By Lily Kane
Once a week since his first year at Vanderbilt, Robby Perry’s alarm clock goes off at 4 a.m. so he can show up to work the 4:30 to 7 a.m. breakfast shift at the Nashville Rescue Mission. Now a senior, Perry realizes his college experience has been shaped profoundly by this service and by the community he found there.
“Hearing their stories and seeing their perseverance have given me a great perspective on how lucky I am to be where I am,” Perry says. “It motivates me to be the best person I can be every single day.”
“Hearing their stories and seeing their perseverance have given me a great perspective on how lucky I am to be where I am. It motivates me to be the best person I can be every single day.”
From his volunteer work to an Alternative Spring Break trip to renovate houses with Habitat for Humanity, to a Home Depot–sponsored web-coding hackathon, to a semester of study abroad that took him to cities such as Madrid, Marrakesh and Istanbul—Perry’s time at Vanderbilt exemplifies just how much you can pack into four years.
For the Cincinnati native, the Schiff Family Scholarship he received made it possible. “Without my scholarship, Perry says, “I don’t think I even would have been able to get my foot in the door, let alone have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities Vanderbilt facilitated.”
Perry chose to attend Vanderbilt because, he says, “it had a little of everything I was looking for: top-tier academics, SEC athletics, a great location in Nashville. And the ‘No. 1 ranking for happiest students’ thing is actually true. Our campus is a positive place to be.”
Perry, a double major in mechanical engineering and economics, made sure his campus life had a little of everything, too, by working part time in the Department of Political Science, staying in shape with the Commodores women’s basketball practice team, and serving as a ’Dore for a Day tour guide.
Perry’s final semester was anchored by an immersive senior engineering project in collaboration with the Middle Tennessee Nissan plant. Working with Nissan’s engineers, Perry and his classmates created design iterations of a system to track the location of parts in the factory more efficiently. This project didn’t keep him from adding one more Vanderbilt experience by auditing an extra class on negotiation.
“Negotiation will be a great real-world skill no matter where the next five, 10, 40 years of my career take me,” Perry says.
In the meantime, at least he knows where he will be next year. Thanks to an introduction made at an on-campus recruiting event, Perry will be moving to Boston after graduation to work at Altman Vilandrie & Co., a boutique consulting firm specializing in strategic solutions for the telecom, media and technology industries.
The hard work he put in at Vanderbilt leaves him feeling prepared for the future. And those happiest students? They help, too, Perry says. “It has been hugely motivating to be surrounded by smart, driven people I know will be successful. I hope one day to give back to Vanderbilt so that I can help provide similar opportunities for students.”