A look at the Vanderbilt transfer experience

If past trends repeat themselves, the first wave of transfer admission decisions will go out this week. Each year, approximately 210 transfer students join the Vanderbilt community. Of the most recent transfer class, 79.7 percent entered as sophomores, 11.2 percent entered as juniors and 9.1 percent started at Vanderbilt classified as first-year students. This means that at any given time, transfer students make up roughly nine percent of the student body.

The top feeder schools for the Vanderbilt transfer program are New York University, Belmont University and Boston College, respectively. Other significant feeder schools for the Vanderbilt transfer program include Emory University, George Washington University and Boston University.

For the class of 2020, Vanderbilt boasted a first-year retention rate of 96.6 percent, with only about 55 of the class’ members choosing to not return for their sophomore year. By accepting over 200 transfer students each year, Vanderbilt is increasing its graduating class sizes after freshman year.

“We look at transfers to level-set all the class loads” said Douglas Christiansen, Vice Provost of University Enrollment Affairs. “As we’re thinking about when students go to study abroad, there is a capacity that we’re keeping within our classes. Instead of being kind of high and then low, we just try to level [class loads]. That’s why [we take so many transfer students].”

Aside from pragmatics, administrators see other reasons to accept transfer students.

“[Transfer students] also bring, we’ve thought, a little bit of a flavor from some other schools” Christiansen said, citing the diversity of experience that transfer students have. “They bring different thoughts and ideas.”

Christiansen notes that transfer students perform at the same level as students who were accepted for freshmen year and that it’s not an easier process for transfers to get in.

Using data from the past three years, average GPAs of sophomore transfer students have been nearly identical to sophomore students who attended Vanderbilt their freshman year. In fact, during the 2016-2017 school year, sophomore transfer students had an average GPA of 3.46, which is slightly higher than the 3.41 average GPA of non-transfer sophomores.

Despite performing at the same level as non-transfer students, transfer students have reported sometimes feeling forgotten.

“What I noticed when I took on transfer student orientation in the fall of 2016 was that I think the transfer students were kind of feeling like the red-headed stepchildren” said Christiana Russell, the current director of the Office of Transition Programs. “There’s just a big to-do for the first year students; I personally think that our move-in and the way we welcome students here at Vanderbilt is just second to none.”

In the two years that Russell has been in charge of the Office of Transition Programs, she has overhauled the transfer orientation program. Russell has moved transfer student move-in to Friday instead of Saturday, arranged for a transfer student group picture similar to that of entering first-years, and has increased the role of Transfer Student Leaders.

“I wanted to do something to make [transfer students] feel like they’re welcome, they’re important, they’re an important part of the Vanderbilt community” Russell said.

Since the 2017-2018 school year, Transfer Student Leaders go through four days of training before being assigned a group of about 15 transfer students. Along with a co-leader, Transfer Student Leaders help to facilitate the transition process both during and beyond the three day transfer orientation.

“The idea is to welcome, integrate, and kind of  allow [transfer students] to blossom and be members of the Vanderbilt community” Russell said. “By the time you’re graduating from here, you are a Vanderbilt student and this is your community, this is your school.”

Transfer applications are up nine percent over the last year, and although they might not know who they are yet, the Office of Transition Programs has high hopes for this year’s transfer class.

“I’m just really, really proud of where we’ve been able to bring the program” Russell said.

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Vanderbilt takes to the skies

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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Rites of Spring, Variations concert & more

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Next Steps; Vanderbilt’s inclusive higher education program

Hoping to continue her family’s tradition of attending Vanderbilt, Elizabeth Story applied to the Next Steps program when it was first implemented at the university. She was accepted to the program, eager to gain a true college experience. After graduating with the first class of Next Steps students in 2011, Story reflects on the impact it has had for her.

“I hope that the Vanderbilt community learns through seeing Next Steps students on the campus how important it is for everyone to have a college experience and that the Next Steps students are just like them,” Story said.

Next Steps is an inclusive higher education program at Vanderbilt that provides educational, social and career development opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. Next Steps students work with Ambassadores, who are peer mentors that strive to build relationships and support students in academics, social life and personal development.

In addition to spending time with her Ambassadores, one of Story’s favorite memories with the program was meeting two singer/songwriters during one of her first year classes and learning how to write a song. When the group of students finished writing their songs, the singer/songwriters performed them at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Story recalls this as an especially impactful moment over her two years with the program.

“I am so glad that Next Steps at Vanderbilt exists and that other universities are creating programs like it on their campuses because everyone deserves to have a college experience,” Story said.

Story also said that cultivating increased independence over the course of the program was an influential part of her time at Vanderbilt. She now works at the Susan Gray school, after beginning her involvement there before her time with Next Steps.

Next Steps Beginnings

Next Steps started as a two year program and accepted its first class of students in January 2010. There have been a total of nine classes of students accepted, and since 2010, 55 students have come through the program. Tammy Day, the Director of Next Steps, first learned about this type of inclusive programming in colleges around twelve years ago when she was a special education teacher. At this point, there were not inclusive higher education programs at universities in Tennessee, but Day helped make the program a reality at Vanderbilt. A task force worked to create programming in Tennessee, with Day serving as a local educator on the task force.

“After this task force had been going for about three years, the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities knew if we don’t put some money behind this to do a pilot in our state, I don’t think we’re ever going to get anywhere,” Day said. “So because of a very very generous donor in the community that matched the grant, they joined and Vanderbilt was awarded a three year pilot grant which allowed them to hire a director and to get started.”

Next Steps at Vanderbilt is one of five similar programs in the state for inclusive higher education, and Vanderbilt is the only top 20 university with an inclusive higher education program like this. The task force that initially worked to create the programs evolved into the Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance, with Day currently serving as the chairperson. The group works with legislators and coordinates with the programs throughout the state. One of the pieces of legislation the group worked to pass was the Step Up scholarship, which provides scholarships to students entering any of these five programs.

Last fall, Next Steps was approved as a four year program, meaning that the upcoming academic year will be the first year with juniors as part of Next Steps. Transitioning from a two year program to a four year program allows for increased growth for the students and an opportunity to expand its impacts.

“Going forward with our four year expansion, our goal is to have 40 students, so accepting 10 students a year,” Day said.

Daily Life of Next Steps

Each Next Steps student takes a combination of three Career and Community Studies (CCS) classes and one or two Vanderbilt classes. CCS classes are specific to the program and focus on topics such as independent living, self awareness and career development. This has been the structure for the two year program, but independent study may be an option for juniors and seniors in future years of the program.

Next Steps students also participate in internships in many different career fields. Lindsay Krech, Assistant Director of Career Development, coordinates field trips for first semester students to help them explore various career options and reflect on what works best for them. First year students can then begin internships during second semester. Sophomores also participate in internships, further exploring potential career directions. Students work with job coaches in their internships to learn required job tasks and develop skills.

“For juniors our goal is that they have paid internships,” Krech said. “Most of them will be out in the community and then by senior year we hope that they’re in a paid job in their field of interest that they can continue to work in after they graduate. That’s our goal for our four year plan.”

In addition to classes and internships, Next Steps students are involved in many different campus organizations. Peach Chinratanalab, a second year Next Steps student, says that going to acapella concerts with friends and helping groups such as the Melodores table at Rand are some of her favorite parts of social life with Next Steps.

“My favorite part is hanging out with friends and getting the opportunity to form many different career fields,” Chinratanalab said.

Kristi van Wulven is a first year Next Steps student who participates in the Special Olympics and Best Buddies in addition to attending campus events such as concerts.

“I’m in the Campus Life Ambassadore athletic group,” van Wulven said. “And I’m in two different groups. I’m in the athletic group and we go to different Vanderbilt athletic events on campus and off campus. So we go to baseball, basketball, bowling, and football. And I’m also in the arts and music group.”

John Cayton, Director of Student Supports and Campus Life, works with Next Steps students and Ambassadores to coordinate between the groups and facilitate involvement on campus. He emphasized the importance of inclusivity in organizations around campus and bridging the gap in knowledge about the program throughout the Vanderbilt community.

“I just hope that we can spread awareness that these are your peers––they’re college students and they have access to participate in any area of campus life that they hope to be a part of,” Cayton said. “I think that’s the biggest thing right now. You know Peabody side knows, but when you go across the bridge there’s a lot of ‘I don’t really know what’s going on.’”  

Ambassadores Program

Ambassadores are Vanderbilt students who work with students in the Next Steps program in various capacities. There are four roles that an Ambassadore can take on, including tutor, workout buddy, daily planner, and lunch buddy. There are currently around 80 Ambassadores working with students, but Cayton hopes this number will grow next year as more students will be enrolled in the program due to the four year extension.

The number of Ambassadores that each Next Step student works with depends on the individual student. While each session can vary depending on the needs of the student during that particular time, one consistent aspect of these sessions is the opportunity to form a relationship between peers. Pooja Santapuram, President of Next Steps, underscored the impact that her involvement as an Ambassadore has had on her Vanderbilt experience.

“What I see as the biggest takeaway for both Next Steps students and Ambassadores is friendship,” Santapuram said via email. “Both the Next Steps students and Vanderbilt Ambassadores benefit tremendously from their relationships with one another. I have built many strong friendships with the students I have worked with over the years, to the point where many of them seem to know me better than I know myself at times.”

Both Chinratanalab and van Wulven echoed the sentiment that cultivating friendships with Ambassadores was an important part of the program.

“My favorite part of Next Steps is getting to know people and getting to know the Next Steps staff and students and Ambassadores,”  van Wulven said.

Beyond Vanderbilt

One of the most important aspects of Next Steps is providing students with the tools to discover their career path of interest and pursue employment opportunities. Working with the Vanderbilt and Nashville community offers opportunities that some students may continue to be involved in post-graduation.

“Nationally a little under 20 percent of people with disabilities are currently employed,” Krech said. “And that compares with our employment rate of our alumni which is just shy of 90 percent.”

For Elizabeth Story, independence was an essential takeaway from her time with Next Steps. Beyond just employment, the intangibles of the program are just as important for students within the program and alumni.

“Now I am living in a condo with one of my friends and I think without Next Steps I would still be living with my parents,” Story said.

As Next Steps welcomes its first class of juniors, the program continues to bring value to the Vanderbilt community through its inclusivity and emphasis on educational and social opportunities for every student.

“Vanderbilt prides itself on excellence, but to me you can’t be excellent if you’re excluding part of the population,” Krech said. “And so Vanderbilt University as a whole is a better place because our students are here. And people often think of the reverse of that––that our students are better because they’re at Vanderbilt. Yes, but Vanderbilt’s better because our students are here.”

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Plan your week (4/23-4/27)

Looking to try something new this week? Peruse the events below and make a point to attend something outside of your comfort zone. For more offerings, check out Anchor Link.



What: Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “A Passion for Leadership: Reflecting on 50 Years of Public Service”
When: Tuesday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m
Where: Langford Auditorium
Why: Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos will host a discussion featuring former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Vanderbilt Distinguished Visiting Professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham. This event is not ticketed. Admission is free and on a first come, first seated basis.
Who: Chancellor’s Office



What: Nashville Sounds vs. New Orleans Baby Cakes
When: Thursday, April 26 at 6:35 p.m.
Where: First Tennessee Park
Why: Get off campus for the exciting Sounds game against New Orleans.
Who: Nashville Sounds

What: Baseball vs. South Carolina
When: Friday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hawkins Field
Why: Take a break from studying to  cheer on the baseball team as they go head-to-head with South Carolina.
Who: Vanderbilt Athletics



What: VU Libraries Present: The Bard’s Birthday Bash
When: Monday, April 23 at 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Vanderbilt Central Library
Why: It’s William Shakespeare’s birthday! Vanderbilt Libraries and the Nashville Shakespeare Festival are throwing a birthday bash for William Shakespeare’s birthday. There will be jugglers, troubadours, fight masters and scribes on hand, as well as an open mic for reciting your favorite Shakespearean soliloquies, sonnets and speeches.
Who: Vanderbilt University Libraries

What: Nashville Flea Market
When: Friday, April 27 at 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Nashville Tennessee State Fairgrounds
Why: Vendors from across the country gather for a unique shopping experience. The event runs until Sunday.
Who: The Fairgrounds



What: iLens: “Graduation” screening
When: Monday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Where: Sarratt Cinema
Why: One of the great auteurs of contemporary Romanian cinema, Cristian Mungiu, offers a dark satire about the stresses of high school exams and the pressure that parents place on their children to succeed. This film is presented in collaboration with the Department of Political Science, English and Cinema & Media Arts.
Who: International Lens Film Series

What: Opening reception for Alex Lockwood’s “Targets”
When: Wednesday, April 25 at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: OZ Arts Nashville
Why: Returning to OZ Arts after his wildly popular interactive installation “Shake” in 2015, Lockwood maintains his use of repurposed materials. Attend the opening reception for “Targets” to see more of his work and meet the artist. Reception is free and open to the public with RSVP.
Who: OZ Arts + Elephant Gallery

Health & Wellness

Health & Wellness

What: Stress Less Spring Fest
When: Monday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center
Why: Relax and unwind before finals begin. Take advantage of free food and activities like a petting zoo, yoga classes, a hammock village, facials, massages and more.
Who: Residential Education Programming

What: St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon & 1/2 Marathon Health and Fitness Expo
When: Thursday, April 26 at 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Nashville Music City Center
Why: Free and open to the public, this expo features the latest in running technologies, fitness apparel, health & nutrition information and interactive displays.
Who: St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville

Editor’s note: Source of event information is Anchor Link and Facebook

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Vanderbilt contributes ‘mission-critical’ component of TESS satellite

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The Vanderbilt Finance Development Program hopes to offer students recruiting in finance a level playing field

Recruiting for a position in the financial sector is an intensive process and something that many Vanderbilt students are interested in. According to the 2015 Graduating Student Survey, 15.9 percent of the Class of 2015 was employed by a finance, real estate or insurance firm.

In order to graduate with an employment offer at a financial firm, there is a common path that most people take. It begins with business or finance experience in the summer following their sophomore year, and then an internship the summer following their junior year that will hopefully result in a return offer of full-time employment post-graduation. This timeline, however, has been moving rapidly forward over the past few years. Four years ago, firms were recruiting for junior year internships between October and December, with some firms recruiting early during the spring semester. However, this timeline has been propelled forward by firms in a “race to the bottom” where companies attempt to undercut each other at the possible cost of sacrificing standards held by the firm.

“Each bank would try to be the first bank to recruit and then give what they call exploding offers very aggressive timelines, usually one to two weeks,” said Tom Carroll, a founding member of the Finance Development Program.

Often times, students attempt to accelerate interviews at other firms, but that is not always a possibility. Advancing the interview timeline has been an effective strategy for many firms, and each consecutive year, the timeline has been pushed earlier and earlier, with the majority of firms recruiting for junior year internships in the spring of sophomore year. This early recruitment process means that students have less experience going into the recruiting season and are less prepared for crucial interviews. This was where Tom Carroll and his fellow program directors, Jennifer Pema, Josh Abreo, Olivia Cherry and Gloria Liu stepped in.

The Finance Development Program (FDP) was started by a group of students in the fall of 2017 with the intention of leveling the playing field for Vanderbilt students interested in working in the financial sector after graduation.

“In investment banking, there are three things that you need to do to get an internship,” explained Carroll. “You need academic performance, you need business experience, and you need somebody to advocate for you.”

Carroll and his peers noticed that Vanderbilt students excelled academically, but many were lacking in the second and third requirements. For students without connections in business, it can be difficult to receive an internship after sophomore year because many of these positions are found through informal means. This also plays out in a lack of personal advocates when applying for junior year internships at large firms.  FDP steps into the networking challenges many people face by introducing members to Vanderbilt alumni in the finance realm and by encouraging members to seek out meetings with professionals in the field. Additionally, Carroll hopes that alumni of FDP will be instrumental in providing a path to internships for future FDP members. FDP also prepares students for internship interviews.

The members of FDP meet weekly and come prepared with a news article that they have read about an issue that would move financial markets. Student advisors will then ask members follow up questions, similar to what would happen in an interview setting. Students also have weekly technical homework assignments, as well as questions designed to make them reflect on their interest in finance.

“I’ve gotten tons of FDP participants come up to me after their interviews and say, ‘I got that exact question I did in the homework assignment’ or ‘I had to pitch a stock and I pitched the exact same stock I wrote about in my assignment and they asked me to send my assignment because they wanted to see the in-depth analysis’,” said Carroll.

Without a formal business major at Vanderbilt, these are things that many students have not been exposed to by the time recruiting season comes around. FDP also provides its members access to firms when they come to Vanderbilt.

The Financial Development Program at Vanderbilt is not the first of its kind. The founding directors studied the success of programs at the Kelley School of Business, UVA and Duke amongst others. They decided what facets of the various programs would be successful and most beneficial for students at Vanderbilt. In creating FDP, the program directors decided to ask the Career Center to decide who would be accepted into the program in the hopes of avoiding any partiality on the parts of the directors.

“We have this pool of high quality applicants and we can pitch them to firms. We have had exclusive information sessions and resume drops with large investment banks, asset management firms, you name it,” said Carroll. “We’ve seen tremendous success in that respect.”

FDP is also actively trying to improve Vanderbilt’s recruiting prospects in terms of the quantity and quality of firms which recruit on campus. One of the roles of the directors is to advocate on behalf both Vanderbilt and members of FDP with large investment firms and banks. Due to the reliance on networking in finance recruiting, placement of Vanderbilt graduates in firms will serve as a great advantage to future Vanderbilt students.

“If we place more Vanderbilt students on an absolute level into these firms, then eventually Vanderbilt will have greater placement in the financial services industry and more firms will realize that and want a slice of the Vanderbilt talent pool,” said Carroll.

The directors of FDP plan to evaluate the success of the program in the long term by looking at the job placements of their members. According to Carroll, their goal is not 100 percent job placement in the financial sector, but 100 percent satisfaction on the part of their members with the jobs offers they receive.

“We have some of the smartest students, some of the most ambitious students,” Carroll said. “There is no reason we should not be placing them into these excellent opportunities across the globe at the same rate as some of our peer institutions.”

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Christine Lim, Incoming Financial Product Sales & Analytics at Bloomberg L.P.

Entering Vanderbilt as a first generation college student, senior Christine Lim says she was fortunate to find a supportive community as a recipient of the Posse Scholarship, a four-year, full tuition leadership scholarship for ten students from New York City offered by the Posse Foundation.

“The idea of the Posse Scholarship is to bring ten student-leaders together who will serve as one anothers’ support system and help each other through each year of college,” Lim said. “For me, that was very important because I was the first in my family to attend college, so the transition was really hard, but it was easier because I had my posse.”

Lim stepped foot on campus seeking to enact change, which she has been able to fulfill through her activities as chair of the Campus Life Committee of Vanderbilt Student Government, a position she has served in since sophomore year. Lim has been instrumental in developments such as getting Uber on the Commodore Card, making Chobani yogurt a side and acquiring Lyft promotional codes.

“I’m very passionate about making sure I’m helping students advocate and improve their Vanderbilt experiences,” Lim said. “People say college is the best four years of your life and so I want to make it exactly that.”

Initiatives such as getting Uber on the Commodore Card, which required over a year of regularly held meetings with the administration and Uber Nashville, allowed Lim to sharpen the soft skills she needed for professional success.

“I often work with administrators and students so I like to think of my role in campus life as the bridge between them,” Lim said. “Communication is key and sometimes it can be hard for students to understand why changes can’t be made, so I’m in a role where I have the opportunity to pass on the message and explain that we’re working on an issue but certain ideas are not feasible, so instead other plans are in the works.”

Lim took the opportunity to enrich the student experience not only through VSG, but also through Vanderbilt Programming Board’s Venue, which provides late-night, nonalcoholic programming, and First VU, a new initiative seeking to support the transition to college of first generation students like herself. Academically, Vanderbilt has also provided many chances for exploration for Lim, who knew she wanted to pursue a career in business.

“I came in as an econ major first because I thought that if I wanted to go do business, I had to be in econ,” Lim said. “I learned a lot that summer, but I figured out that I didn’t really like to focus solely on the numbers, so I explored other options and learned about HOD. I thought it was very practical and broad. I learned about the corporate strategy minor through looking at classes that I was interested in, such as marketing and finance. I really enjoyed the classes, so I picked up the corporate strategy minor.”

During her sophomore year summer, Lim sought to explore her professional interests in the realm of finance as a sales and trading intern at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“Being the youngest on the trading floor was very hard because I had never even heard of how to perform a portfolio evaluation,” Lim said. “I learned a lot that summer, but I figured out that I didn’t really like the numbers. I still wanted to be in finance, but I wanted to do a different part of it, so that’s why I looked at Bloomberg because it touched on so much of finance.”

One aspect of Bloomberg that particularly fascinated Lim was the Bloomberg terminal, a software system used by virtually all bankers. Lim interned with Bloomberg during her junior year summer, working with their tradebook function.

“There, I learned more about the terminal and its usage and strategies and I fell in love with it. I found my passion in finance and technology after my internship which is why I finally decided to take the full time offer at Bloomberg.”

Lim will have more opportunities to work with the Bloomberg terminal in her future work with the Financial Product Sales & Analytics department at Bloomberg in her hometown of New York City.

“I think Vanderbilt has prepared me well to go into the real world and I know there’s a big alumni network in New York City, so i’m actually pretty excited,” Lim said. “I will really miss my experience at Vanderbilt, but I think I’ve gained so much, and developed so much.”

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VSG announces Uber Campus Pass opportunity

Vanderbilt students now have the ability to receive a discount on uberPOOL and uberX rides in Nashville through the purchase of an Uber Campus Pass. Tariq Issa, incoming VSG president, spoke with the Hustler about the pass and why it is being offered to students.

“Uber is testing out a new way to get more students to use the app. Similar to how to how our Lyft codes attract riders to use the service because it makes the ride cheaper, Uber is trying to do the same,” Issa said. “Uber has already been using this program for a few months now and some riders in Nashville have enjoyed this program since, in the long term, you save money on the rides. We are advertising this pilot program so that they can just test how effective devoting a pass for Vanderbilt students is and so that we can see if students like this new feature.

Jacqueline Cox, current VSG president, sent an email to the Vanderbilt Community yesterday alerting everyone of the short opportunity. Students must have an Uber account and connect it to their Vanderbilt emails by 6 p.m. on April 19th to get the information Uber will send about the pass.

“The end of the semester launch date was actually selected by Uber. Uber has recently been releasing flat rate ride packages in certain cities,” Cox said. “Now, they are trying to move to a college campus model. When they brought the idea to VSG we wanted to make sure we could follow their timeline in order to bring the deals to students as quickly as possible.”

Issa said that the pass will cover a large area of Nashville.

This geofence is relatively large. There is a Ride Pass currently existing in Nashville that covers popular areas including Broadway, the Green Hills area, and 12 South. Some ride passes cover trips to Opry Mills while others will cover airport trips,” Issa said. “That means that any UberPool from the airport to campus, or vice versa, will be at a much lower cost than before. That alone will be very attractive for students as the Campus Ride Pass is launched.”

Uber will be reaching out to students once the pass is available for purchase.

Follow the instructions below if interested in the pass.

  • You do have an Uber account, and your email address is linked

No action is necessary – keep an eye out for an email from Uber on how to purchase your Campus Ride Pass.

  • You do have an Uber account, but your email address is not linked

Fill out this form indicating the phone number associated with your Uber account, so that Uber can give you access to purchase the pass*

  • You do not have an Uber account

Click here to set up an Uber account – make sure you use your email address when setting it up

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Determining responsibility: the Vanderbilt sexual assault reporting process

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Student Ability Alliance pushes for creation of Disabilities Community Center

According to SAA co-president Andie Defreese, most Vanderbilt students don’t think twice about printing papers. They merely swipe their cards at the nearest residence hall, library or student center before rushing off to class with their documents in hand. However, for students with visual impairments, using a braille printer requires scheduling an appointment at the EAD (Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services Department), which is only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This lack of accessibility on campus is currently being addressed by a proposal for a disability community center, headed by the co-presidents of the Student Ability Alliance, DeFreese and Lexie Garrity.

“Many students with disabilities need resources like accessible printers and computers with certain capabilities, so we think that a space offering all of these resources would be extremely beneficial to the community,” Garrity said.

In addition to serving as a resource to students with disabilities, the community center would serve as a welcoming space for all Vanderbilt students to engage in the conversation surrounding disabilities.

“This space would be a good platform to continue what SAA wants to do, possibly hosting monthly talks with different professors and individuals in the community, conducting group discussion tables about what people want to see change on campus in relation to disabilities, and providing a community space where individuals with or without disabilities can come to study and do homework,” DeFreese said. “We’re focused on all students, regardless of ability. We just want them to feel safe and welcomed in this space.”

SAA recently found an ally for the community center in Vanderbilt Student Government.

“We just started working with VSG,” DeFreese said. “The plan is to collect data from different students on campus in order to obtain facts backing up why this space is needed and how it would be used. Early next fall, VSG is going to propose a bill to Vanderbilt to get us the space.”

In the meantime, SAA continues to fulfill its mission of increasing accessibility to disability at Vanderbilt. It is a diverse organization composed of students of all abilities, visible or not, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. SAA has completed projects mapping wheelchair accessible routes throughout campus, and they have utilized various ventures, such as TED Talks and Dean’s Dinners, to increase the minimal campus conversation surrounding disabilities.

“There are a lot of issues everyone has emotions tied to, whether it’s race or gender, and on campus there has been a great initiative to talk about these issues and make these minorities feel included, but I feel like the one aspect of diversity that’s not included in that conversation is disability,” DeFreese said.

As students who identify as having a disability, DeFreese and Garrity have experienced firsthand the difficulties of discussing disabilities with their peers and professors.

“People don’t realize that on your diversity statement, disability is there, and that’s what makes Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt- because of the diversity we have,” Garrity said.

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GCC China Forum, “Xi’s Not My President” movement spark conversation about Chinese constitutional change

*Names have been changed.

At universities throughout the United States, United Kingdom and Hong Kong, many Chinese students have been protesting Xi Jinping for his constitutional amendment that would allow him to stay in power indefinitely. In March, posters in Chinese and English proliferated at many university campuses outside mainland China, with phrases such as “not my president” and “I disagree” written across pictures of Xi Jinping’s face.

Believed to be run by anonymous Chinese university students through the Twitter account @StopXiJinping, the “Xi’s Not My President” movement became a medium for Chinese students studying abroad to discuss the implications of Xi’s constitutional amendment. Even for Chinese students studying at American universities, the subject remains difficult to hold open conservations over.

While the movement does not currently exist at Vanderbilt, organizations such as Global China Connection (GCC) have created platforms for Chinese students to discuss political events with each other, while interacting with the larger Vanderbilt community.

In particular, GCC’s first China Forum on Apr. 7 presented an opportunity for Chinese students to connect with future leaders and discuss topics on Chinese politics, philosophy, education, art and journalism. With its theme of “Unlocking the Current State of China,” the 2018 China Forum included a full-day agenda of speakers, panels and discussions. In addition, the China Forum gave undergraduates a chance to network with professionals and companies based in China, such as Embark China, Infervision, Veritas Academy and Ofo.

The forum’s keynote speaker featured Dr. Cheng Li, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institution and a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

“Dr. Li has a more moderate voice,” said Sam*, a Chinese student who attended the forum. “His viewpoints find a middle point that connects people.”

Li’s speech focused on “The Trajectory of the Middle Kingdoms and US-China Relations: A Paradox of Hope and Fear.” The “hope” mentioned lies in the economic growth of China during Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, with the establishment of age and term limits and regional bureaucratic representation.

Li’s “fear” involved Xi Jinping’s new era and political repression, viewing Xi Jinping’s tightening political control and his abolition of term limits as a threat to political freedom. Li identified three groups that serve as obstacles to Xi Jinping’s reforms: liberal intellectuals in China, Chinese political elites who appreciate Deng Xiaoping’s ideas and critics overseas – such as Chinese students studying abroad.

Many Chinese students use the social networking app WeChat (which functions similarly to Facebook) as a platform to discuss events such as Xi Jinping’s constitutional change.

According to Sam, WeChat is the most popular way to receive news in China; while the app is monitored to some extent, she uses WeChat to discuss political events with her friends both in China and at American universities.

“Many of my friends are angry about how easily the Constitution can be changed without a rigorous examination of the impact,” Sam said. “People were scared that China will go back from a lot of the progress it’s made since its pre-revolution stage.

“Many of my friends are angry about how easily the Constitution can be changed without a rigorous examination of the impact."

According to Sam, the initial reaction to Xi Jinping’s constitutional change was an emotional one. Later, Sam saw her university friends develop two schools of thought on the change.

“Our world is currently under the narrative that the world is powered by the West, and that’s how every country should play the game,” Sam said. “However, this can be a new way to rule a strong country. Maybe democracy is not the best way, and Chinese characteristics can be good.”

According to Sam, this Western narrative argument has become more popular in the past couple of years, especially among Chinese students who have graduated from elite American universities and returned to China to start careers. After a technological boom in the twenty-first century, many Chinese students are excited about economic changes in China, which they believe could not be possible without strong one-party growth.

According to Sam, the second reaction she has noticed in her network is a worrying one; if Xi Jinping can change the Constitution, it means that other leaders can easily change it as well.

“Xi Jinping made a lot of changes in China after 2012,” Sam said. “The Party got rid of a lot of bad influences and emphasized the judicial branch. Xi’s next steps are to strengthen military power and solve territorial issues. People think that he wants to solve that within his own time. If we have a weak leader after Xi, the progress he made will not be accomplished. But the change risks a sad prospect. The very institution he wants to change is weakened by his own act.”

According to Sam, her peers in the Vanderbilt Chinese community are less politically vocal than Chinese students in other top universities. While GCC’s China Forum presented an excellent opportunity to discuss political issues, Sam hopes that continuous and informal conversations will spark a general interest in Chinese politics.

“So many things can be changed in the next five to ten years, that no one wants to be super vocal without really knowing what’s happening,” Sam said. “There’s no right answer at this point, but worry and uncertainty is moving on everyone’s hearts.”

“So many things can be changed in the next five to ten years, that no one wants to be super vocal without really knowing what’s happening."

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First online course for undergraduates to be launched for summer session

This summer, students seeking to earn Vanderbilt credit from off campus locations will be able to enroll in a new for-credit online course, ENGM 3100: Finance and Accounting for Engineers. This 6-week course will be headed by Professor David Berezov, who regularly teaches the class on campus.

The purpose of this online course is to offer greater flexibility to Vanderbilt’s undergraduate community and will exclusively be offered to Vanderbilt students, according to Professor John Sloop, Associate Provost for Digital Learning, and Dr. Gayathri Narasimham, Associate Director of Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning, both of whom played a critical role in the ideation and execution of the course.

“Although we have some degree programs now that are largely online, we had done very little experimentation directly with online courses for our undergraduate population,” Sloop said. “Vanderbilt is very dedicated to our full-time students, so the question was, how can our full time undergraduate students benefit from the work that we’ve been doing? We thought it would be interesting to experiment with an online summer school course that could be taken by undergraduates not able to be on campus, so we reached out to the associate deans for courses that students might need, and Finance and Accounting for Engineers was highly recommended. This is our attempt to see if online courses are something that would benefit our undergraduate population and help them move towards their degree with more efficiency while freeing up their time in other areas.”

The course will be broken down into multiple modules and consist of video lectures, graded online assignments and midterm exams, which will be proctored through LockDown Browser, a program that temporarily limits other computer functions to prevent cheating. Students will have access to a calculator and modified excel program on LockDown Browser. Two digital textbooks will be required for the class, one of which is a standard eTextbook, and the other which is an interactive online textbook that offers multiple options for individualized practice through MindTap, including concept quizzes that allow students to delve as deep into the material as they would like. An adaptive test bank will be available for students to select particular sections for extra practice.

“Some students will begin the course already understanding some of the content, so there are many exercises they will not have to do,” Berezov said. “On the other hand, some students will have to concentrate on certain skill sets and there is a tremendous amount of content to help them practice on their own with interactive feedback, which is the most important aspect of an online course and should help fill the gap of not being in class.”

In addition to the interactive features available on MindTap, additional content support will be available through Berezov, who will host live office hours online.

“I will be stationed near a computer throughout the entire course and I’m pretty good about getting back to students, so there will be support along the way,” Berezov said.

Should students run into any technical difficulties with Brightspace, the Center for Teaching will be available to troubleshoot and handle any issues.  

The online course is flexible enough for students pursuing internships or other professional opportunities over the summer. Exams will be open for a period of several days.

“Students will be able to progress through the course in a number of ways,” Berezov said. “Some students will work for an hour or two each evening to complete the online course. Others will get jammed up during the week and prefer to put in 6 to 10 hours during the weekend.”

In addition to scheduling flexibility, students can take advantage of accessibility features such as close captioning and transcripts for lecture videos. The etextbook includes audio features that will read the text aloud.

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IN PHOTOS: Holi 2018

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PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Joe Biden, Encore, baseball & more

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VSG bill calls for university to eliminate $675 price disparity between residential college halls and other living spaces

The University will charge a residential college experience fee of $337.50 each semester for residents of Warren and Moore and E. Bronson Ingram college halls upon Board of Trustees approval, according to the 2018-2019 Guide to Housing Assignment Process. The fee is intended to fund community programming, which could include the cost of speakers, food, setup and marketing materials.

The Vanderbilt Student Government Senate passed a bill on April 4 that urged University administration to reconsider the extra costs involved with being a member of the residential colleges since, “ a differential cost among certain residence halls may lead some students to choose not to live there,” according to the bill.

“Extravagant amounts of money are spent on programs and activities that aren’t well attended,” said Moore Senator Tam Wheat at the VSG Senate session. “At the least, I think that there could be a reduction in these costs.”

Dean of Students Mark Bandas said that the residential housing fee will help the university actualize the residential college experience by funding programming, which will make the community model on the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons available to students for all four years.

“We believe that students and parents will see, in a very tangible way, how that cost is providing a tremendous value to the residential experience,” said Bandas.

At a town hall in February, Senior Director of Housing Operations Jim Kramka said that Vanderbilt was committed to keeping a flat rate for housing costs in order to be inclusive to all financial situations on campus.

“Vanderbilt is committed to a unified housing regiment,” said Kramka. “You pay the same. You don’t want people to have to not live somewhere because they can’t afford it. We have seen that in the past.”

According to Bandas, students were informed throughout the housing process about the fee and the fee information was provided when in the housing application, which students had to sign. Bandas said that the colleges were very popular with the student body and around five students applied for each available residential college spot.

Additionally, students will see a change to the meal plan offerings in the coming year. Instead of a 12 meals per week plan, students living in the residential colleges will be required to participate in the 14 Meal Plan for residential colleges. Plans will cost the same regardless of whether they’re residential or not, but residential meal plans include access to residential meal events. 

“Meal plan rates received a 4.5% increase to accommodate a number of increased costs including food inflation and significant wage increases to our service level employees,” said Executive Director of Campus Dining Dan ter Kuile.

These rising costs will continue to be covered by different aid programs such as Experience Vanderbilt and Financial Aid.

“For students who are receiving Opportunity Vanderbilt (need-based) funding, that additional fee will be added into each student’s cost of attendance just as any other tuition and fee charge and will be used to determine eligibility for need-based financial aid,” Bandas said.

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Senior Carsen Smith represents Vanderbilt in Jeopardy! College Championship

Carsen Smith was a contestant on this year’s Jeopardy! College Championship this past Thursday, competing alongside other college students for 100,000 dollars.

Each year, Jeopardy! holds the tournament and allows 15 students to compete on the show, filming 5 episodes with 3 students each, with the top scorers advancing into later rounds. The episodes from this season air Apr. 9-20.

Smith, a biological sciences, Russian studies and Cinema & Media Arts major in the School of Arts & Sciences, learned about the opportunity to tryout for the show online from another Vanderbilt student last year.

“I looked over his shoulder and fed him some answers and realized I actually knew a lot of the trivia,” Smith said. “He told me that it was his dream to be on the show and that the online test is the way to get on.”

Jeopardy! was not Smith’s first time participating in trivia tournaments, as she served as captain of her high school’s trivia team. After taking the test online in October, she was selected for an in-person audition in Chicago in November. Originally scheduled to be filmed in January, the show’s taping was pushed back until spring break after host Alex Trebek underwent surgery.

On the show, Carsen finished second in her round with an ending total of $2,000, but it is unlikely she will advance to the next round.

After the show aired, Smith experienced an unexpected amount of attention over social media, she said.

“It’s more attention than I ever imagined I’d get. On the night the show aired, I ended up with 900 new Facebook and Instagram requests,” she said. “I feel like Kanye. If Kanye were a silly blonde white girl on one episode of a game show.”

While the comments she’s received range from marriage proposals to accusations of being too “smug” on the show, Smith isn’t taking the online attention too seriously, even noting that the “mean tweets” are her favorite part of the experience.

Another highlight for Smith from her chance to appear on Jeopardy! is the entrance into the world of jeopardy alumni.

“Being a contestant on Jeopardy! is like joining a really exclusive club,” she said. “I’ve already had multiple former contestants reach out to me to grab lunch or coffee. All of us are in a Facebook group together so now I have this awesome network of a few thousand very smart, interesting people who have all had this wild experience.”

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Free Cone Day fashion

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New sustainability report includes comprehensive data on university’s environmental impact

A redesigned sustainability report evaluates Vanderbilt’s environmental impact during the calendar year of 2016 under new criteria. In the past, the annual report, developed by the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO), focused primarily on greenhouse gas emissions and included the Vanderbilt Medical Center in its data. It now examines only the university campus and integrates water use, food waste, recent environmental initiatives and student-inspired Green Fund projects into its evaluation.

The report presents Vanderbilt’s 2016 energy emissions in three categories: 31 percent coming from on-campus sources, 33 percent from purchased electricity and 36 percent from a combination of factors like commuting, air travel and waste. Vanderbilt hosted 17 LEED certified buildings, 97 hydration stations and spent $150,000 on Green Fund projects.

“As a university, there’s always so many different ways in which energy is being used,” Daniel Shaykevich, Vanderbilt senior and president of Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR), said. “We have to consider a lot of ways in which we’re contributing to environmental issues while also as an institution of higher education working to solve them.”

Students can be involved in university decisions concerning sustainability through programs like the Green Fund and student organizations which collaborate with university administration.

“[SPEAR] meets with SEMO regularly, on a monthly basis, and we try to make sure that the student voice is represented and… that we’re working in line with what the administration is hoping for,” Shaykevich said.

Since reports from previous years include both the university and the medical center, this year’s cannot be directly compared to those in the past, but can serve as a point of comparison for reports in the future.

“It’s become more of an exciting report to see what steps the university has taken,” Shaykevich said. “Sustainability has started to play a larger role in the past few years, especially with the land use plan and FutureVU.”

Vanderbilt’s long-term development plan, FutureVU, details recommendations on environmental issues ranging from water management to transportation in efforts to maintain sustainable values as the campus grows. The new sustainability report includes information on two studies launched in 2017 which explore renewable energy and the energy efficiency of potential building sites.

“It’s a good tool that people can look at… and realize what sort of sustainability initiatives are going on around campus that maybe they hadn’t considered or noticed before,” Shaykevich said.

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