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Chancellor Search Advisory Committee shares community feedback findings

by Sep. 18, 2019, 11:17 AM

Bruce R. Evans
Bruce R. Evans, chairman, Vanderbilt University Board of Trust

The Vanderbilt community broadly endorses the direction the university has taken in the last decade and wants the next chancellor to continue that momentum, according to an analysis of responses to an online survey and other efforts to engage faculty, students, staff and alumni in the search for a new chancellor.

The Chancellor Search Advisory Committee has publicly shared a report on its findings—drawn from feedback from more than 2,500 students, faculty, staff and alumni during multiple town halls and listening sessions, and through the more than 1,677 responses to an online feedback form.

“The feedback gathered by the Advisory Committee has been thoughtful, wide-ranging and illuminating,” said Bruce R. Evans, chairman of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust. “Above all, it has confirmed that Vanderbilt’s next chancellor must be a proven leader with a bold vision for continuing the university’s strong momentum and an unwavering commitment to our focus on shared governance, transparency and collaboration.”

The Chancellor Search Advisory Committee was charged with gathering, synthesizing and providing advice to the Chancellor Search Committee, which is chaired by Evans, on the priorities the next chancellor should address, as well as discerning the qualities that individual should possess.

John Geer, dean of the College of Arts and Science and the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science (Anne Rayner / Vanderbilt)
John Geer, dean of the College of Arts and Science and Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science (Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt)

“We were struck by the general agreement of those responding that all want to capitalize on the university’s recent momentum and further advance Vanderbilt’s outstanding achievements and reputation,” said John Geer, chair of the Chancellor Search Advisory Committee, dean of the College of Arts and Science and Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science. “That momentum is rooted in strategic investments in faculty, staff and students, and the next chancellor should, given the feedback we received, continue on this path.”

The following key priorities were gleaned from the reading and analysis of all of the community feedback:

  • Building and retaining a more diverse faculty that aligns with the university’s increasingly diverse student body
  • Creating a welcoming, inclusive campus for all
  • Improving the university’s research and teaching infrastructure
  • Increasing support for graduate and professional education
  • Forging a more prominent global footprint
  • Advancing the university’s mission in an era of growing concerns about higher education
  • Investing meaningfully in the creative arts and humanities
  • Strengthening faculty governance
  • Fostering collaborations between the university and Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • Securing research funding in the face of shrinking federal support
  • Ensuring excellent working conditions and pay for staff as the cost of living in Nashville soars
  • Increasing links between Vanderbilt and the surrounding local and state community
  • Financially sustaining the physical plant and residential colleges rollout

“The list reflects the complexity of a big, diverse institution like Vanderbilt and suggests that the next chancellor will face important questions that will both define the institution and demand creative solutions,” Geer said.

Tiffiny Tung, associate professor of anthropology
Tiffiny Tung, associate professor of anthropology

During the process of gathering the feedback, the Search Advisory Committee, struck by the volume and the richness of the narrative data, decided that it would be beneficial to analyze the responses as thoroughly and as carefully as time would permit.

A subcommittee led by Tiffiny Tung, associate professor of anthropology, and John McLean, chair of the Faculty Senate and Stevenson Professor of Chemistry, collaborated with the Office for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness to systematically analyze the survey data.

“The report includes an appendix that offers direct quotes from respondents—selected by members of the Advisory Committee—both from the online form and, in some cases, private correspondence,” Tung said. “They are provided to flesh out the overarching themes discussed by students, faculty, staff and alumni in the online survey. Their words reveal the inherent complexity of the myriad priorities of a vibrant university community.”

The full report is available at vu.edu/chancellor-search.

Visit the Chancellor Search website for additional information and updates.

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