students per year signed up for computer programming; this past year, 80 students took classes. And the 2023-24 school year has 94 students signed up for a programming course even though freshmen aren’t yet eligible to register for one.
“For a school our size, that’s simply amazing,” Cedrone said.
Thayer recently earned the College Board’s AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for the 2021-22 school year. The award recognized the fact that 50 percent of Thayer students taking the AP Computer Science A (AP CSA) exam that year were female. And this coming school year’s Data Structure’s class will see a similar 50 percent representation. Cedrone said that’s because the computer science department actively recruits all types of students to the program; he attributed much of that success to the department’s Programming I teachers: Tom Chiari P ‘22; Amanda Taylor; and Derek Keough ‘12.
“Over the last three years,” said Cedrone, “two-thirds of the top 20 students in each graduating class have taken three years of programming at Thayer.”
As proud as he is of that fact, Cedrone is prouder still that the students themselves — particularly members of the Class of 2023 — are the driving force behind the Glounge as an inclusive hangout for all Thayer students, including middle schoolers.
“Our [recent] seniors, our top programmers, have taken on leadership responsibilities for maintaining the Glounge,” said Cedrone. “There is zero trash in the Glounge. Four years, and it looks brand-new. This is their home.”
Of course, leadership comes in many forms. Members of the Class of 2023 were responsible for the mentoring of classes below them, but they were also responsible for “Glounge-mas,” where the Glounge was decorated with a variety of winter holiday decorations starting Nov. 18, or exactly 37 days before Christmas, because, as one student put it: “Mr. Cedrone is obsessed with that number.” They were also responsible for, during the last week of classes: replacing Cedrone’s desk chair with his gaming chair; swapping out his beloved Diet Coke for the sugared version; embedding “The Cash Money Necklace” (an inside joke from the Data Structures class) in Jell-O; covering the Glounge in sticky notes in the shape of a heart; and using bike locks to chain his office chairs together and sending him on a scavenger hunt to retrieve the combination. Class members even led the entire Glounge crew in bringing air mattresses, pillows, blankets, pajamas, and stuffed animals into the Glounge before anyone had arrived at school in an attempt to convince their teacher that they had held a sleepover.
Cedrone mentioned none of those pranks in a recent interview, but he did single out the class for creating a culture he hopes will last for a long time.
“This was a very special class (the Class of 2023) — their personalities, their love of fun, the way they just embrace things,” he said. “They’re what make the Glounge live.”
And, as a new school year approaches, Glounge culture should continue for years to come as new students carry on the tradition.