Introducing the Hive: Swem’s basement is abuzz with three relocated institutes


For the last month, the College of William and Mary’s Global Research Institute, Institute for Integrated Conservation and the Whole of Government Center of Excellence have been settling into their new collaborative workspace in Earl Gregg Swem Library’s basement known as the Hive. The Hive will serve as a temporary home for these three groups before they permanently relocate into the recently renamed Gates Hall, which the College plans to open in 2026 amid campus controversy over the name change.

“In terms of our eventual landing space in Gates Hall, we are working very closely with the university and with the architects to ensure that the building is fit for purpose to support world-class collaborative research between students and faculty,” GRI Director Mike Tierney ’87, M.A. ’88, P ’15 wrote in an email to The Flat Hat. “It is an amazing opportunity to think about what the next iteration of teaching through research might look like at a university.  We are all excited to build something great in Gates Hall that will benefit students and faculty for all time coming.”

The Hive currently houses both public event and collaborative working spaces, with an abundance of offices and cubicles for both student workers and faculty to use. Since its opening, the space has already hosted public events such as GRI’s Spring 2024 Student Research Showcase

Tierney expressed his satisfaction with the increased space and resources that the Hive provides, crediting Carrie Cooper, the dean of university libraries, for proposing Swem as a suitable location for the GRI, WGC and IIC. 

“The new space in the library is better for student-faculty collaboration, and the technology actually works.” Tierney said. 

While recognizing the excitement of emerging development and growing opportunity, Tierney also took time to reflect on GRI’s bittersweet departure from the endeared yellow house on Scotland Street near Colonial Williamsburg and shared how deeply GRI will miss it.  

“We had been there for over 10 years, and it was part of our identity,” Tierney said. “We made so many great memories there at our ‘research home,’ but we had simply outgrown it.  We’ve increased the number of labs and faculty affiliates, and it was time to move to a larger space.”

Taking GRI’s place in its prominent yellow house will be the Omohundro Institute, which was previously housed in what became the Hive in Swem’s basement, according to Catherine Kelly, the director of OI. 

She explained that when plans for the renovation of Swem’s basement swung into motion in fall 2022, OI and Content and Collection Services agreed to vacate their old offices in Swem’s basement so that the area could be repurposed into the Hive. Then, the three institutes would get the space they urgently needed after having outgrown their former locations, respectively.

“In fall 2022, the GRI and other assorted institutes desperately needed space and spaces that were sort of alongside each other, and the OI had space that wasn’t being well-utilized in some ways, and so there have been sort of different kinds of conversations about what a move for the OI out of Swem would look like — about where we might go,” Kelly said.

In return, Content and Collection Services was provided with an updated space in Swem that better suits its needs, and OI plans to move into GRI’s former house on Scotland Street, though it is currently housed in the basement of Ewell Hall while the house is being renovated for the next few months into the summer.  

Kelly said that she looks forward to OI having around 20% more space in their new house and praised Ewell as being a “really solid work base” until the house is ready for more permanent move-in. 

“[The house] works really really well for us, and I’m not sure that it would work that well for other people, so it is my hope that it will be our long term home,” Kelly said. “We’re really excited.”

Like Tierney, Kelly spoke about both the pros and cons of the OI’s migration out of Swem, conveying her pride in her staff’s flexibility and resilience to keep up with a six-month-long transition period while also acknowledging the difficulties associated with moving so much material to two new locations. 

“I would be lying if I said that everybody was relentlessly cheerful and upbeat and optimistic and thrilled about every aspect of the move all the time because they weren’t,” Kelly said. “Moving, by definition, is disruptive, and it brings changes, but I think it’s fine in terms of the big picture. What I think is most important is that the move will not undermine the OI’s ability to fulfill its mission.”

The Flat Hat could not confirm the current status of IIC’s former location in a house on North Boundary Street, but Lisa Nickel, Swem’s associate dean of research and public services, told The Flat Hat that the WGC was formerly “dispersed” across campus and did not have a centralized hub before joining the Hive. 

Tierney, however, noted that GRI, IIC and WGC were intentionally housed together due to their shared collaborative partnerships and the overlap in faculty between the three institutes. 

“These three units have a history of collaborating together,” Tierney said. “The Nepal Water Initiative, WMGIC, the NATO Youth Summit and several other student-initiated programs are all collaborations that involve these three units in some way. Many GRI faculty and staff also teach in Whole of Government courses and/or are faculty affiliates of the IIC.”

“It’s a natural partnership,” Nickel said. 

The Hive’s nomenclature  pays homage to this past history and future of collaboration between the organizations, according to Tierney. 

“Bees are collaborative creatures, and so are we,” Tierney said. 

He also indicated that the bee-themed reference alludes to the active, busy nature of the students, faculty and staff housed within the Hive and draws inspiration from Swem’s Conservation Patio, which currently features a mural of Virginia’s native pollinators and plants and has as an entrance to the Hive. The mural, which incorporates augmented reality so that passersby can see flowers like bees do, was designed and created in 2022 by several Swem student workers under the guidance of IIC, again connecting back to the Hive.

As for the future of the Hive, Swem is currently scouting for a new organization — or several — that could move into the space in 2026, but has not yet made an official decision. In the meantime, Nickel expressed her excitement and joy for the arrival of the IIC, GRI and WGC in Swem.

“We’re so excited to have them here,” Nickel said. “All three of them are great partners who are already really integrated, working well together. We are trying to ensure that it’s the best space for students to do research with them. We want to make sure that we do the best we can to help make their research available, accessible, archived and open to the world because the work they’re doing is really amazing.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here