Revolutionary Tales: Jorge Sanchez Details ‘Tight-Knit’ Life on the Vern

The first-year accountancy student has built a strong, vibrant community while living on GW’s retreat from the city right inside its limits.

March 20, 2024

Jorge Sanchez

A Friday afternoon sun shines over the Mount Vernon Campus (MVC), where George Washington University students are transitioning from weekday to weekend mode. There’s a relaxed feel as the weight of another five days of classes and work has come and gone.

First-year accountancy major Jorge Sanchez gathers a pair of his closest friends—fellow first-years Ken Freel and Leila McKiernan—for a walk from their residence at West Hall up the hill to Buff and Brew Café.

They stroll down the sidewalk that splits between the tennis court and soccer fields, eventually connecting with the main road that shoots up to the Quad and into Ames Hall, where their caffeinated oasis awaits on the first floor.

Sanchez knows every worker by name. On this Friday, he eagerly greets barista Saidu and places his order of two caramel macchiatos, one for him and one for McKiernan. It’s Freel’s birthday, so he treats himself to a chocolate ice cream dish. The rest of the staff wish Freel a happy birthday when they learn of the occasion.

At first, they sit in the common area inside Ames Hall and discuss, among other things, the oddest liquid they’ve poured onto cereal. (Indirectly, McKiernan probably wins as she spills to Freel and Sanchez that one of her family members puts orange juice in Cheerios). But seeing as it’s over 50 degrees in February and knowing that there’s a pending snowstorm slated to hit overnight, the trio decide outside in the high sun would be the best setting for their afternoon treats. They venture back down to the path and sit in the Adirondack chairs overlooking the soccer field, where the Revolutionaries women’s team is holding a practice.

That afternoon, the only sounds heard outside other than the whistles from the pitch below and occasional airplane flying overhead are the three friends sharing a laugh over coffee and ice cream. 

Located in the Foxhall neighborhood just 2.5 miles from the hustle and bustle of the urban Foggy Bottom campus, MVC—known simply as the Vern to those approximately 700 students who call it home—offers a tranquil alternative for students to live, interact and build community. For Sanchez, who hails from suburban Tampa, MVC is a small slice of heaven tucked away in a fast-paced city that offers him more opportunities than many people his age could imagine. 

Jorge Sanchez
First-year accountancy student Jorge Sanchez enjoys the warmth of sunshine on a February afternoon on GW's Mount Vernon Campus, where he has taken advantage of its quiet, laid-back nature to build community. (Cara Taylor/GW Today)

“Being only 15 minutes away from Foggy Bottom, the Vern is that silent little rolling hill place where all of us just come together into one big melting pot wanting to make friends, explore the city and experience what it is that we are here to do at GW,” Sanchez said. “Everything just kind of slows down and stops and forces you to reflect on where you're at, what you want to do and how you're going to do it.”

Located on roughly 23 acres of lush foliage, red brick buildings and green spaces with frequent visits from wildlife such as deer from nearby Rock Creek Park, the Vern features six residence halls, three academic buildings, a chapel that is used as an event/classroom space and its own library building—Eckles Memorial Library. In addition, MVC has its own all-you-care-to-eat dining facility at Pelham Commons, coffee shop and the main athletic complexes for six GW varsity sports, including men’s and women’s soccer, lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis and softball. It is also home to Civic House, the Women’s Leadership Program and the University Honors Program, of which Sanchez is a member.

During the daytime, MVC residents take the Vern Express, a free shuttle that leaves every five minutes during the weekday and every 15 on weekends, to Foggy Bottom for class, student organization meetings and activities, group projects or internship opportunities easily accessible from the Foggy Bottom Metro station. Sanchez appreciates the ride on the Vex—as it known to students—that takes him through the Georgetown neighborhoods and past the Watergate complex because he can relax, listen to music or interact with his peers on the ride. Noting that he is already being prepared for commuting during professional life, Sanchez appreciates being able to separate work at Foggy Bottom from his living space at MVC.

MVC residents form their largest bonds outside of the weekday 9-5 timeslot. Even though their living quarters are separated from most of the student body residing in Foggy Bottom, they build community without necessarily having to get back on the Vern Express once they have returned home from fulfilling their academic and professional obligations. They have strong connections with staff at MVC, who hold events such as Thanksgiving on the Vern and Late Night with the Dean chats that feature free food such as wings, waffles and Chinese takeout.

“That just fosters a community you keep for years to come,” Sanchez said.

It didn’t take Sanchez long to build his community through events, Vern Express rides, dinner time in Pelham, afternoon decompressions in Buff and Brew or just passing by peers numerous times per day on the smaller campus, encouraging him to say hi to what have become familiar faces.

While Sanchez loves living in D.C., where he frequently takes the Metro to places such as Capitol South, the Smithsonian National Zoo or shopping centers in Tysons Corner, his favorite memory so far is a spontaneous star gazing night in the middle of the Vern’s soccer fields. It was just him and his friends who have become like family, staring up into the starry Mid-Atlantic night as the lights and vibrancy of the nation’s capital city bustled mere miles away.

“Where else can you do that other than the Vern?” Sanchez said. “That's the point of the Vern is that it brings that community together.”

Even if it means learning that a recently made friend comes from family that puts orange juice on their Cheerios.

New, incoming first-year and transfer students who will be starting their college journey at GW in fall 2024 will register for on-campus housing in mid-May and will receive their room assignment mid to late June.