Crimson Tide rolls over Commodores 59-0 in front of sold-out crowd

Today, Vanderbilt football made history, but not in a good way.

The Commodores’ third worst loss in history was as painful to watch as the score suggests. In front of a Bama-heavy sellout crowd, the Crimson tide completely smothered the upstart Commodores 59-0, reminding everyone why they are the best team in the nation. 

The Tide scored in 9 of 12 drives, with only three scoring drives taking more than 8 plays or 3 minutes. The Alabama offense averaged over 10 yards per completion and 7.5 yards per rush. Five-star true freshman Tua Tagovailoa replaced Jalen Hurts early in the second half and passed for two touchdowns, one after evading two Vanderbilt defenders in a Lamar Jackson-type play.

Vanderbilt’s struggles last week against Kansas St. – such as the run game and control of the line of scrimmage – were mercilessly exploited by the Crimson Tide, and in no aspect of the game did the Commodores outplay Alabama. A staggering 677 yards of total offense were given up, compared to Vanderbilt’s own 78 — Vanderbilt’s worst margin of yards per team in program history. The first down disparity, 38 to 3, time of possession, 42:55 to 17:55, and total plays ran, 93 to 38, further show the dominance Alabama exerted over the Commodores.

Alabama ran 48 plays in the first half, and Vanderbilt earned 49 yards. A hot first drive looked promising, but a pass deflection off of Jared Pinkney’s hands landed in Alabama defensive back Ronnie Harrison’s hands, and Vanderbilt never found their rhythm after that point.

Alabama rushed for four consecutive touchdowns, and topped the first half off with a field goal. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough punched the ball in a combined five times, and Jalen Hurts added in a few drive extending scrambles adding up to 48 yards on the ground.

Running back Ralph Webb again struggled to run the ball downfield. Alabama controlled the line of scrimmage, and Ralph could rarely get back to the line of scrimmage before making contact with a defender. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur was knocked down and harassed throughout the half while going 3-13. Four three-and-outs in the first half reflected how poorly the offensive effort went. 

Coach Derek Mason expressed both discontent with how the team played and respect for the tremendous program that Alabama football is. In the post-game interview, he was very frank with how he felt, saying “I thought I was out coached today, I thought we were outclassed”

“We just got beat”.

He stressed the importance of preparing for next week’s SEC East opener in Gainesville.

“We gotta get back out, get back to work. I’m more concerned about our response,” Mason said.

He pointed to the snowballing effect of one bad play leading to another one, and the mental strength it takes to overcome demoralizing events on the field, saying “you can’t let one become two.” He emphasized putting this loss behind the team and preparing for what always matters most, going 1-0 next Saturday.

A tremendous bounce back opportunity next week at a ranked Florida team will test Vanderbilt’s character and resolve.

“You can’t let one become two.”

POWER RANKING: University of Alabama vs. Vanderbilt University (Off the Field)

Coming off of a high after Vanderbilt’s win over Kansas State last weekend, the Commodores are looking towards one of the most highly anticipated college football games of the weekend as the Crimson Tide invades Nashville. However, football is not the only matchup to watch. Let’s take a look at how Vanderbilt and Alabama size up off of the field.

Football versus Alabama on Saturday, September 9, 2017.
  1. Spirit

Both Alabama’s and Vanderbilt’s students are known for their spirit. Known for their cheers of “Roll Tide” and “Anchor Down,” fans almost lose their voices by the end of the game. In terms of actual attendance, Alabama takes this one. With an average of 101,000 attendees at each game, Vanderbilt just can’t compete with its 40,000 attendees. We could argue that this is just because our stadium is smaller, but we’ll give it to Alabama.

  1. Dorms

Vanderbilt has a unique freshman living system, The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons. The Commons is the envy of everyone who doesn’t live there and boasts a dining hall, Munchie Mart, gym and endless academic resources. Alabama students are required to live on campus for their first year, and then have the opportunity to live off campus. With their on campus Honors housing is fantastic, it doesn’t quite match up to the Commons experience. Looks like Vanderbilt takes this one. We just won’t bring up Branscomb…

  1. Sports

While both football teams are heading into this weekend with 3-0 records, Alabama is currently ranked #1 in the NCAA, while Vanderbilt is #19. In other major sports, including basketball and baseball, the two schools come up almost side to side in rankings. Both Alabama coach Nick Saban and Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason have their teams at the top of their game. Given the big difference in rankings, we’re going to have to give this one to Alabama.

  1. City & Culture

Tuscaloosa, the home of University of Alabama, is somewhat of a mix between a city and a college town. Aside from a few museums, the main tourist attractions generally have to do with the university. Nashville, on the other hand, is known for an eclectic food scene, a wide variety of music and endless museums and shops. It’s fair to say that Vanderbilt brings this one home, just ask any of the Nashville bachelorette parties.

  1. Music

Nashville is nicknamed “Music City.” Tuscaloosa, on the other hand, has a number of community restaurants and bars where residents can hear live music and enjoy local and national talent. Unfortunately, they just don’t have it on the same scale that Nashville does. Even when Nashvillians get sick of actually hearing the music in Nashville, which isn’t often, they can head to one of the many museums dedicated entirely to music and its musicians. Without a doubt, music belongs to Vanderbilt.

  1. College Nightlife

College nightlife revolves around two things: parties and bars. Tuscaloosa has a number of bars scattered about in town, but Nashville has Broadway. Whether you’re a freshman making your way to Piranhas or a senior heading out to any of the spots on Broadway and beyond, there’s a lot more variety in Vanderbilt nightlife.

  1. Greek Life

Alabama is home to twice as many Greek chapters as Vanderbilt. While Alabama has 64 total sororities and fraternities, Vanderbilt has just 32. This could be attributed to the difference in size of the student bodies between the two schools, but either way, it appears there are more options for someone to join an organization in Greek life at Alabama. Vanderbilt does have the greatest percentage of students involved in Greek life in the SEC, but Alabama has more students overall, so this one goes to Alabama.

  1. Food

With restaurants like Evangeline’s and R. Davidson Chophouse, it’s clear that Tuscaloosa loves its American food and steakhouses. Instead of looking for a few good restaurants to try in Nashville, you’ll have to look for entire neighborhoods full of them. Hillsboro Village, 12 South, and the Gulch are just a few of them. In addition to being called “Music City,” it’s surprising that Nashville isn’t also called “Restaurant City.” Students spend four years at Vanderbilt and still don’t come close to eating their way through this city. Forget the Freshman 15, it’s officially the Nashville 15.

Though the Crimson Tide may be ranked better in football, it looks like the Commodores take the win with better rankings in five out of the eight categories off the field. Overall, the University of Alabama and Vanderbilt University are both wonderful places to spend four years getting a degree.

Vanderbilt, Alabama matchup has long history dating back to McGugin era

As Vanderbilt students and fans file through the turnstiles at Dudley field on Saturday afternoon, the outlook on the game ahead could probably be best described as a “sobered optimism”.

Vanderbilt fans have a few reasons to be optimistic: their team is coming off one of the biggest wins in recent school history, Alabama allowed 23 points to an inferior Colorado State team in week two, and (perhaps most importantly), Vanderbilt will have the all important “element of surprise” as an unranked sleeper team. Still, it’s a sobered optimism because, well, it’s ‘Bama. But hey, Alabama rarely plays Vanderbilt, so they might overlook them.

That way of reasoning might comfort some fans now, but it definitely hasn’t always been the case. In fact, other than Mississippi State and Tennessee, there’s no team in the SEC that’s played Alabama more than Vanderbilt. You wouldn’t typically associate Vanderbilt and Alabama as SEC rivals, but they have the sample size to warrant it. So, as long as we’re on the subject, lets have a little history lesson on the Vanderbilt-Alabama “rivalry”.

Any discussion about these teams’ history has to start and end with two men: Dan McGugin and Bear Bryant. That’s about where Vanderbilt’s success in this matchup started and ended. In fact, until Bryant was hired at Alabama, Vanderbilt actually held a 17-16-2 edge in games against the Tide, most of which were wins guided by Coach McGugin. Vandy even went on one long run between 1903 and 1919 in which they went unbeaten by the Crimson Tide. This was a golden age in Vanderbilt football; they held an overall record of 197-55-19 and were winners of four conference titles in that span.

A little history on Bear Bryant: Bryant attended the University of Alabama in the 30’s, accepted a coaching position at an obscure Christian college in west Tennessee after graduation, and before long was so successful in coaching that he began receiving offers to come back to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Interestingly enough, Bryant didn’t stay long in Tuscaloosa but was quickly snatched up by a certain rival team…you guessed it, Vanderbilt.  Bryant didn’t stay long in Nashville, deciding to enlist in the Navy, but he always expressed a fondness for Vanderbilt and (checkmate, Alabama) a desire to return as head coach later on. Obviously, Bryant did return to college football, leading the Crimson Tide to six national titles, thirteen SEC championships, and (I must add) many lopsided victories over the lowly Commodores.

Altogether, Vanderbilt has won only 19 of the 83 games against Alabama. Doing the math, that’s a staggering 2-46-2 record since Coach Bryant rejoined the Tide. In spite of the numbers, I invite you all to join me in remembering Bear Bryant as the guy that always wanted to coach at Vanderbilt.

So, how can Vanderbilt fans be encouraged by this history lesson? Here are a couple takeaways:

  1. Vanderbilt actually has beaten Alabama before
  2. Vanderbilt currently owns the most lopsided win the series, having trucked Alabama 78-0 way back in 1906
  3. Bear Bryant is no longer on the opposite sideline (Nick Saban who?)

Regardless of the outcome, the illustrious history of this matchup is about to change. Can Derek Mason rekindle the magic of McGugin?

Ars Gratia Artis: mother! and its abuse of depth

There’s trouble in paradise when a couple’s picturesque home becomes a haven for unwelcome guests. However, there is much beneath the surface of this ill-fated house party. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky delivers another tale of tragedy and loss, as mother! is as macabre as it is thoughtful.

mother!’s award-winning cast is spell-binding, carrying a story whose central theme of unrequited love would struggle to support itself on its own. Javier Bardem plays an ambivalent writer seeking inspiration in a forest retreat. Jennifer Lawrence plays his wife, who diligently restores their house, breathing life into it with every refurbished cabinet and wall color selection.

Bardem is a master of terror, particularly in Skyfall and No Country for Old Men, the latter for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His obsidian features and piercing gaze are chilling. He is warm and protective of his wife at times, yet cold and dismissive at others. For this reason, Lawrence’s character is confused and melancholy, struggling to understand the increasing number of unwelcome guests in her home. Moreover, her husband’s willful accommodation of these guests troubles her.

Other talented actors and actresses that play guests in the movie include Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson and Kristen Wiig. These intruders multiply throughout the movie, and the difference in the husband’s and wife’s responses fuel mother!’s central conflict.

mother! boldly explores issues far deeper than marriage strife and home makeovers. However, a movie must walk with structural basics before it can run with intellectualism. mother! fails to heed this wisdom. It neglects storytelling and narrative logic and instead delves into the surreal and metaphorical right away, which is problematic because the viewer is never given a reason to care.

In the first five minutes, Lawrence’s character has a disturbing vision of her home’s walls decaying. But so what? Why is this house in the middle of nowhere? Who is this lady? Will Lawrence ever smile? Of course, leaving such questions unanswered is strategic in the mystery genre. This uncertainty perplexes the viewer and draws them into the story. Yet a well-structured movie engages the viewer by giving information along the way that we must piece together.

mother! never does this.

It soon becomes clear that we will never be given the story’s context or development. Instead, Aronofsky incessantly beats us over the head with the supernatural. Lawrence’s character is therefore a draining protagonist, passively reacting to the madness that slowly unfolds around her. The audience thus suffers the same fate, never engaging with Lawrence in decision making or character development.

Aronofsky’s filmography goes a long way in helping make sense of the themes in mother!. Just how successful he is in exploring these deeper elements is up for debate, yet his films Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan offer possible answers to these questions. 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, looking at addiction and self-abuse, is painful to watch, despite its originality and social commentary. Aronofsky pulls no punches with Black Swan either, a 2010 psychological thriller focusing on the dangers of obsessive perfectionism. However, Black Swan also carries an  exhausting emotional weight. In each, Aronofsky seems unconcerned with how his philosophical musings seem to impact the viewer. He sees the world for what it is and unashamedly shares that view. However, this matter-of-fact approach to telling stories with consistently deep, universal issues quickly becomes unappealing for moviegoers.

Aronofsky’s lack of emotional reprieve and character development in mother! was unsurprising. He is too fixated on fleshing out multi-level allegories to entertain or engage us with these themes. In his latest work, Aronofsky takes the entire film to show us a conflict that started five minutes into the movie. The final act is therefore unbearably stultifying. Viewers hoping for a gratifying finale will be sorely disappointed. This movie’s emotional tone is as pale as its color palette. 

mother! reaches for thoughtfulness and conviction rarely seen among dramas. Its characters are both necessary and sufficient for Aronofsky’s allegories. This movie also demonstrates supreme focus on exploring its central themes throughout. However, this focus borders on tunnel vision, as mother! expresses clear disdain for viewer engagement and story. I never got to know Lawrence’s character nor was I given a reason to care about her struggles. I was too busy being confused and dismayed by her intruders. mother! may be a contemplative movie, but it is not an enjoyable one. For these reasons, it gets a 6/10 in my book.

Spins around Nashville

Vinyl is back and will soon surpass CDs as the best-selling physical music medium. Whether it’s the huge artwork or the warm sound of the needle dropping on your favorite plate of wax, vinyl has something for everyone. In Nashville, there are plenty of places to snag your favorite records. Here are some community favorites:

Grimey’s New and Preloved Music
(Five minute drive from campus)

Grimey’s is Nashville’s biggest place to shop for records. If you’re looking for something specific, chances are they have it. Grimey’s stocks everything from recently released pop and hip-hop to the latest indie crazes and all the cornerstone classic rock records. They also sell CDs and cassettes. Frequently, Grimey’s hosts notable live acts right in the middle of the store. Past acts have included Paramore, Shovels & Rope, and Manchester Orchestra.

In the mood for a little crate digging? Head on over next door to Grimey’s Too, where you can find a plethora of used records waiting to be spun again. Grimey’s Too also stocks a large selection of books, and there’s even a Frothy Monkey attached.

Fond Object Records
(Eight minute drive from campus)

Check out this store’s brand new downtown location for more of a niche variety. Fond Objects is home to records and CDs, but also to some more vintage items including VHS tapes, books, magazines, clothing, furniture and custom jewelry. It’s truly a one-stop shop for all your needs.

Fond Objects also boasts an outdoor music venue, movie theater, and a rescue petting zoo. Take a look at their online calendar and check out a show.


Third Man Records
(Six minute drive from campus)

If you’re looking for something more on the eccentric side, take a trip to Third Man Records. Founded by White Stripes frontman Jack White, Third Man sells hundreds of records off their label. Their store is also full of all sorts of fun trinkets, like a vintage photo booth that uses real film and a machine that’ll cast your very own wax model of Jack White’s guitar. You can even record your own song in a booth, and they’ll instantly press it on a real vinyl record for you to keep.

Third Man also hosts a hodgepodge of concerts and films year round, usually located in their famous “Blue Room.” Past musical performances have included Parquet Courts, The Shins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conan O’Brian and, of course, Jack White himself. Stand-up comedy shows are fairly frequent and have featured Aziz Ansari and Chris Rock. Check out Third Man’s calendar to stay up-to-date on all their upcoming shows.

Looking for more ways to celebrate vinyl? Head out to your favorite record store every April for Record Store Day to support the indie record store’s staff and culture. There are plenty of limited releases, exclusive concerts and delicious food no matter where you go.

Big Man in the Middle: Nifae Lealao’s quiet, yet powerful impact

So often in sports, the leader of a team is the loudest guy in the room.  A leader is the one who stands up, who preaches, who motivates, and who gives us lines that are immortalized in history.  But every so often, sports open our eyes to the notion that you don’t have to be loud to lead.  The Tim Duncan’s and Derek Jeter’s of the world have taught us that sometimes, leaders lead by example, and that example doesn’t need to include a spoken word.

The top scoring defense in all of college football is anchored by one of those leaders.  Vanderbilt defensive tackle Nifae Lealao is by no means the loudest voice in the room, but when he steps on the field, he is a force to be reckoned with.  The senior has dominated the line of scrimmage for the first three games of the season, constantly drawing double teams and clogging the running game up the middle.

Lealao put up career highs last season in tackles (22), tackles for loss (4.5), and sacks (2.5), and while even those numbers might not jump out on the stat sheet, they don’t need to.  Lealao’s presence is felt by offensive lines around the country.  He’s savvy enough to apply pressure when blocked by just one man, and taking on double teams is part of what allows his teammates’ relentless pursuit of the ball, particularly behind the line of scrimmage.  Credit Lealao for Vanderbilt’s ranking as the top red zone defense last season, as he stymied opposing running games and created a short passing field.

This season, Vanderbilt’s defense has given up a mere 4.3 points per game, and for a unit that lost four starters, that number is extraordinarily low.  Lealao, who last year was accompanied on the interior by now Patriots’ starting defensive lineman Adam Butler, has had to shoulder most of the load.  He attributes a shift in mentality to the team’s success on defense.

“Whether it was on the field or off the field, I feel like the dynamic of our team has grown in a more mature way,” Lealao told the Vanderbilt Hustler.  “If your brother falls, always be there to catch him, and I think everybody has grasped that concept and everybody has trusted the process, and now we’re here at a good spot at the beginning of the season.”

As a senior and three-year starter, Lealao is at the forefront of that brotherhood.  He was Derek Mason’s first ever recruit, and the top recruit of Mason’s first class, so it’s no surprise that Lealao is expected to shoulder the load.  Just don’t expect any boisterous halftime speeches.

“Leading in silence is something that some of us do well,” says Lealao.  “I think I let my actions exemplify my leadership.  Being vocal about certain things is just different, and I think for Jay [Woods’s] role, that’s a little better for him to do, for Ralph [Webb] to do, for Trent [Sherfield] to do, and it’s different for me.  I think everybody knows that each of us are leading in different ways and that we’re all trying to achieve the same goal at the end of the day.”

If that goal is winning, it seems like this team is doing a pretty good job.  The Commodores have already matched their win total from Mason’s first year, showing that this team is a far cry from where they were just three years ago.  Lealao remembers those days well.

“There are times that everyone just feels doubt, when you don’t win games and things may not be going so well for you off the field, but I think senior year is your last chance to do everything.  I think as a team, as a player personally, that we’re all taking the next step in the right direction, and it feels great.”

Even as his team has risen to the occasion, leading quietly isn’t something that’s foreign to Lealao, not even at Vanderbilt.  With every snap and every step he takes, Lealao knows he’s representing a community larger than a team or even a university.  He’s representing the entire Polynesian community.  Hailing from Pago, Pago in American Samoa, Lealao was born from Samoan parents, and even after moving to Sacramento, his Polynesian roots remained grounded.

Those roots were tested when Lealao committed to Vanderbilt, making him the first Polynesian football player in the team’s history.  With little Polynesian presence on campus, and none represented in the university’s athletics, Lealao clung to his culture even more.

“Being Samoan is my life,” says Lealao.  “There’s really no ifs ands or buts about it.  Everything that I say and do is a representation of my family and my culture.”

As far as Polynesian football players go, it’s far from unusual, particularly from American Samoa.  In fact, American Samoa has become somewhat of a breeding ground for NFL talent in recent years.  Domata Peko, Rey Mauluga, Mike Iupati, and most notably, Troy Polamalu all come from Samoan heritage.  Despite the prevalence of so many possible Samoan icons, Lealao says his inspiration to play football came from his father.

Lealao’s father, Nifae Sr., played semi-professional football, paving the way for an illustrious college career for his son.  And just as Lealao followed in his father’s footsteps, others have followed in his own.  Nashville is a long way from the West Coast – where most Polynesian athletes end up playing their college sports – but in part because of Lealao’s decision to play his college football at Vanderbilt, the university has become home to a new crop of Polynesian talent.

Just two years after Lealao’s commitment, center Sean Auwae-McMoore and defensive lineman Josiah Sa’o signed their letters of intent, and with the addition of Taiana Tolleson, a goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team, the groundwork had been laid.  This year, Vanderbilt football has welcomed the presence of three more Polynesians, with the arrivals of Michael Owusu, Feleti Afemui, and Jonah Buchanon.  Lealao, the once lone Polynesian student-athlete, has become the mentor of a family that is now seven student-athletes large, and still growing.

“He’s like a big brother to all of us,” Auwae-McMoore says of Lealao.  “He’s opened the doorway, showing that Polynesians don’t have to be afraid to come to the East Coast and ball.”

As Lealao takes the field for his final season at Vanderbilt, he carries with him the support and admiration from all the Polynesian student-athletes that look up to him.  He has certainly opened a doorway to success, and he is sure to hold that door on his way out.  He understands that the legacy he leaves with this program and this community is far from fleeting.

“You’ve got to realize that you’re doing this for more than just yourself, and I think that’s one of the biggest things other than respect and loyalty that our culture is founded upon,” Lealao says.  “Our presence is known here now, and I think after I leave, I leave my legacy up to six other student-athletes that I definitely know will help sustain what I’ve built here.”

Lealao has built a foundation at Vanderbilt, and he’s done it his own way.  He has never asked for anything, never demanded anything, and never told anyone what to do.  He has led by example in the only way he knows how: in silence.

SEC Power Rankings Week Four: Tebow Time

“Shurmur picks it up on third down, fakes the throw, goes to the end-zone, stretches…”

Oh, what a weekend it was. Another week, another electric Vanderbilt win.

Unlike the first two games of the season, this one was low scoring and incredibly close.

Tied at seven with only eight and a half minutes left in the game, Kyle Shurmur lined up under center on third and goal. The snap was low; it could’ve easily resulted in a fumble, but Shurmur worked his magic. The rest was history.

“…And he got it! Touchdown Vanderbilt!”

The crowd went into a frenzy after he scrambled to paydirt. This touchdown ended up sealing the deal for the Commodores in a 14-7 upset win over the 18th ranked Kansas State Wildcats.
This, however, wasn’t even considered the game of the week by many.

In this week’s power rankings, we prepare for the return of SEC Nation. For the third time in Vanderbilt’s history, the ESPN pregame show will broadcast live from the Ingram Commons, covering all things SEC football. This means, of course, Tim Tebow’s return to Nashville. Although he won’t suit up this time around, we’d like to honor his memorable journey from football, to baseball, to reporting by assigning each team a phase in Tebow’s career.

  1. Alabama- QB, Florida Gators (2008)

The Crimson Tide hosted unranked Colorado State this past weekend. Needless to say, they won. Easily.

Once again, Jalen Hurts proved that there’s very little he can’t do–he threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, while also leading in rushing with 103 yards and a touchdown. Calvin Ridley caught just three of Hurts’ passes, but he still racked up 92 yards and a touchdown. On the defensive side, Alabama uncharacteristically let up 23 points to an unranked opponent, but they still picked off Colorado State twice. As expected, there’s really nothing to worry about if you’re an Alabama fan–just don’t take the Commodores too lightly. They’ll make you pay.

In 2008, Tebow led the Gators to a national championship, and the expectations are no less for the Crimson Tide. Tebow also broke Emmitt Smith’s record for most rushing touchdowns in one season as a Gator, despite being a quarterback. While Jalen Hurts will probably not be able to match that, he still leads the team in rushing yards and is tied for first in rushing touchdowns. Jalen Hurts is posting similar statistics to the ones Tebow posted in the prime of his career, with just as talented of a surrounding cast.

2. Georgia- QB, Florida Gators (2007)

Despite not posting the best offensive numbers through the first two games, the Georgia Bulldogs bounced back, running up 42 points in the first three quarters before they took their starters out of the game. Running back Nick Chubb finally had the performance that Georgia needs from him going forward, gaining 131 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 16 rushing attempts. Their run defense also looked terrific, allowing just 22 yards of total rushing.

A stark improvement from the weeks prior, Georgia looks primed to make a run similar to that of Tebow and the Florida Gators in 2007, Tebow’s first season as a starter and the year he won the Heisman Trophy. That 2007 season was a great one for Tebow, yet it ended in a heartbreaking loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl. We predict a strong season out of the Bulldogs as well, yet not strong enough to take them to the playoffs or anywhere near Alabama for the SEC title.

3. Miss State- QB (Football), OF (Baseball), Ponte Vedra Nease High School (2003-2006)

Despite only playing baseball for 3 years in high school, it was clear that Tim Tebow’s baseball prowess was real. Hitting nearly .500 in his junior year, Tebow gained looks from MLB scouts of several organizations. His accomplishments in football were even more impressive as he scored 158 touchdowns (yes you read that right) in his high school career. His career culminated with winning Florida’s Player of the Year in his Junior and Senior seasons and his eventual Mr. Football title in the state of Florida. If it wasn’t already obvious, Tebow could really do it all.

Nick Fitzgerald, the Mississippi State Bulldogs’ quarterback, showed he could also do it all this past week against the 12th ranked LSU Tigers, throwing and rushing for two scores apiece. Surrounding him was a team that looked inspired, obliterating the Tigers 37-7. The Bulldogs looked incredible, enough to bump them up not just in our power rankings, but enough to garner a number 17 ranking from the Associated Press. Their rushing attack, spearheaded by Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams, is as strong of a 1-2 punch as any in the nation, just as Tebow’s two-sport prowess was as strong as any.  Fitzgerald and Williams will both need to perform as well as they did this week going forward in order to get past Georgia on the road next week.

4. Auburn- QB, Florida Gators (2009)

Following a tough loss to Clemson, the Auburn Tigers continued to look incredibly sloppy with five turnovers against an FCS school in Mercer. While they were incredibly careless with the football, Auburn was still able to come away with a win, which, even against a Mercer team whose football program is only five years young, is always a positive. In addition, both quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who threw for 364 yards, and running back Kamyrn Pettway, who ran for 128 and 3 scores, looked strong despite the offense’s inability as a whole to hold onto the ball.

During his final year at Florida, Tebow digressed slightly from his unreal seasons the two years prior, largely due to being injured several times throughout the year. Alas, he was able to bounce back each and every game despite those nagging injuries.  He went on to lead his team to a rout of Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl, with 533 yards of total offense, breaking the prior Bowl Championship Series Game record. Like Tebow and the ‘09 Gators, the Tigers may not be primed for a push at the SEC title or a premier bowl game, however, if their offense can finally click and limit turnovers, they could be a scary team going forward.

5. Vanderbilt- QB, Florida Gators (2006)

Nicknamed “The Chosen One” in high school, there was no question Tim Tebow was bound to be a stud in college. Despite this, Urban Meyer overlooked him and decided to start quarterback Chris Leak over him. Proving to be a strong contributor the entire year en route to a National Championship, Tim Tebow shocked the world and ended up being one of the most prolific players in NCAA history.

Now, that’s not to say that the Vanderbilt Commodores will become one of the most prolific teams in NCAA history, but they certainly created headlines last weekend with their big win over #18 Kansas State. While that wasn’t enough to crack the AP poll, as there are still doubters unconvinced that they’re worthy of a ranking, it was enough for others to start to take notice. Despite a relatively weak offensive showing, quarterback Kyle Shurmur still looks as sharp as ever, posting an 8:0 touchdown to interception ratio so far through the season. Even without the best performance from the offense, Vanderbilt’s defensive unit stopped a Kansas State team that had scored 55 points in each of its first two games to just seven. Only allowing 13 points through three games thus far, the Commodores will need to continue riding this defensive wave as they have a chance to shock the world again against Alabama this upcoming weekend.

6. Florida- QB, Denver Broncos (2011)

The Florida Gators are finally looking like the preseason #17-ranked team that they once were. Despite the fact that they won the game on a fairly lucky Hail Mary, they looked good throughout.  This came even without the presence of several starters due to their looming felony charges. Had it not been for an untimely interception that set up what would be the game tying score, freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks would have had an incredible performance, and the defense picked off Tennessee three times throughout the game.

Eventually, the game came down to a long Hail Mary, reminiscent of Tim Tebow’s 80-yard game-winner against the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs in 2011. Despite solid quarterback play throughout the season by Tebow, the Broncos defense largely carried them to the playoffs, similar to the manner in which the Gators’ defense has largely carried them throughout the first two games. Looking forward, the Gators are moving into a tough part of their schedule, and like how the Broncos weren’t able to get past the Patriots in the second round, it is hard to count on the Gators to come out of this stretch ranked as highly as they are now.

7. LSU- QB, New England Patriots (2013)

While LSU looked good to start the season, their struggles could have been overlooked due to the weakness of their opponents. Then, when faced with their first SEC game and tough test, the Tigers were blown out of the water by a score of 37-7. Plagued with penalties throughout the game, including two that brought back touchdowns, LSU looked sloppy on both sides of the ball and they will definitely need to rethink their offensive and defensive schemes these next two weeks, again against weaker opponents.

Despite the fact that it is easy for LSU to dwell on this loss, looking past it is their key to their success going forward. After a failed comeback attempt with the Patriots in 2013, Tim Tebow took his losses and learned from it and was even able to score his coveted spot as a broadcaster on the SEC Network. At the end of the day, Ed Orgeron’s group is still ranked but a loss like this is crushing to any team and really spotlighted the immense struggles that LSU will have against better opponents.

8. Texas A&M- OF, New York Mets (2017)

2017 was a big season for Tebow’s baseball career–he was moved up from the farm system to the Mets’ advanced single A affiliate where he finished the season with a .231 batting average. Congrats, Tim. This move, while it may be important to him, means very little in the grand scheme of things. Unless the Mets decide to reach for him, Tebow would still have to go through double and triple A leagues before getting that sacred call up to the majors.

If Texas A&M wanted to remain competitive in the SEC after their brutal week one collapse against UCLA, they needed to string together a couple of wins. This week, they did just that, beating the Louisiana Rajun Cajuns 45-21. Like Tebow’s stint in low-A ball, this game means absolutely nothing.  Texas A&M needed the win to boost their confidence, and more importantly, to stay afloat, but Louisiana-Lafayette is an unranked opponent that should have given them no trouble. The Aggies went into the locker room at halftime trailing by a touchdown, but got their act together shortly thereafter by scoring 31 unanswered points. Their offense showed promise under the leadership of quarterback Kellen Mond and will have to keep up the good work.

This week, they host Arkansas at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. While it’s technically a home game for the Aggies, the Razorbacks are welcomed by many in Arlington. In fact, they will be wearing Dallas Cowboys replica jerseys for this week’s game to honor Arkansas alumnus Jerry Jones. This should be a good one.

9. Arkansas- Analyst, SEC Network (2017)

Now that Tebow is in his offseason, he’s working as an analyst for SEC Nation. Arkansas’s short, one week “offseason” has come and gone in the form of a week three bye. Now, it’s time to prepare for a huge week four matchup against Texas A&M.

The winning team will separate themselves from the middle of the pack in the SEC, while the loser will take home their second loss. This game may not seem important, but it has absolutely huge implications for both teams. Arkansas better bring their A-game this week.  Its offense has yet to show true firepower, but the defense has held its own, only letting up 17.5 points per game. The Aggies will prove to be a tough matchup, as their offense is currently averaging 37.7 points per game. If the Razorbacks want to impress alumnus Jerry Jones in his own stadium, they will need to put out the Aggies’ offensive flame.

10. Kentucky- Co-Host, Good Morning America (2014)

Tim Tebow co-hosted Good Morning America?

Kentucky is 3-0?

It’s hard to tell which is less likely, but believe it or not, both are true.

The Wildcats’ only SEC win came this week against South Carolina, yet even this result seemed unlikely. South Carolina came out hot, but after that, this game was all Kentucky. Sophomore running back Benny Snell Jr. was the difference maker. He may not have been as efficient as he was against Eastern Kentucky, when he rushed for 5.4 yards per carry, but with 32 rushes for 102 yards and two touchdowns against an SEC opponent, he proved that he is capable of being a workhorse. Kentucky truly grinded this one out; as quarterback Stephen Johnson said, “This says we’ve got a little bit of dog in us, I guess.”

Kentucky is off to a hot start, but it’s hard to picture this streak continuing, as they host Florida this week.

11. South Carolina- OF, New York Mets (2016)

In week three, the Gamecocks’ season went South. They came into the game with a 2-0 record, having beaten both NC State and Missouri. Their offense looked great in both of those games, but unfortunately, they couldn’t get the job done against Kentucky.

The game got off to a very promising start for South Carolina; Deebo Samuel hauled in a 68 yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game, and the defense responded with an interception and a fumble in their first two outings. The two traded blows for the remainder of the game, until Kentucky nailed a field goal with just over two minutes left, giving them a ten point lead.

Tim Tebow gained attention from MLB teams as a coveted high school baseball prospect, but he instead decided to pursue a career in football. Shortly after his football career ended, he held an open tryout in front of 40 MLB scouts, eventually signing with the Mets in 2016. Although many didn’t believe in the Tebow hype, he launched a home run in his first at-bat with the Mets’ instructional league team. This start draws parallels to that of South Carolina’s week three performance. South Carolina couldn’t hold it together, just as Tebow struggled after his first home run, posting a meager .222 batting average while with the instructional league team.

12. Tennessee- QB, Denver Broncos (2010)

Drafted 25th overall in the 2010 draft, many viewed Tebow as a quarterback who would need a lot of refinery in order to make it in the pros. Just like Tebow, the Tennessee Volunteers were a time that needed a lot of refinery going into conference play especially after their narrow week one win, which easily could have ended in a loss on several different occasions.

In their first inter-conference game, and against their toughest opponent thus far, Tennessee didn’t really look like a team that fixed its mistakes. Behind three interceptions from quarterback Quinten Dormady, the Volunteer offense looked sloppy for three quarters of the game, scoring just three points. Despite this, they looked promising in the 4th, putting up 17 points behind strong play from running back John Kelly, who had an outstanding game overall. In addition, their defense looked much better than it did just two weeks prior throughout most of the game, which is definitely a positive. That was until they completely blew coverage on the last play of the game, giving Florida a relatively easy over-the-top throw and the win, highlighting their weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball.

13. Ole Miss- QB, Philadelphia Eagles (2015)

After a better start to the season than many predicted, the Ole Miss Tigers went into a tough matchup with the California Bears and put up a strong fight, yet still came out with a loss. Now, entering a bye week and into their difficult stretch against SEC opponents, it is hard to say that the Rebels will have any success going forward. Despite decent, yet promising quarterback play from Sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson, their season lacks any sort of promise from here on out.

Much like Patterson, upon his being signed by the Eagles in 2015, Tim Tebow played pretty well in the preseason despite never being given the starting nod, throwing for 286 yards and rushing for another 82 with three total TDs over that span. After his start, Tebow was cut by the Eagles prior to the start of the 2015-2016 season. We expect a similar result from the Ole Miss squad who will struggle to find any success in the coming weeks with the strength of opponents they will be up against.

And even if Ole Miss can play better comparatively than Tebow did and get through this rough patch, at the end of the day they don’t really have much to look forward to with their postseason ban.

14. Mizzou- Quarterback, New York Jets (2012)

After the Broncos signed Peyton Manning in the summer of 2012, Tebow was traded to the Jets in exchange for a couple draft picks. To make things worse, Jets special teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff said that Tebow would only really be used on special teams and to periodically run the wildcat. This is largely considered Tebow’s rock bottom, and he’s had a lot of tough moments as an athlete. Sorry Mizzou, but a 35-3 loss to Purdue and an upcoming game against Auburn is rough enough to make this comparison.

Purdue used its two quarterback system, a unique strategy that paid off in this one, as Missouri had absolutely no answer. On the other side of the ball, Tigers’ quarterback Drew Lock couldn’t find his rhythm, posting a 42% completion percentage, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. The running game wasn’t much better; Ish Witter rushed for 25 yards on seven carries, the highest total for the Tigers that game. But there was one good performance for Missouri. Unfortunately, it was Corey Fatoney, their overworked punter, who pinned four punts inside Purdue’s 20-yard line.


category: Featured, Football, Sports

Three Games to Watch: Week Four

The college football season is heating up, and in week four, there’s no shortage of marquee matchups.

Here are three games to watch this weekend in college football:

(1) Alabama at Vanderbilt

One of the best three games in the United States of America this Saturday features a usual suspect in the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide romped to a 14-0 record last season before seeing their national title bid spoiled in the final seconds against Clemson. As Alabama does, however, the Tide simply reloaded, and find themselves 3-0 again as they roll into Nashville to face the upstart Commodores of Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt has been one of the stories of the season so far in the SEC, starting 3-0 themselves and dispatching a ranked nonconference opponent for the first time since 1947 by beating #18 Kansas State by a touchdown last weekend. The Tide are favored by a robust 19.5 points going into this weekend, but many see this game being much closer. If Vanderbilt can stop the run and force Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts to beat them with his arm, while also moving the Alabama front seven themselves, this game could go down to the wire. Vandy expects one of the largest crowds in years for this one, and student tickets have already sold out. Expect the Commodores to come out with fire in their biggest home game since they dispatched a top-10 Auburn team with College Gameday in town back in 2008. How far that fire can take them, however, remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it should be a spectacle on West End this weekend.

(5) USC at California

A game that not might be on everyone’s radar this weekend is an undefeated Southern California team that travels to Berkeley to take on the unbeaten Cal Golden Bears. USC, while having a lot of preseason accolades, has looked beatable so far this year, needing double overtime to take down a Texas team in transition that lost to Maryland at home. Cal, on the other hand, defeated SEC foe Ole Miss last week, and is off to a great start. The Golden Bears went to Chapel Hill and beat North Carolina in week one, and although the spread is 16.5 in this one, all signs point to this game being much closer than that. To make it close, Cal must stop standout USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who is averaging over 300 yards per game in his sophomore season. This game being played in Berkeley leads me to believe that the Golden Bears will be chomping at the bit to prove themselves in this one, and don’t be surprised if the Trojans return to Los Angeles with a 3-1 record after this weekend.

(16) TCU at (6) Oklahoma State

Finishing the slate is a big game from the power five conference with the most to prove, the Big 12. Oklahoma State has stormed out of the gate, dispatching South Alabama on the road and easily handling Pitt last week. The Cowboys boast a stud quarterback in Mason Rudolph, and look to be the class of the conference if you don’t count the team that planted a flag in the Horseshoe two weeks ago. TCU, however, is no slouch. Behind competent quarterback play from Kenny Hill (remember when he won the Heisman in Columbia two years ago?), the Horned Frogs have also started 3-0 while easily dispatching an SEC foe themselves in Arkansas. This game being played in Stillwater will prove the difference, however, and I can see Oklahoma State covering the 6.5-point spread, unless we see something truly special out of a TCU defense that has uncharacteristically looked pedestrian so far this year, especially last week, when they gave up 36 points to SMU. It will take much more than that to topple Oklahoma State on the road, but expect some points in what should be a fun game.

Three Matchups to Watch: Alabama Crimson Tide

When Alabama comes to town this Saturday, it will be one of the biggest games Vanderbilt has hosted in a long time. The combination of the Commodores being 3-0 and just missing being ranked in the top 25, the fact that Alabama is the number one team in the nation, and that SEC Nation will be there makes for a very exciting day on the Vanderbilt campus.

Vanderbilt has been very impressive throughout three games, especially on the defensive side of the ball. After easily handling Middle Tennessee State and Alabama A&M, the Commodores knocked off the Kansas State Wildcats, previously ranked 18th in the country, by a score of 14-7. On the flip side, the Alabama Crimson Tide have also started 3-0. In a heavily-anticipated opening matchup, they defeated the powerful Florida State Seminoles 24-7 before routing two lesser opponents in the following weeks.

It is clear that Vanderbilt is a much better team than it has been in the past years and that they can definitely compete with top-25 teams. However, Alabama is on a different level than most other teams, making it a difficult, but not impossible, task for the Commodores. Here are three matches to keep an eye on during Saturday’s game.

ILB Oren Burks vs. QB Jalen Hurts

Through the first three games, Burks has made 16 total tackles, including eight against Kansas State, and one interception. He is the leader of a defense that has only allowed 13 total points so far this season. Burks stepped up in the tough test against Kansas State and will need to do it again against a dangerous Alabama offense and dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts.

This season, Hurts has thrown for 472 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He has also rushed for 312 yards and three touchdowns. However, against Florida State, by far the toughest defense he has faced so far this season. Hurts was not overly impressive, throwing for 96 yards and one touchdown.

Burks and the Commodore defense will attempt to keep Hurts in check like he was against Florida State to limit the explosiveness of the Crimson Tide offense.

Vanderbilt Offensive Line vs. Alabama Defensive Line

While almost everything has looked great for the Commodores so far this season, one of their biggest weakness is their inability to run the ball successfully. Star running back Ralph Webb is only averaging 2.6 yards per carry, a large dip from the 5.1 yards per carry he averaged last year. It has not hurt them thus far, thanks to Shurmur’s fantastic passing statistics, but against a team as talented as Alabama, the running game needs to be established and a large part of that duty falls on the offensive line.

While Vanderbilt strongly wants their running game to improve, the defensive line of the Crimson Tide is one of the toughest groups in the country to run against, if not the toughest. They are allowing just over 80 rushing yards per game, which is eighth in the nation. Any one of their front four can make a big play at any given time which is cause for concern for Vanderbilt and their so-far limited rushing game.

Coach Derek Mason vs. Coach Nick Saban

Coach Mason has done a great job with the Commodores thus far, beating a top 20 team is not something that Vanderbilt has accomplished many times in the past years. His team ranks 1st in the nation in total defense, allowing under 200 yards per game. However, going up against Nick Saban and Alabama is a whole other monster.

Saban is the most successful coach currently coaching, and is definitely in the conversation for one of the best all time. In his ten years at Alabama, he has been to five national championships and one four of them. Since 2008, his team has been ranked number one at some point in the season. Saban is fresh off of a loss in the championship game last year to the Clemson Tigers, making him and his team hungry to get back their and redeem themselves.

The Sleeping Beauty hits the stage

As an eight-year-old ballerina, Sarah Cordia made the decision to attend ballet school, dedicating a significant amount of her childhood to the art form. Dancing in performance after performance, she dreamt of eventually being front and center to tell the ballet’s story. As lead dancer Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Cordia is finally in her center stage fairytale.

A timeless tale full of romance and suspense, The Sleeping Beauty captures audiences worldwide. The over a century-old ballet follows the tale of Aurora, a princess who is cursed by an evil fairy.

The Sleeping Beauty hits the stage

Some of the largest names in the ballet world have had the privilege of dancing the role of Aurora, and now Cordia will be added to that list.

Cordia will star as Princess Aurora in Nashville Ballet’s version of The Sleeping Beauty on Sept. 23 and 24. The ballet will be accompanied by music from the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, and the performance will take place in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall.

The Sleeping Beauty hits the stage

The dancers have been preparing for months for this performance, especially Cordia.

“I got an awareness that I might be given this opportunity back in January or February. I already started thinking about my weak points in my dancing and how I could start to strengthen them to prepare for this role,” said Cordia.

The required technique for this performance is extremely difficult, even for the most skilled dancers. The Sleeping Beauty is said to have some of the hardest steps of any ballet, not just for the solo performers but for the corps de ballet as well.

The Sleeping Beauty hits the stage

“As a dancer, you can’t hide from your weaknesses in this ballet, so if a shape on my body is stronger on my left side than my right side, I have to do both. They have to both look good,” said Cordia. “You are really working on these weaknesses, and you really see where you stand. Cardiovascular-wise, it’s hard. There’s so much dancing.”

The stamina of this dancing dates back to 1890, when Marius Petipa created the original choreography. This choreography has remained remarkably similar throughout the years with very minor changes. This constancy is uncommon for a ballet.

“It’s pretty classical. Some of the steps that I am doing are the same steps that were done in 1890. We have been doing the same steps for that longwe haven’t even had cars for that long. So many things have advanced, but we still have the same ballet. I think that’s very special,” said Cordia.

The Sleeping Beauty hits the stage

In order to perfect this choreography, Nashville Ballet has two ballet masters that work year-round with the dancers and an additional ballet master brought in from the Houston Ballet to work specifically with the lead dancers. Their job is to ensure that the choreography set by artistic director Paul Vasterling is properly executed.

The Sleeping Beauty hits the stage

The dancers’ days start at 9:00 a.m. and usually end around 6:00 p.m. This includes around five hours of pure rehearsal time, where the dancers perfect the details of the performance.  

Cordia spends much of her rehearsal time trying to capture Aurora’s essence. She gains inspiration by studying previous ballerinas who performed the role of Aurora.

“The autobiography that I read this summer was on Margot Fonteyn, and she premiered this role in 1939. I was like, ‘this is so crazy!’ Here I am premiering my Aurora in 2017. It was such a cool moment to connect that,” said Cordia.

Each Aurora brings something new to the ballet, and Cordia hopes to bring an organic take to the role.

“Because it’s such a technical ballet and you have to focus on the lines in your body and making everything pure and classical, I think sometimes you can get stuck in technique and not pay attention to who Aurora is as a person,” said Cordia. “I’m really trying to make her human again. I’m trying to bring life and love and character back to her.”

The Sleeping Beauty hits the stage

See Cordia’s interpretation of Aurora and the rest of Nashville Ballet performing The Sleeping Beauty on Sept. 23 and 24.

Student rush tickets are available for the Saturday, Sept. 23 performance at 2:00 p.m. for $15.00. These tickets can be bought at TPAC’s Jackson Hall Box Office with a valid student ID anytime after 12:30 p.m. on September 23. For more details, visit the website.

Photos by Hunter Long // The Vanderbilt Hustler

Plaza Mariachi: cultural yet commercial

From bartaco to Taqueria del Sol, and from Mas Tacos Por Favor to Chuy’s, Nashville has no shortage of Latin American and Tex-Mex restaurants. But Plaza Mariachi, a new hispanic “cultural shopping experience” in Nolensville Pike, is expanding Nashville’s Latin American food scene and is adding a cultural experience to boot.

The new shopping and dining plaza officially opened in May. Once a Kroger grocery store, the building was transformed over three years into what feels like a small city.

Exploring Plaza Mariachi

Once you walk inside, you will notice brightly-colored, intricate designs adorning the walls and columns of the complex. Five individual streets, each with a variety of shops and storefronts, lead to the central square. Here you will find Plaza Mariachi’s several restaurants, dining areas and the stage.

A section of Plaza Mariachi

Plaza Mariachi offers several dining options, from the spacious Madera Cafe to smaller stalls like Kouzina Cafe, which offers Mediterranean cuisine. However, Tres Gauchos, an Argentinian-style steakhouse with a variety of meats on their a la carte menu, felt like the only truly Latin American option for food.

Plaza Mariachi food

At Tres Gauchos, customers fill out a menu card and give it to the cashier, who enters the order into their system. Customers write their name and phone number on the menus card and receive a text when their food is ready.

It is unclear whether this system is working correctly. While some people received a text and were able to get their food right away, my food took about 15 minutes longer, and I never received a text indicating that it was ready. While this system has potential to be useful when Tres Gauchos is busy, it needs to be refined.

I ordered the tapapecho, an eight ounce beef brisket, and choclos, grilled corn on the cob topped with parsley, chili powder and crema (a Mexican version of sour cream that is thinner and saltier). Both were delicious. The serving of tapapecho was larger than I expected it to be, but also had a substantial amount of fat left on it. That being said, the meat was tender and moist. The choclos was equally tasty, although difficult to eat while on the cob because of its intricate toppings.

Tapapecho and choclos at Tres Gauchos

The other dining options at Plaza Mariachi did not look particularly promising or authentic. For example, the menu at “Las Tapas” Bar de Tapas was three quarters pizza options. It only offered a handful of tapas options.

“Las Tapas” Bar de Tapas

Plaza Mariachi is branded as “a city within a city,” and it lives up to this description by providing a variety of services. It has wireless providers, including MetroPCS, Boost Mobile and Sprint, as well as insurance firms, including America’s Insurance and Auto Masters. Plaza Mariachi even has a law firm, Reforma Law, and a hair salon, Salon Ixchel. There are also several clothing stores, including sporting goods store Deportes Panamex, a women and children’s boutique named “Dia y Luna” and Bella Boutique, a dress store.

A peek at Plaza Mariachi’s event calendar shows that they have many mariachi bands and other performers on any given night of the week. Thursday nights feature salsa dancing with free lessons. On the Monday afternoon that I went, a mariachi band and fire dancers performed. While the mariachi band was lively and engaging, the fire dancing show felt out-of-place and sensationalistic.

In the middle of the central square, a section is roped off where acrobats perform aerial feats on stretches of cloth hanging from the ceiling. While these performers were impressive in their agility and strength, the performance felt strange because it was in the middle of the tables where people ate lunch. There was little distance between families eating their meals and the performance.

Aerial silks in Plaza Mariachi

This performance illustrates Plaza Mariachi’s endemic problem: rather than feeling culturally rich and authentic, it comes off as forced and even manufactured. While the building feels nothing like the Kroger that it once was, the central square still ultimately feels like a food court rather than the streets of Mexico City or Buenos Aires.

At its core, Plaza Mariachi feels new and distinctly commercial. The owners of the complex had “theming teams” that also worked on Disney World and Disneyland to help them create Plaza Mariachi’s atmosphere. This is unsurprisingPlaza Mariachi felt like a caricature of Latin American culture at times.

About half of Plaza Mariachi’s stalls do not yet house vendors. Filling these storefronts would certainly help to give the space the marketplace the atmosphere that it strives for and to draw a larger crowd.

Between churros and paletas, desserts is one area where Plaza Mariachi has the rest of Nashville beat. Try a popsicle at Paletas Tocumbo to understand why. These frozen infusions of yogurt and fruit are not only nice to look at, but also sweet and refreshing.

I’ll be back to try the churros at Plaza Mariachi, and perhaps to have another popsicle at Paletas Tocumbo. I’m hoping that each time I go back, Plaza Mariachi will have a new store or treat to try. It has the potential to be a true Nashville favorite.

Photos by Hannah Haecker//The Vanderbilt Hustler

Space Jam: Cassini’s End

Undoubtedly the biggest space-related news of the last few weeks was the final end of Cassini. On the fifteenth of September, the unmanned spacecraft, which had been orbiting Saturn for thirteen years, reached the end of one final pass between the gas giant’s rings, plunged into the planet’s atmosphere, and burnt up.

Cassini was impressive for many reasons, not least of which was its longevity. The probe had been launched in 1997 before going through an elaborate sequence of flybys around other solar system bodies. Cassini flew past Venus, twice, back past Earth, and then past Jupiter, then finally reaching Saturn in 2004. (It may seem strange to go closer to the Sun in order to go further away from it, but the inner planets’ gravity gave Cassini additional speed that allowed it to reach Saturn with less fuel, and thus less cost, than a straight shot.) Cassini was initially slated to end in 2008, but the probe continued to operate long past that. Indeed, its mission was gradually ended until 2017, effectively doubling its lifetime.

During those long years, the Cassini mission helped produce a veritable treasure trove of knowledge about Saturn and its satellites. The probe took images and data of Saturn’s rings, moons, and atmosphere from closer than was ever previously possible; furthermore, data from Cassini helped astronomers discover at least seven previously unknown moons. Additionally, Cassini carried with it a smaller probe, Huygens, which in 2005 descended to the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, unlocking what lay below its thick atmosphere. These sorts of details will find their way into astronomy classes within the next few years, and they are being uncovered now.

Scientific value aside, Cassini-Huygens was important for showing the power of international space cooperation. The mission was a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency. The Cassini probe, in fact one of the largest unmanned spacecraft ever built, and its companion Huygens were both international creations. Parts and scientific instruments and knowledge were provided by numerous countries. While a mission of this scale is certainly possible alone, it was made significantly easier by being a multinational effort. International cooperation such as this is the future of research, including at Vanderbilt.

Why couldn’t we have just left Cassini to drift around Saturn for an eternity? Since Cassini was built on and launched from Earth, it might still carry bacteria or other organisms from Earth. Such organisms have proven to be able to survive and thrive in the hostile environment of space. In the event that the probe ended up coming in contact with one of Saturn’s larger moons, they could even spread such organisms there and contaminate them. Particularly due to the fact that some of these worlds are candidates for life themselves, this is a risk that is not worth taking.

Furthermore, if Cassini returned to Earth, there is always a slight possibility that some alien life form might have hitched a ride and come back to contaminate Earth’s own biosphere. This may seem like an extremely remote possibility, and certainly, most of us would consider the idea of alien infection remote or in the realm of fiction. But it pays to be careful with the risks associated with space exploration.

Why is all this important to us? After all, again, all this is happening quite literally billions of miles removed from any of us. But that distance is exactly the point – this is a fantastic example of the limits science and technology are capable of pushing. One day, after all, humans ourselves might be living amongst the worlds that Cassini and Huygens explored.


category: Space Jam, Voices

Why writing is the best way to record our experiences

Whether we like it or not, we live in an age of constant documentation. Everything we do– from going to parties to ordering Insta-worthy desserts– can be frozen forever and plastered all over the digital world. Few things, it seems, go unrecorded.

But fear not: this isn’t the anti-social media tirade you’ve heard far too many times, and it certainly isn’t a criticism of our culture’s fixation on documentation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Documentation is crucial. It serves our memories, breeds our nostalgia, sheds light on our past and shapes our present. But the way we go about it now, through social media platforms and shorthanded statements, eliminates its biggest benefits.

My opinion is not that we should quit documenting our lives on social media. But here’s my call to action: that even while residing in this digital dimension, we once in awhile lapse into the primitive and do one important thing: write. Because writing, more than anything else on this planet, has the ability to preserve our experiences and capture our realities. After all, this is how it all began, 3700 years ago, with the first writers of the world.

They wrote to give permanence to the lives they were living.

Let me take you back a little.

In 3500 B.C., when the ancient residents of Uruk raised blunt reeds to moistened clay, they weren’t writing for fun. They weren’t striving for cathartic release or self-understanding. Their wedge-shaped marks formed pictographs that preserved meanings in ways that the spoken word could not. With numerals and word signs, the Mesopotamians kept economic records, documented livestock, and developed the script that came to be cuneiform. They wrote of the gods they worshipped and the stories they told, of the temple estates they built and the leaders they followed. They wrote to organize current affairs and to educate their posterity. They wrote to give permanence to the lives they were living.

This view on writing has changed the way I live my life and the way I choose to document it. Although I’m a bit different from these ancient scribes, piecing together words rather than symbols, on paper rather than clay, I write with the same intentions. Like those who founded my most treasured diversion, I write to keep a record.

Although I wish to be, I am not quite as selfless as the first writers of the world. My records hardly provide societal value or generational wisdom. In fact, they rarely inform anyone other than me. They bring to light the shifts in my perspective, the expansion of my experiences, and the evolution of my voice. When memory is distorted by personal bias, my writing remains an account of who I am.

For as long as I can remember, I have been keeping this record. I remember writing my first story in first grade, and thinking, without ever a flash of doubt, that I was a sensation. Writing felt like flying, and it was all I wanted to do. When someone in the class finished a story, she would earn the regal privilege of sitting upon the classroom throne (rocking chair) and reading it aloud to her subjects (classmates). I called my first story “The Fish,” and welcomed the stardom that would inevitably come with revealing my literary marvel to the world. The story chronicled the gripping exploits of two jaded goldfish who longed to break free of the monotony of captivity and return to the thrill of open seas.

When memory is distorted by personal bias, my writing remains an account of who I am.

Since then, no disrespect meant to sea creatures, my stories have changed. I write less about fictional people and more about the real ones who have shaped my life. And even though my documents have evolved in style and theme, my writing continues to guide me. The content changes, but looking back at the record of the voices I heard and the convictions I felt always helps me find true north.

My records are stored in my desk drawers, computer files and blog posts. Through weird word combinations and fiery arguments, they preserve the many skins I have shed. And though nowadays I rarely write about fish, my first story will no doubt be much like my last. On the surface I was a first grader paying homage to the Pixar summer blockbuster of 2003.  But even then, I was keeping a record, freezing a still of that little girl, not much different in stature from today, breaking boundaries, spattered with sea spray, putting pen to paper.

So join me. Excavate your journals from the depths of dusty drawers, and write about what you see, how you feel and who you are. Every once in awhile, stop to keep an authentic record. Like the ancient Mesopotamians, and like a six-year-old ripping off “Finding Nemo,” document your life through your words. When you look back at the record, as an older, wiser version of the person who created it, you’ll thank yourself for harnessing that voice. One day, it might guide you, comfort you or take you on a humbling journey to your roots. But no matter how it ends up serving you, it’ll mean a whole lot more than an Instagram post.

Jenna Moldaver is a first-year in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at jenna.n.moldaver@vanderbilt.edu


category: Opinion

Alabama head coach Nick Saban taking Commodores seriously

Alabama head coach Nick Saban had plenty to say about Vanderbilt at his weekly press conference as the Commodores prep for what is the most exciting game in the Derek Mason era.

And when Saban speaks, you listen.

When asked about what impressed him the most about the Commodores, Saban first mentioned the defense, which has conceded the fewest offensive yards in the nation. He spoke glowingly of the “exotic looks” that Vandy’s defense plays, saying “it makes it so much more difficult for the offensive line to identify the [defensive] front and know who to block, so it creates confusion.”

Saban also mentioned Vanderbilt’s “outstanding” secondary. Vanderbilt has the top-ranked passing defense in college football. Although Vanderbilt’s played MTSU, Alabama A&M, and Kansas State, Saban said it would be a mistake to discount those stats simply due to the opposition.

The key for Vanderbilt will be to maintain a balanced offense. Saban praised Vanderbilt’s offensive balance, and noted how Kyle Shurmur is the most efficient passing quarterback in the SEC. The key for Vanderbilt, specifically Shurmur, will be to hit on a few explosive plays, because that’s what it usually takes to beat Alabama.

Saban didn’t leave out running back Ralph Webb either. Saban described Webb as a “physical, downhill runner who runs with a lot of toughness and tenacity.” Expect Alabama’s top priority to be shutting down the running game, and force Shurmur to pass the ball against their dangerous secondary.

He also joined the chorus of college football minds that are taking Vanderbilt seriously. Saban candidly mentioned how he thought Coach Mason’s squad “deserves to be in the Top 25.”

However, when asked at Vanderbilt’s press conference on Tuesday, Kyle Shurmur remained steadfast that they haven’t thought of anything other than the impending game.

“Our full focus is on Alabama, and going 1-0 this week,” he said.

3-0 and No Field Goals: Vanderbilt’s Unusual Start to the Season

The Vanderbilt Commodores are 3-0 in the SEC so far this season, having won 28-6, 42-0, and 14-7. There is one odd thing about those three numbers, however. See it? Not yet? Let me give you a hint. Each of the Commodores’ final scores is divisible by seven. Vanderbilt has scored an impressive total of 84 points, all from touchdowns. They have kicked a grand total of zero field goals in the 2017 season.

It is truly an unusual start to what promises to be an unusual season. The Commodores broke their six-year first-game losing streak in a decisive win against Middle Tennessee State University, went on to steamroll over Alabama A&M, and finally eke out a victory over Kansas State.  Now they are gearing up for their biggest game in arguably a decade, and yet the only points they have scored that involved the goalposts were extra points after each touchdown. This is a rare occurrence in college football, as well as football in general.

As of September 18th, Vanderbilt is 12-12 in PAT attempts, yet the team is 0-2 in field goal attempts. The Commodores have scored touchdowns seven out of the nine times they have been in the red zone, and they have scored 12 touchdowns in total. So why the lack of field goals? Senior kicker Tommy Openshaw is clearly very proficient in getting the ball through the goalposts, as evident by his 100% success rate in PAT attempts. He was also 15-19 in field goal attempts in 2016, 12-19 in 2015, and 8-11 in 2014, all of which are very respectable numbers. Last season, something similar happened to Washington State kicker Erik Powell, who had gone 20-26 in field goal attempts and 49-49 in PAT attempts in 2015. During the 2016 season, he made all of his 31 PAT attempts, but he missed five out of five field goal attempts before finally getting those coveted three points. He went 9-15 in field goal attempts during the entire season, and his longest field goal was 41 yards. There is a lesson to be learned from Powell’s story: there will be plenty more chances this season for Openshaw to kick field goals, and, if the success of his previous seasons is any indication, he will deliver.

A possible explanation for Vanderbilt’s surprisingly low number of field goal attempts in the first place is that the offense has been so effective through the air and on the ground that the need for field goal attempts is nearly eliminated. The Commodores have not yet allowed any points off of turnovers; meanwhile, they average an impressive average of 5.8 yards gained per offensive play and 346 yards gained per game. Their opponents’ averages are 3.4 yards gained per offensive play and 198.3 yards per game. In addition, they have gained a grand total of 332 yards rushing, and they have maintained an average passing yardage gain of 9.5 yards per pass and 13.7 yards per catch. By comparison, their opponents have an average passing yardage gain of 3.6 yards per pass and 9.7 yards per catch. With an offense so strong, Vanderbilt has gotten a total of 44 first downs in their first three games and steamrolled their way to 12 touchdowns, thereby practically extinguishing the need for field goal attempts.

Whatever the reason for Vanderbilt’s field goal drought, it is certainly not the worst thing to happen to the team, and if they keep racking up touchdowns as they have over their first three games, they will have little to worry about in the coming weeks. Hopefully for Vanderbilt, this unusual occurrence heralds a unique and successful season for a skilled and highly improved offense.


category: Featured, Football, Sports

Vanderbilt alumni discuss the White House, First Amendment in Constitution Day panel

In observance of Constitution Day on Monday, The Commons and Vanderbilt Student Communications hosted “The White House and The First Amendment,” a discussion about executive power and the First Amendment from the perspective of members of the national media. The discussion featured Washington D.C. reporters and Vanderbilt alumni Michael Warren (‘10), senior writer at The Weekly Standard, and Jillian Hughes (‘11), White House producer at CBS News, and was moderated by Vanessa Beasley, Dean of the Ingram Commons. The Vanderbilt Hustler sat down with the three prior to the event to discuss their time at Vanderbilt, the current White House and First Amendment rights on college campuses.

Constitution Day 2017, September 18

Vanderbilt Hustler: What should students know about today and First Amendment rights in general?

Dean Vanessa Beasley: In the class that I teach, one of the things that we talk about a lot is the need for some sort of balance and for citizens to recognize the balance, that on one hand we have a democracy, we want it to thrive, but there’s nothing in the Constitution except for the First Amendment that protects the press, to the extent that we have a set of assumptions, about the press being a watchdog, about the press holding government accountable at any level, about the press having a call to public service. Even the ideological venues of the press feel that call, like we want people to know things that we care about so you can understand when you need to call somebody about something, at the most basic level. So as a citizen you need to understand that there’s no guarantee that the watchdog function is going to happen unless we protect those First Amendment rights. It’s really really important.

Michael Warren: I worry a lot less about the First Amendment being under assault and more about the norms associated with the First Amendmentthat we get into a situation in which the press doesn’t view itself appropriately, or because of the way the president treats the press, begins to view their role differently or there’s like a million different press outlets now and they get to do things that I would say are not necessarily ethical journalism, I’m writing about that right now, about people just making up stuff, and it’s those norms that more worry me. The First Amendment is one of these things that isn’t going anywhere and it’s more about how do we use it.

Constitution Day 2017, September 18

VH: Recently there has been a lot of national attention on free speech and college campuses, particularly around things like who can come speak or if students can protest these speakers. Does this feel like a recent trend or is this something you noticed during your undergraduate days?

Jillian Hughes: I don’t think that’s a recent trend. When I was an undergrad there were examples out there of particular graduation speakers, I don’t know if Vanderbilt has changed their policy at all, but when I went to school here we didn’t have an official graduation speaker. We had someone that spoke the day before graduation, but there wasn’t anyone who actually spoke at commencement. I’m not sure if that was a conscious decision or not, but there was definitely, particularly surrounding graduation, there were definitely different parts of the student body that didn’t want so-and-so speaking at the graduation. I wish I could come up with a specific example, but that I don’t think is a new phenomenon.

MW: It’s definitely different. I’m very glad and grateful that it’s not this way at Vanderbilt, at least it hasn’t been, not that I’ve seen, but the sort of illiberal way students, and I think it’s a small amount of students at these colleges, who think that different ideas, ideas that maybe are different than their own, can’t be heard. There’s a very stark line between somebody who comes to a college campus who means to do actual harm, means to start punching people in the First Amendment walking around campus or something, god forbid, even worse, and somebody who says things that you may find disgusting, odious, awful. We have the First Amendment, they should be able to say those things, and we should, particularly I think as educated people, be willing and eager to hear other views, and be willing to challenge those views too in an appropriate way. This is probably outrageous to some college students, but I don’t think ideas and words can hurt people. I think they can only be combatted with other ideas and words.

Constitution Day 2017, September 18

VH: What is it like balancing student voices and comfort with First Amendment rights?

DB: One of the things we always make sure that students understand, or we try to really make sure that students understand when they come to a university is the fact that this is a different kind of space than you might’ve experienced in high school. We take First Amendment rights and freedom of speech very seriously on a university campus, and in fact that’s part of our mission is to welcome ideas and debate and discussion and you don’t have to like something just for it to be heard or even for you to hear it. I think that the comfort piece sometimes gets stereotyped as the thing that would keep you from having First Amendment rights or freedom of speech on campus but I think that’s a false dichotomy. I think it’s okay to be uncomfortable and part of my job as an educator is to lead people through discomfort. If you think about it, you don’t learn very often unless you feel at least some sense of discomfort.

Constitution Day 2017, September 18

VH: How can students actively engage with their First Amendment rights and do you believe they should?

JH: I’m going to answer this from a student media perspective, from what my wheelhouse is. I think students should constantly be pushing for more access to more administration officials. If something’s going on on campus and you’re doing student media interviews and basically if there’s seemingly something a large portion of the student body is upset about, then members of student media should be pushing for access to their campus officials to ask them questions about what they’re going to do about this problem on campus. It’s similar to what we would do at the White House. If there’s some issue, take the President tweeting that the transgender policy in the military is completely going to change, and he’s just tweeting about it and nobody has any information, no one can explain how it’s changing or when it’s going to change, and how is this going to affect the lives of people who are already transgender in the military. Then, as members of the press core, it’s our responsibility to use our access to the White House to ask where is this policy and what’s going to happen to these people. You should be pushing as much as you can for access to the same types of officials that I would be doing in my job.

MW: Well, you don’t have to. That’s one of the great things about the First Amendment is you can choose not to speak or not to assemble, but I think it’s a good thing, I think it’s a healthy thing for people to do because if you are well-versed and knowledgeable about the Constitution, about the ideas behind it, you’re going to want to say something or you’re going to want to do something. It’s such a broad amendment and it can kind of be narrowed into speech in the media, but I think if more college students, students at Vanderbilt, embrace the idea that everybody is free to speak, to say what they think, that there is no obligation for anyone to listen, we would all be better off by listening to one another. Part of using the First Amendment is being knowledgeable in it, and college is a great time to learn about things. I wish I had read 10 times more than what I actually did while I was here, opportunities to read in your courses, even if you’re an engineering student, read and learn about things. I think being an active learner helps you when you leave college. You take those lessons to be a more active citizen, and that of course means being active in your First Amendment rights.

Constitution Day 2017, September 18

VH: How much power, if any, do you think the executive branch’s attitudes toward the First Amendment has on the general public? Attitudes toward media?

JH: Let’s take the President’s tweets for example, the President will tweet a lot about stories in the media that he doesn’t like sometimes and call them this new phenomenon called “fake news” right? I do think that term has gotten out into the general public a little bit. I would hope that people would take it upon themselves to read a large swath of what’s out there- read CBSnews.com, listen to the radio, read ABC, listen to NPR, read and listen to a bunch of different outlets that are coming from different perspectives and take a cross-section of that and make a judgement for themselves about here is what I think about what is happening in the world. I think that’s the best way to describe how I feel about the administration’s use of that term.

MW: The President is a consumer of media. This idea that the President hates the media, it’s not really true. We published this at the Weekly Standard, and I think it remains true, the leaks of what’s going on in the White House, the number one offender is the President. And then it trickles down from him. I’m all for leaks, it helps me do my job, but all the sort of anti-media stuff is mostly for show. He calls up places like the New York Times and the New York Post, his favorite newspapers, he calls them the failing New York Times, but he loves them. He’s obsessed with them. He loves the media.

Constitution Day 2017, September 18

Quotes edited for length and clarity. 


category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

Behind Enemy Lines: Alabama Crimson Tide

Vanderbilt’s campus will be the place to be this Saturday when the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide roll into town for the Commodores’ biggest game of the year.
To get a better look at the number one team in the nation, we spoke with Matthew Speakman, sports editor of The Crimson White. He dished on the Tide’s dynamic offense and shutdown defense, as well as his expectations for this showdown in Music City.
Vanderbilt Hustler: Vanderbilt was effective at slowing down Jesse Ertz of Kansas State on the ground and forced him into the air. How effective will that strategy be against a mobile quarterback in Jalen Hurts?
Matthew Speakman: Hurts and Ertz are both very similar runners in the sense that they are very patient and dangerous in the open field. If Vanderbilt is able to contain Hurts and make him beat them through the air, then that definitely helps Vanderbilt. The thing that is different with Alabama is that outside of Hurts, this team is loaded with playmakers. Hurts can get the ball out quickly and any one of the six receivers Alabama rotates can make something happen. They also have four or five running backs that are dangerous as well. Slowing down Hurts is priority No. 1 for Vanderbilt, in my opinion, but even if they do that, Alabama cans still use its other weapons.
VH: Alabama’s defense held a players-only meeting after this past week’s game. How much do you make of that and do you think they will be able to get it together against an up-and-coming Vanderbilt offense?
MS: I think it will turn out to be a good thing. The defense did a similar thing in 2015 and went on to be lights out the rest of the season. If anything, it shows the defense has clear leaders in Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rashaan Evans and a couple of others. It also shows accountability. I dont think it means they will completely turn it around right away, but it’s a step in the right direction.
VH: The first three defenses Vanderbilt faced stacked the box against running back Ralph Webb. Do you expect the Tide to take a similar approach, or will they cede some space and try to slow down Kyle Shurmur?
MS: I do not think they will stack the box. I think they’ll take a fairly balanced approach and run a lot of base defense. Alabama gets back some key players in Rashaan Evans, Anfernee Jennings and Dylan Moses, so that will definitely help them in base packages. I dont think they will over commit to any one player on Vanderbilt.
VH: The Vanderbilt front seven has 10 sacks through three games. How effective has the Alabama offensive line been at keeping Hurts on his feet, and could that be an issue on Saturday?
MS: Pass protection has been a problem for Alabama, but the line insists that it’s improving. Vanderbilt will be a tough challenge for them. They struggled against Florida State, which is a very strong defensive line. That could be an issue. Their pass protection is very up in the air right now.
VH: Nick Saban is perhaps the most seasoned coach in the FBS, while Derek Mason is an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. Do you expect a “David versus Goliath” coaching chess match between these two?
MS: I don’t know if I would call it that, because right now, Mason is looking like one of the strongest coaches in the SEC. What he has done with that program is very impressive, especially after losing James Franklin. His players seem to trust him and buy into his ideas. In terms of experience, they are definitely on opposite ends of the spectrurm.
VH: What is your prediction for the game?
MS: I’m going to go 27-10, Alabama. I think Alabama will struggle at first, but Jalen Hurts has been so efficient lately, it is hard to keep up with Alabama. Another factor is the fact that Alabama has not committed a turnover this year. They have been very clean with the ball and they also force a lot of turnovers. That’s very hard to beat.

A Look Back: SEC Nation Returns to Campus for Third Time

Vanderbilt is coming off a great weekend, and the Commodores look the best they ever have under Derek Mason. The defense played spectacularly, with two late takeaways and a fourth down stop sealing the win. Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz was limited to just 76 yards on 10-28 passing, and his inaccuracy and inability to hit receivers deep down the field was exploited by Mason and his defense.

Second half adjustments and a focus on stopping the run paid off, as the Wildcats got shut out in the second half. Throw in a couple of clutch plays by Kyle Shurmur, an overturned fumble, touchdown-negating flags called on Kansas State, and Vanderbilt earned its first 3-0 start under Derek Mason. But for the Commodores, there’s no time to rest.

An undefeated, top-ranked Alabama is coming to town, and SEC Nation will broadcast live from the Ingram Commons this Saturday morning. While the Commodores prepare for this huge week, let’s take a look back at Vanderbilt’s College GameDay and SEC Nation history.

Vanderbilt’s most recent College GameDay featured an SEC heavyweight matchup between #13 Auburn and #19 Vanderbilt. Tommy Tuberville’s Tigers came to town as the overwhelming favorite, but it was Vanderbilt that pulled off the upset. A back and forth stalemate that cumulated in a game winning interception by Myron Lewis ended a 13-game losing streak to the Tigers, and the Commodores were sitting pretty at 5-0. That red-hot start to the season went downhill quickly, as Vanderbilt ended in a 7-6 record, recovering with a bowl win over Boston College.The yearly rivalry game between Vanderbilt and Ole Miss attracted enough attraction in 2014 to earn the spotlight of SEC Nation. It was a poor performance by the Commodore defense, as the unit let up over 500 yards of offense and 41 points.

Vanderbilt signal-caller Stephen Rivers posted a QBR of 4.2, and the one field goal Tommy Openshaw kicked came from a fumble deep in Ole Miss territory. The Rebels built off their 41-3 victory and went on to upset Alabama, signaling the beginning of the Bo Wallace-Hugh Freeze era in Oxford.

Vanderbilt most recently hosted SEC Nation two years ago, on September 12, 2015, when tenth-ranked Georgia came to town. Derek Mason’s second season as a head coach didn’t see the start of conference play the way he had hoped.

Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary threw three interceptions, Ralph Webb was held to 68 yards on 25 carries, and the Bulldogs trounced the Commodores 31-14. It was a disappointing conference opener, but lessons learned from that loss helped Vanderbilt upset UGA last year 17-16.

This week’s contest with Alabama poses the toughest matchup yet.  Nick Saban is one of the best in the business, and the Crimson Tide rarely make mistakes. If Vanderbilt wants to win, the defense must maintain the exceptional level of play that has been on display in the first three weeks. The offense, especially Ralph Webb, needs to improve on last week’s subpar game. Finally, for this historic upset to come to fruition, Derek Mason will have to coach the game of life.


category: Featured, Football, Sports

The Resilient Souls Project comes to Vanderbilt

A black-and-white portrait of a young girl gazing into the camera hangs still, her light eyes piercing even stripped of their color. Her name is Majana, and she moved to the United States from Bosnia when she was 12-years-old after being sent to a concentration camp. She did not speak English, and her family members worked factory jobs to afford their apartment.

“When you begin something new, something like a new life, it should be great because it is a whole different and new thing. Two years ago, I found out that it wasn’t true. My beginning was a nightmare,” wrote Majana at age 14.

In Cathy Lander-Goldberg’s The Resilient Souls Project photo exhibition, photographs and primary sources recount women’s stories from 20 years ago to today. Each project participant grew up in her own city, faced her own challenge, and had her own reason for telling her story to Lander-Goldberg. A lot can happen in 20 years, but one thing continues to bind these women together: they have overcome a struggle, demonstrating resilience in the face of adversity.

On display in Kissam Center until Oct. 6, The Resilient Souls Project delves into what resilience means to each individual and looks deeper into the journey of arriving there. The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, the Center for Student Wellbeing, Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of the Vice Provost for Learning and Residential Affairs are co-sponsoring the exhibit.

The original 1996 exhibit, “Resilient Souls: Young Women’s Portraits and Words,” shed light on issues affecting young women in their teens and twenties through black-and-white photographs and letters. Lander-Goldberg was a freelance photographer and teacher to at-risk youth. Riding on the tail end of early 1990s third-wave feminism, she wanted to open the conversation for females and connect the young women to a wider audience.

Drawing inspiration from Gloria Steinem’s “Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem” (1992) and Mary Pipher’s “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” (1994), Lander-Goldberg said, “I learned more about what was going on in their lives, which were big issues for adolescents, and wanted to give them a voice. I felt that photography and writing were a tool to strengthen that voice.” She displayed the exhibit in St. Louis and also began hosting workshops for young women to express themselves through artistic mediums such as photojournalism and writing.

Twenty years later, Lander-Goldberg is revisiting the young women. However, they are now grown adults. Because the initial photo exhibit took place before the social media boom, tracking down the now-dispersed women proved to be a challenge. Some changed their names, went off the grid or were simply untraceable. As for those that she could find, Lander-Goldberg reopened the door to stories that defied all odds. “I initially viewed it as ‘my’ project but quickly realized it was ‘our’ project,” said Lander-Goldberg.

Thus, The Resilient Souls Project was born.

The exhibition no longer stands as a colorless collection that leaves the viewers rooting for the young women. The black-and-white “before” photograph is now brought to life by a colorful “after” portrait, along with a description or letter detailing the individual’s current situation. When asked if a certain story stuck with her, Lander-Goldberg stated, “they all stay with me because they trusted me. They didn’t have to tell me. Twenty years ago, people did not share personal things the way they do today. The girls knew I was doing the exhibit, and they trusted me.”

Whether it’s 43-year-old Freddie, who was once a 22-year-old struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, or 38 year-old Romanda, who refused to let muscular dystrophy hold her back even at 18-years-old, resilience looks different for everyone. Lander-Goldberg opened that conversation for these women and fully intends to keep it alive. She continues leading workshops and published  “PHOTO EXPLORATIONS: A Girl’s Guide to Self-Discovery Through Photography, Writing and Drawing” in 2015.

With the new project, the closed-mouth and colorless photograph of Majana is balanced by a portrait twenty years later of Majana as she smiles with her infant.

“Because of this hopeful little teenager, today I am a happily married wife and mom living the American Dream,” reflected Majana as she read the letter from 20 years prior. In the most recent portrait, we see that Majana’s child has her same light eyes. And this time, they’re in color.


category: Art, Featured, Life

Talk Foodie to Me: Nashville Oktoberfest

Hey Hustler readers! It’s Allison and I am back to tell you about the next can’t miss food event happening in Nashville.

Mark your calendars for the thirty-eighth annual Nashville Oktoberfest, happening Oct. 5-8 in Germantown. The festival, which has been extended this year to four days, pays homage to the historic Germantown as being Nashville’s first suburb. Stop by to check out the second largest Oktoberfest in America and say “Prost!” to the beginning of the fall season.

You can explore the endless craft beers and tasty morsels with free admission, or you can upgrade to a VIP pass for $115 to get your hands on unlimited free food, beer and commemorative swag. Whether you find yourself enjoying a bratwurst while listening to traditional German music, or competing to be named Beer Slide Champion, you are guaranteed to have a good time at Oktoberfest and it is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy Nashville. There’s even ways that you can give back to the community by attending the festival. Sign up for the 5K Bier Run Oct. 7 and see 100 percent of the proceeds go towards the Historic Germantown Neighborhood Organization so that we can continue to enjoy amazing events like this!

Check out the official website: http://thenashvilleoktoberfest.com/ for info on directions, parking, and an event calendar.

I’d like to join VSG, but I go to church on Wednesday nights

I’d like to run for VSG Senate, or join a VSG Committee. I’d like to have discussions with the involved, intelligent, and passionate group that makes up VSG. I’d like to take the complaints, concerns and ideas I hear all around me from my brilliant peers to VSG meetings and present them. I’d like to be a part of VSG, but I can’t.

Why? I meet the qualifications, I am willing and excited to complete the responsibilities, and I have support from the peers who would elect me or select me to join a committee. I am not, however, free on Wednesday nights.

I can’t “just go on Sunday” because it’s not the same service, and it’s not intended to be.

I know what you’re thinking – That’s a stupid reason! Just move whatever you have planned on Wednesdays, or quit that activity entirely. But what I do on Wednesdays is go to church, to participate in worship and lead a small group of sixth grade girls. Before I found my church in Nashville, I attended Navs (a non-denominational campus ministry) on Wednesday nights. I am a Christian, and as a part of practicing my faith I am always going to be busy on Wednesday nights. I can’t move my commitment, nor would I want to. I certainly can’t quit going to church on Wednesdays, because that’s a huge part of how I connect to my faith every week. I can’t “just go on Sunday” because it’s not the same service, and it’s not intended to be. My church and my faith are designed to encourage believers to seek community more than once every seven days. And I’m nowhere near alone in this – at least four campus ministries (Navs, RUF, Cru, and University Catholic) hold Wednesday evening services with hundreds of collective attendees.

VSG wears its commitment to diversity like a badge of honor – and it should, if that commitment were truly upheld. Diversity means allowing students of every race, creed, background and belief an equal opportunity to participate in VSG. The VSG website states that the organization is “dedicated to engaging and supporting an increasingly diverse undergraduate community” and “devoted to ensuring that all Vanderbilt students have equal opportunities to pursue a fulfilling undergraduate experience.” I whole-heartedly agree with these statements, but I unfortunately feel that Christians on this campus are not afforded the same equal opportunity.

even if it’s not intentional, 2-hour-long VSG Senate meetings at 7 p.m. and hour-long VSG Committee meetings at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays are a punishment.

I am fully aware that in the past, Christians (especially white, male Christians) have been over-represented in positions of leadership, both at Vanderbilt and in the world. That fact does not mean that they should be punished today for the injustices perpetrated by their predecessors. And even if it’s not intentional, 2-hour-long VSG Senate meetings at 7 p.m. and hour-long VSG Committee meetings at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays are a punishment. They are a barrier to involvement, a barrier to equal opportunity, and a barrier to having a voice for so many practicing Christians at Vanderbilt.  

I am also aware that no matter what night you make VSG meetings, they may conflict with some form of religious gathering on or around Vanderbilt. However, Wednesdays are a very standardized and common night of worship within the Protestant Christian faith, and have been for decades. This is especially true here in Nashville, the city Vanderbilt calls home.

I’d like to be a part of VSG Senate. But I cannot both observe my faith AND be in VSG, and that’s a problem.

Claire Barnett is the Multimedia Director of the Vanderbilt Hustler and a sophomore in Peabody College. She can be reached at claire.barnett@vanderbilt.edu. 


category: Opinion

Vanderbilt-Alabama tickets in high demand for students and Tide fans

The past couple weeks, Vanderbilt has received heat on its lack of attendance at football games.  This weekend might just be a different story.

Within minutes of Vanderbilt releasing its tickets for this upcoming game against Alabama, the Student Ticketing Portal malfunctioned.  Students around campus struggled to access tickets on their mobile phones, which has become the new ticket procedure that the university started at the beginning of this season.

A ticket representative told The Hustler, “There was an issue with Ticketmaster due to the overwhelming number of students attempting to claim a ticket.”  If you are one of these students, fear not.  The ticket office seems to have the problem under control, but tickets are being claimed at an alarming rate. There are still tickets available, and all students will receive an email when the tickets are all claimed. It’s certainly a better problem to have than an attendance problem.

While ticket sales seem to point to a dramatic uptick in student attendance, that only accounts for three sections of the stadium.  This past Saturday, the student section was as crowded as it’s been in years, but even that wasn’t enough to drown the Kansas State contingent rumored to have as many as 17,000 fans.  Vanderbilt Stadium holds just north of 40,000 people.

If 17,000 fans embarked on the 11-hour car ride from Manhattan, Kansas, one would have to believe that the premier football program in America will send an even larger party to make the shorter four-hour trek.

Determined to make sure that doesn’t happen, the ticket office has been putting a little pressure on Alabama fans.  For starters, the ticket office didn’t offer single-game tickets for this game for a long time. Fans could purchase tickets for any home game with the exception of Alabama, as an Alabama ticket would only be available through a season ticket package. As the game got closer, Vanderbilt slowly began to ease access to a coveted Alabama ticket.

Vanderbilt then offered a three-game ticket package, featuring matchups against Alabama A&M and Missouri, in addition to the Alabama game.  The package offered tickets starting at $140 for three games, just $11 more than tickets for the Alabama weekend alone, a steal for two more games. The deal provides no benefit for Alabama fans, and figures to only cater to Vanderbilt fans in Nashville and the surrounding area.

As Alabama fans still ate the cost of extra tickets and bought those mini plans, Vanderbilt finally made single-game tickets available for the Alabama game only in recent weeks.

On top of the ticket packages, the individual ticket price of this game is sky high.  Tickets opened up at $129, and that’s just for end zone seats.  This price is a far cry from the average cost of a Vanderbilt football ticket, which sat at $31.50 in 2016.  While this might not deter the die-hard Tide supporter who is used to paying upwards of $100 for a ticket, it might just turn off the rowdy Alabama student with not-so-deep pockets.

The attendance problem at Vanderbilt has not gone unnoticed.  But for Vanderbilt fans, rest assured; fans and ticket-sellers are prepared to make sure that this weekend is different.


category: Featured, Football, Sports

Vanderbilt takes part in filing amicus brief opposing Trump’s travel ban

Vanderbilt University took part in signing an amicus brief including 30 universities to encourage the Supreme Court to strike down President Donald Trump’s January executive order banning immigrants and refugees from six majority-Muslim nations from the U.S.

Vanderbilt also filed an amicus brief in February urging that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington’s stay of the order be upheld.

“World class academics and cutting edge research critically rely on campus environments that are welcoming and rich in their diversity of viewpoints,” Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said in a press release announcing Vanderbilt’s participation in the brief. “At Vanderbilt, we’re making that environment a reality – this travel ban would hamper those efforts here and across the country. It is vital to this nation’s future that we continue to recognize the strength and value of embracing diversity and inclusion.”

In addition to laying out fears for the future, the brief discusses the negative effects the travel ban has already had on some of the signatory universities, including hesitance from international applicants and students to carry out their studies in the United States for fear of changes in their legal status and their safety.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Trump’s travel ban Oct. 10 as the next step in the legal battle over its constitutionality.  

The universities that have signed onto the brief include Boston, Brandeis, Brown, Bucknell, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Middlebury, Northeastern, Northwestern, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, Tufts, The University of Chicago, The University of Michigan, The University of Pennsylvania, The University of Southern California, Washington University in St. Louis, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Yale.

An amicus curiae brief is Latin for “friend of the court,” and is filed by parties who are not part of the litigation, but who have a vested interest in the outcome of a case. The court uses amicus brief to consider relevant views of those who are affected by the outcome of litigation. Vanderbilt’s views are considered relevant, as a university whose undergraduate and graduate populations are made up of 7.6% and 23.3% international students, respectively.

As they did with the brief filed in February, The Vanderbilt Office of General Counsel worked with its counterparts at peer universities as well as the law firm Jenner & Block to collaborate in writing, editing and submitting the brief.

The signing of the brief is one of the university’s many actions in opposition to the travel ban. A more exhaustive description of these actions as well as information related to immigration and refugees is available on the Office of the Provost’s website.

Read the full brief here: 


category: Campus, Featured

Cultural Ignorance Isn’t an Excuse to Overlook Racism from Asian Communities

During Move-In Day, as I helped new Vanderbilt students settle into their dorms with the Move Crew, the father of a South Asian student approached me as I was carrying a microwave out of his car. Commenting on the diversity of students he saw who were helping move luggage that day, our conversation led to student activism on campus as he referenced contentious student protests at UC Berkeley. After he asked about the safety on campus surrounding protests, I told him that I found Vanderbilt’s campus to be very safe, while explaining the resources that are available to students. Midway through our discussion, he cut me off saying that “we wouldn’t have this issue if Blacks would stop committing crimes,” adding that “you don’t see this type of stuff with other races – it’s something to do with their culture for sure.” As we were approaching his child’s room, I was taken aback, awkwardly changing the topic of conversation to his hometown.

Part of me was genuinely shocked by the cavalier racism in his response, as naive as that might sound, while another part of me remained mostly unsurprised. In my experience (and in research), racism directed towards other minorities is quite common within Asian communities, often brought up concerning issues of affirmative action, colorism and crime. Many attribute this to the cultural homogeneity within Asian countries and Asians’ lack of exposure to other minorities once they immigrate to America. As Asian perspectives remain largely absent on the national spectrum when it comes to race or politics in general, it is an issue that is often overlooked by the public.

When the topic of undocumented immigrants appears with a focus on immigrants from Mexico and Latin America, Asian immigrants, who “since 1965 … have come to the U.S. under certain immigration preference categories that favor professional skills and training,” as stated by Professor Eliza Noh from California State University, hold strongly conservative views on the matter.  Many oppose paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in America. Whether it be at the end of the reception at a wedding or at cultural gathering in my hometown, it is not uncommon for me to hear the characterization of Hispanic individuals as ‘freeloaders’ or ‘cheaters’ who never had to put in ‘hard work to get to America.’ These comments come from individuals who I have considered to be friends.

In the discussion of racism, I want to state that no one is discrediting the immense sacrifices made by Asian immigrants in the face of discrimination on the journey to America. Often rising from low socioeconomic levels to attain medical degrees and advanced education, many Asians immigrate to this country through sheer grit and tenacity. However, it is important to note that their journey was not started in a country with institutionalized discrimination against their race. (With relatively homogenous populations, stratification in countries like India take place along lines of class and caste.) Too often, minorities are pitted against one another with pundits touting the ‘asian model minority’ model as they try to show that hard work alone can guarantee that someone can climb the societal ladder, regardless of race. Too often we act as if there is a competition of discrimination in society, with individuals vying to show how they have achieved the ‘most’ despite starting out with the ‘least’. This competition leads many Asians to view poverty within certain subsets of the American population as a result of a lack of ambition.

Regardless of where one might think this racism “comes from,” dismissing it as just a result of older people stuck in their antiquated ways only causes racism within our communities to continue to exist. While Asians Americans have recently emerged as a more vocal minority group in the recent decade, with increased representation in film, media and politics, the issues with the ‘model minority’ myth and discrimination faced by Asian Americans is starting to enter our public dialogue. As a minority population, it is hypocritical for us to highlight the discrimination which Asian Americans face while also being complicit in the marginalization of America’s African American and Latino populations. Although we might not hold these racists views, a failure to call out racism within our communities causes us to become complicit in discrimination.

Even within Vanderbilt, it is not uncommon for Asian students I know to joke about how they would ‘never bring a Black person’ home as a boyfriend/girlfriend, citing a ‘potential disownment’ from their family. Too often I see first generation Asian Americans fail to confront this racism – as I did with my conversation with a Vandy parent. Many of us who are first generation Americans bite our tongue, telling ourselves that it is not the time or place to talk back to elders and cause an awkward situation in public. These excuses cause us to merely promote discrimination: silence in instances of racism is blatant complicity.


category: Opinion

Road to Atlanta Week Three: A topsy-turvy week in the SEC East

Week Three featured two SEC East divisional games that could not have been more different.

Florida’s Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock gave the Gators an emotional 26-20 victory over Tennessee. Florida held a 6-3 lead going into the fourth quarter of what had been a game completely devoid of offense.

Then, a barrage of scoring defined the final quarter, as Florida finally scored its first two offensive touchdowns of the year and added a pick-six. Tennessee came alive with 17 points in the fourth, but the scoring came too late.

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks heaved a 63-yard pass to Tyrie Cleveland, who got free behind a safety and used his speed to create even more space. The game-winning play was actually the same one Florida called to beat Tennessee as time expired two years ago.

While the Florida-Tennessee game ended with offensive fireworks and a highlight to be played for years to come, Kentucky’s 23-13 win at South Carolina was largely uneventful.

South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He may have trouble hitting that 300-yard mark again after wide receiver Deebo Samuel broke his leg and will miss the rest of the season. Samuel had 250 receiving yards and three touchdowns on the year.

Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. carried the Wildcats’ workload, rushing 32 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Kentucky’s defense held South Carolina to just three third-down conversions on 12 attempts, and their two fourth-down stops helped seal the victory.

Vanderbilt earned a 14-7 win over 18th-ranked Kansas State. The Commodores were led by their tough defense, which only allowed 76 yards through the air. Kyle Shurmur threw for a touchdown and ran for another to lead Vanderbilt to a 3-0 record for the first time since 2011. Vanderbilt’s offensive line problems were apparent throughout the night and will be exploited against faster SEC front sevens.

Georgia running back Nick Chubb took command in the Bulldogs’ 42-10 win over Samford, also named the Bulldogs. Chubb ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries to take pressure off of freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who made his second straight start in place of the injured Jacob Eason. Georgia’s front seven allowed 22 rushing yards on 23 carries in an impressive performance.

Missouri continued its disappointing start with a 35-3 home loss to Purdue. Purdue held the Tigers’ once-explosive offense to just 203 yards and a single field goal. Missouri fired defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross earlier in the week, and needs to see some changes on offense to save the season.

In Week Four, Florida visits Kentucky in a battle of early division leaders. Georgia hosts Mississippi State in a top-20 matchup of young, talented quarterbacks. Vanderbilt will face an enormous challenge against the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Missouri will try to get its offense running against Auburn.

Outside of SEC play, Tennessee hosts UMass and will try to recover from a devastating loss to Florida. South Carolina will try to find another playmaker to replace Deebo Samuel’s production when the Gamecocks take on Louisiana Tech.

Florida and Kentucky lead the division based on their 1-0 SEC records, but Georgia and Vanderbilt are also contenders. Missouri looks to already be out of the division race based on the last two weeks’ performances. Tennessee and South Carolina still can be competitive in the divison, as each only has one loss.

Happiest and Healthiest: The Cycle of Dissatisfaction

When was the last time you heard another Vanderbilt student say he or she was truly satisfied? When was the last time you opened your eyes to a day brimming with the life that you were entirely happy to live? Perhaps it has been some time, if ever, since you experienced this kind of satisfaction – and in a way, there may be benefits of that. After all, we’re Vanderbilt students. We weren’t satisfied with a GED alone. We weren’t satisfied with local community colleges or state schools. Some of us weren’t even satisfied with Vanderbilt until other reach schools were no longer valid options. Most of the time, I feel as if everything we do is driven by some form of dissatisfaction – if we’re studying harder, it’s because our grades aren’t good enough. If we’re joining more orgs, it’s because we need denser resumes. The cycle may seem pessimistic, but I feel that this kind of dissatisfaction can be incredibly productive if acted upon. However, I also believe that other kinds of dissatisfaction are incredibly unproductive: namely, dissatisfaction in body image.

Both at Vanderbilt and in the “real world,” we’re hardwired into believing that hard work and determination will eventually lead to success. However, applying that idea to our bodies has powerful potential to be damaging. Oftentimes when we think about success, we apply it to very abstract, human-constructed measures of achievement, like GPA, leadership roles, internships, etc., all of which offer ladders to climb and fairly concrete benchmarks of what “success” looks like. However, this ability to “climb the ladder” can’t be universally applied as a means to make something better, especially when the thing being bettered is your own body.

Nevertheless, we, as young people who have the resources (e.g. access to gyms and healthy food on campus) to be “healthy,” often visualize our bodies as yet another way to be successful or unsuccessful in the game of life. Perceived successes manifest in being able to lift a certain weight, have a six pack, have a thigh gap, etc., and since we are Vandy students, we likely have some sense that if we work for something hard enough, we can get it. We’re here, aren’t we?

This ideology, while somewhat productive in areas relating to school/work, can become increasing painful when applied to how we perceive our bodies because unlike human-devised means of success, our bodies were not necessarily meant to “succeed.” Our bodies were made in order for us to live – to move, to breathe and to feel. Many of us like to picture fitter versions of ourselves who work out every day, feel good and look even better. That’s our image of success. But what if we can never seem to achieve the look that we want, no matter how hard we work? According to the Vandy (and American) ideology, we should just keep working harder. But in many ways, our bodies don’t work like that–their primary function is to function – not to appear. Even if you are among the “lucky” few who achieve their dream bodies, would you confidently say that you’re satisfied? Odds are, as with everything else, you’ve probably just set a higher goal for yourself.

This cycle of dissatisfaction, achievement and new dissatisfaction that propels us through other areas of our lives is instead toxic to our self esteem and mental health when applied to our physical selves. I am in no way championing a sedentary or unhealthy lifestyle in which movement and mindful eating are rare. I am drawing attention to how an active lifestyle, when rooted in the wrong motivation, can be in a way just as unhealthy to your mind.

The next time you look in the mirror and negatively critique yourself, I challenge you to question just how happy and fulfilled you would be (and for how long) if the perceived “flaw” were corrected. How long would it be before the improvement became a source of dissatisfaction again? The next time you survey your body for improvements immediately after an intense workout, focus instead on how your body feels. And most importantly, recognize how often you workout to “burn calories,” “make up for eating [insert food here],” or “try to look more like [insert name here]” versus how often you workout because you simply want to feel good and give your body an opportunity to do something it’s meant to do: move. Set goals for yourself, but love yourself every step of the way. Satisfaction is anything but a final destination.

Wond’ry receives $500k innovation grant, design award

The Wond’ry, located inside the Engineering and Science Building’s Innovation Pavilion, is one of the newest additions to Vanderbilt’s campus. This semester, after nearly a year in operation, the Wond’ry and the Innovation Pavilion were the recipients of two awards: an I-Corps site grant and an Award of Merit from Engineering News-Record Southeast for the building’s design and functionality. According to Wond’ry Executive Director Robert Grajewski, both awards recognized the innovative features of the spaces that contribute to the overall experience students and faculty can have through the Wond’ry and Innovation Pavilion.

“It’s satisfying to receive that recognition,” Grajewski said. “It really allows us some confidence or a pat on the back that we’re doing something right and that we’re very quickly becoming this innovation thought leader in this space and in this industry.”

[The award] will really catalyze a lot of STEM startup opportunities for students, faculty and staff

The I-Corps grant gives the Wond’ry $500,000 to fund research and start-ups in STEM fields. It also establishes the Wond’ry as an I-Corps site, making Vanderbilt one of seventy universities in the nation with an I-Corps site. This means that students, faculty and staff who do work through the Wond’ry can access the Node, the regional I-Corps site, as well as the national I-Corps site in Washington, D.C. Additionally, the site is now part of the National Science Foundation lineage, meaning that startups that begin through the I-Corps program can apply for specific federal grants ranging anywhere from a quarter million to half a million dollars without giving up ownership of their company.

“It’s a great way to kind of quickly speed up the innovation, entrepreneurship and business startup creation process,” Wond’ry said. “It’s the first time in Vanderbilt history that we received this award and it will really catalyze a lot of STEM startup opportunities for students, faculty and staff across the board.”

The Engineering News-Record Southeast design award was given to the Innovation Pavilion for the architectural design and functionality of the building. The Innovation Pavilion, which is part of the Engineering and Science Building and home to the Wond’ry, is a 230,000 square foot space dedicated to innovation in STEM. Grajewski said the award was earned in part due to the unique features of the Innovation Pavilion, including the 10,000 square foot clean room and the three makerspaces housed in the Wond’ry. One of the main architectural components of the Innovation Pavilion is the consistent use of glass and natural light throughout the structure which, according to Grajewski, gives the building a very open feeling.

Inside the Wond’ry. photo by Maria Sellers

“I think that’s an overarching unique quality of this building; we use a lot of natural light, glass, et cetera, to really bring innovation to the forefront, to promote collaboration and trans-institutional collaboration and work, so that there is ultimately a space where everyone can kind of come together and share and have this merger of not only intellectual capital but creative collisions,” Grajewski said.

Beyond the structural features, Grajewski said what makes the Wond’ry great is the team of staff and the students who serve as mentors and ambassadors. Accolades like these, he said, prove that the programming and spaces at the Wond’ry and the Innovation Pavilion are serving their purpose to the Vanderbilt community.

“[The awards] are a testament to the team that’s been created here,” Grajewski said. “Our staff here at the Wond’ry work tirelessly to be leaders to the Vanderbilt community, to provide and create the best experience, the best programs, the best opportunities for our faculty, students and staff to pursue their innovative and entrepreneurial passions and dreams… Most importantly, what awards and this additional funding and additional accolades really provide is just even more opportunity to continue the good work that our team has been really able to start crafting and building here at the Wond’ry.”


category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

Wond’ry receives $500k innovation grant, design award

The Wond’ry, located inside the Engineering and Science Building’s Innovation Pavilion, is one of the newest additions to Vanderbilt’s campus. This semester, after nearly a year in operation, the Wond’ry and the Innovation Pavilion were the recipients of two awards: an I-Corps site grant and an Award of Merit from Engineering News-Record Southeast for the building’s design and functionality. According to Wond’ry Executive Director Robert Grajewski, both awards recognized the innovative features of the spaces that contribute to the overall experience students and faculty can have through the Wond’ry and Innovation Pavilion.

“It’s satisfying to receive that recognition,” Grajewski said. “It really allows us some confidence or a pat on the back that we’re doing something right and that we’re very quickly becoming this innovation thought leader in this space and in this industry.”

[The award] will really catalyze a lot of STEM startup opportunities for students, faculty and staff

The I-Corps grant gives the Wond’ry $500,000 to fund research and start-ups in STEM fields. It also establishes the Wond’ry as an I-Corps site, making Vanderbilt one of seventy universities in the nation with an I-Corps site. This means that students, faculty and staff who do work through the Wond’ry can access the Node, the regional I-Corps site, as well as the national I-Corps site in Washington, D.C. Additionally, the site is now part of the National Science Foundation lineage, meaning that startups that begin through the I-Corps program can apply for specific federal grants ranging anywhere from a quarter million to half a million dollars without giving up ownership of their company.

“It’s a great way to kind of quickly speed up the innovation, entrepreneurship and business startup creation process,” Wond’ry said. “It’s the first time in Vanderbilt history that we received this award and it will really catalyze a lot of STEM startup opportunities for students, faculty and staff across the board.”

The Engineering News-Record Southeast design award was given to the Innovation Pavilion for the architectural design and functionality of the building. The Innovation Pavilion, which is part of the Engineering and Science Building and home to the Wond’ry, is a 230,000 square foot space dedicated to innovation in STEM. Grajewski said the award was earned in part due to the unique features of the Innovation Pavilion, including the 10,000 square foot clean room and the three makerspaces housed in the Wond’ry. One of the main architectural components of the Innovation Pavilion is the consistent use of glass and natural light throughout the structure which, according to Grajewski, gives the building a very open feeling.

Inside the Wond’ry. photo by Maria Sellers

“I think that’s an overarching unique quality of this building; we use a lot of natural light, glass, et cetera, to really bring innovation to the forefront, to promote collaboration and trans-institutional collaboration and work, so that there is ultimately a space where everyone can kind of come together and share and have this merger of not only intellectual capital but creative collisions,” Grajewski said.

Beyond the structural features, Grajewski said what makes the Wond’ry great is the team of staff and the students who serve as mentors and ambassadors. Accolades like these, he said, prove that the programming and spaces at the Wond’ry and the Innovation Pavilion are serving their purpose to the Vanderbilt community.

“[The awards] are a testament to the team that’s been created here,” Grajewski said. “Our staff here at the Wond’ry work tirelessly to be leaders to the Vanderbilt community, to provide and create the best experience, the best programs, the best opportunities for our faculty, students and staff to pursue their innovative and entrepreneurial passions and dreams… Most importantly, what awards and this additional funding and additional accolades really provide is just even more opportunity to continue the good work that our team has been really able to start crafting and building here at the Wond’ry.”


category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

Hurricane Relief Dance Party at Basement East

The past two weeks have brought some of the worst hurricanes to the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hurricane Harvey, which touched down in Texas a total of three times, has accumulated almost $180 billion in damage and put one third of Houston underwater, displacing thirty-nine thousand people.

Now, those affected need help.

To raise money for relief efforts, Writer-in-Residence in Vanderbilt’s English department Amanda Little will be hosting an event on Wednesday, Sept. 20, at The Basement East (917 Woodland Street) at 7:45 pm.

The event will be only $10, though extra donations would be greatly appreciated. The suggested donation amount is $50, but the event was created to appeal to the diverse population of Nashville, particularly college students.

Tickets are inexpensive yet valuable, since local music groups Republican Hair and The Music City Toppers will be providing the tunes. As Little said, “the music is going to be incredible.”

Little, who wrote Power Trip: The Story of America’s Love Affair With Energy and has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, has family in Houston, as do her two friends. They have organized the dance party to begin healing for the Texan communities affected by Harvey and the areas that are damaged by Irma.

Little is also currently writing a book titled The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Smarter, Hotter World to be published by Random House. She strongly believes that “climate change is fueling the fire” of the severity of recent hurricanes. Her determination to combat further damage inspired the dance party.

The importance of this event is primarily to provide relief to Houston and Florida for hurricane damage, but it will channel into our political climate, as well.

“So many people in this country feel discouraged, it’s a very divided time politically and socially, and it’s really time for neighbors to help and feel capable and repair all this damage that’s not just environmental and geographical, but cultural and political. Dancing and music are a great way to come together,” Little said.

This party is about more than hurricane relief; it’s about uniting Nashville with its Southern neighbors and relieving the opinion divide. An uplifting and music-filled night, the event calls on students 18 and over to come share in the music and dancing for a cause.

Buy your ticket here.

Hurricane Relief Dance Party at Basement East

The past two weeks have brought some of the worst hurricanes to the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hurricane Harvey, which touched down in Texas a total of three times, has accumulated almost $180 billion in damage and put one third of Houston underwater, displacing thirty-nine thousand people.

Now, those affected need help.

To raise money for relief efforts, Writer-in-Residence in Vanderbilt’s English department Amanda Little will be hosting an event on Wednesday, Sept. 20, at The Basement East (917 Woodland Street) at 7:45 pm.

The event will be only $10, though extra donations would be greatly appreciated. The suggested donation amount is $50, but the event was created to appeal to the diverse population of Nashville, particularly college students.

Tickets are inexpensive yet valuable, since local music groups Republican Hair and The Music City Toppers will be providing the tunes. As Little said, “the music is going to be incredible.”

Little, who wrote Power Trip: The Story of America’s Love Affair With Energy and has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, has family in Houston, as do her two friends. They have organized the dance party to begin healing for the Texan communities affected by Harvey and the areas that are damaged by Irma.

Little is also currently writing a book titled The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Smarter, Hotter World to be published by Random House. She strongly believes that “climate change is fueling the fire” of the severity of recent hurricanes. Her determination to combat further damage inspired the dance party.

The importance of this event is primarily to provide relief to Houston and Florida for hurricane damage, but it will channel into our political climate, as well.

“So many people in this country feel discouraged, it’s a very divided time politically and socially, and it’s really time for neighbors to help and feel capable and repair all this damage that’s not just environmental and geographical, but cultural and political. Dancing and music are a great way to come together,” Little said.

This party is about more than hurricane relief; it’s about uniting Nashville with its Southern neighbors and relieving the opinion divide. An uplifting and music-filled night, the event calls on students 18 and over to come share in the music and dancing for a cause.

Buy your ticket here.

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