Vanderbilt survey to gauge how Nashvillians interface with, impact community; Engaging Nashville survey first project of new Center for Nashville Studies

Researchers at Vanderbilt University will begin this week contacting Davidson County residents regarding their attitudes about their individual engagement in the community – from the arts and the economy to politics, religion and schools.

The Vanderbilt University Engaging Nashville Survey (VENS) is the first project of the university’s Center for Nashville Studies, a new research center created to look at social themes and issues related to Nashville as an urban community.

The university’s Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), a survey research unit in the Center for Americas, will conduct the survey.

Researchers using Census data have divided Davidson County into four quadrants and survey respondents will be randomly selected from these areas with a goal of completing 1,000 surveys. Beginning this week, letters will be mailed to households asking potential respondents to call a phone number to schedule a time for an in-home confidential interview. Interviewers will also follow up in person with those potential respondents who do not call to schedule an interview. The interviewers making home visits will have identification showing they are with VENS.

The survey will be done every two years and the information gathered will be shared with the community and used as an instructional tool in the university’s statistics and social science courses. The majority of the survey’s interviewers are Vanderbilt undergraduate and graduate students who are earning academic credit while being trained to conduct research in the field – a first in non-medical research at the university.

The Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies was created to cultivate social scientific and historical research on Nashville among the university’s faculty and doctoral students. In addition to the survey, the center’s initial research will include studying premature birth and infant mortality – the highest rates of which occur in the South; determining immigrant families’ access to and participation in schools, chronicling the city’s rich civil rights history and exploring what inspires people to chase the American dream through a music career.

“The center bridges research, community and curriculum. It enhances teaching and learning on campus, while engaging the faculty, students and the community in on-going reflection and conversation about greater Nashville as a community,” Daniel Cornfield, Vanderbilt professor of sociology and director of the new center, said.

Researchers are also studying premature births and infant mortality among Hispanic women in Nashville. Despite relatively low socioeconomic status, Hispanic women have lower risks of pregnancy complications than other racial groups.

The center’s research and related materials will be housed in an archive that will be open for public use; a series of public forums and events based on the research are also planned. However, the center will not include an advocacy or lobbying component, nor provide research services to the Nashville community.

Nashville philanthropist and Vanderbilt alumnus Steve Turner provided funding for the center and sits on the center’s community advisory board, which also includes Aurora Bakery owner Patricia Paiva; Ralph Schulz, president of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce; Tahir Hussain, president of the Nashville Kurdish Forum; Orrin Ingram, president and chief executive officer of Ingram Industries and a member of Vanderbilt’s Board of Trust; Jose Gonzalez, associate director of Conexion Americas; Lewis Lavine, president of the Center for Nonprofit Management; Agenia Clark, president and chief executive officer of the Girl Scout Council of Cumberland Valley; and attorney Aubrey Harwell, managing partner of Neal & Harwell.

A committee of Vanderbilt faculty members also serves as advisers for the new center.

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Media Contact: Princine Lewis, 615-322-NEWS

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