With Donation, Pardee Commons Enriches Student Life

Some of the residents of Pardee Commons

Photos by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

March 8, 2021

Even in a Ph.D. program, student life is about more than academics. That's why Pardee RAND is so excited to announce the development of Pardee Commons, a new affordable student housing community close to campus.

This autumn, after months of planning, benefactor Fred Pardee made several Brentwood apartments available to current and incoming students, and this winter he and RAND signed a deal that will result in the availability of a total of 18 units at below-market rates in two adjacent buildings.

Keller Scholl appreciates his balcony view

Seven students have already moved in to four of the units, and RAND is in the process of updating and modernizing the other apartments so students can live there next school year.

Keller Scholl (cohort '19) shares a three-bedroom unit with David DeSmet ('19) and Justin Lee ('20). Because he didn't know anyone when he arrived in Los Angeles, Scholl spent his first year living in one bedroom of a "seven-room bungalow" that he said was marketed at singles who needed somewhere inexpensive. He noted that it wasn't an ideal situation once the pandemic began.

When he and DeSmet heard about Pardee Commons, they reached out to Lee, who was about to move to L.A., and signed on the proverbial (and literal) dotted line.

"I'm very thankful I have housemates I know. This would not have been a pleasant year if I'd been alone," he said.

He also appreciates the location, especially the fact that "we can see the Ralphs [supermarket] from our window."

"One of my absolute favorite things is I can start the oven, preheat it, head over to Ralphs, pick out something to eat, and pop it in the oven when I get back," he said. "Also, the apartment is right on the bus line, which makes car-free living possible for me. When it comes to location, really I couldn't ask for anything better."

“We’re loving our home base as we explore the neighborhood and area. Most importantly, we are building wonderful community with fellow students living in the complex.”

—Lisa Berdie '20

Priya Gandhi ('20), who shares a unit with Catria Gadwah-Meaden ('20) agrees.

“The location is unparalleled — our neighborhood favorite is the Farmers Market on Sundays,” she said.

The two mirror-image apartment buildings, valued at $10 million, are located approximately three miles from RAND. They share a common courtyard and comprise a total of 38 bedrooms. The buildings include on-premise laundry facilities and sit a short walk from the supermarket, a CVS Pharmacy, and numerous restaurants.

With his gift to RAND's Tomorrow Demands Today campaign, Pardee said, "My hope is that a student housing option will help relieve the burden of finding and affording housing in Los Angeles so that students and their families can focus on building relationships with each other and making the world a better place."

Khrystyna Holynska and her family

Khrystyna Holynska (cohort '20) lives in one of the units with her family. She moved from Ukraine this summer with her husband and children and was concerned about finding housing. With no credit history or bank account in the United States, she couldn't find an apartment manager who would rent to her.

“I was quite worried,” said Holynska. “It was becoming a very stressful experience. It's a good thing this apartment was available. We were able to get the keys the same day we arrived in the U.S.”

The community of fellow students that Holynska found at Pardee Commons has already helped her navigate her first few months in the United States. She's had questions big (how to get the power turned on) and small (where to find quarters for the laundry), and the answers are always just a few doors down.

Lisa Berdie ('20) moved to L.A. from Denver with her partner and said the opportunity to live in Pardee Commons helped to ease their transition.

“We’re loving our home base as we explore the neighborhood and area,” she said. “Most importantly, we are building wonderful community with fellow students living in the complex! Study groups, debate viewing parties, and shared dinners are already common, and makes us feel at home in our new city.”

“The gift enables us to create a new type of Pardee RAND community, providing a mutually supportive social and academic environment.”

—Dean Susan Marquis

Gandhi expressed similar sentiments of gratitude.

“We are particularly very appreciative of being able to reside with one another and of being in close proximity to other first-year students in our cohort,” she said. “The camaraderie within this community has enriched our experiences thus far, and we are confident that we will build lifelong friendships and professional networks.”

Dean Susan Marquis said she and Pardee had talked for some years about the possibility of offering student housing.

Discussions about the gift began in earnest in May 2020, when it became clear that—particularly because of the COVID-19 pandemic—students would benefit from the support available in communal living arrangements.

“We know that learning does not stop when students leave the classroom," she said, adding that Pardee Commons will serve as an informal common space for small-group seminars, study groups, and social events. "The gift enables us to create a new type of Pardee RAND community, providing a mutually supportive social and academic environment with shared housing for individual students and families."

Scholl said the intention behind Pardee Commons is what made him want to move in. He sheepishly admits he would often spend 12 hours at school before the pandemic, just for the social aspect in the office.

Lisa Berdie and Priya Gandhi in Lisa's living room

"One of the things I miss most from my first year was getting up from my desk, walking around, and chatting with classmates — the ability to ask questions and get help from my cohort, or even just have a casual conversation," he said.

"Part of the promise I see in Pardee Commons is that I'll no longer desperately want to do that. Once the pandemic is over, we'll be able to socialize more, have dinners together or board game nights. Maybe I'll only spend 8 or 9 hours at school," he laughed.

The school expects each of the 18 units to be made available during the 2021-22 school year.

Plans for the buildings include updating fixtures and appliances, making them ADA-compliant, and opening up the courtyard to be a more family-friendly space.

RAND president and CEO Michael Rich said of Pardee's gift, “The community that it enables will help enrich the entire graduate school experience.”

“We are extremely thankful for Fred Pardee’s significant investment in student life and learning,” Marquis added, “and we look forward to hosting Pardee RAND community gatherings and celebrations at the new Pardee Commons.”

—Monica Hertzman and Sara Rouche