Chancellor’s Letter: Trust, Transparency and Teamwork

aerial view of Vanderbilt's campus in fall
John Russell/Vanderbilt


The academic year is in full swing here at Vanderbilt. From Founders Walk and the start of classes to Family Weekend and Reunion gatherings, my new vantage point as interim chancellor has confirmed what I already believed: that Vanderbilt is stronger and more vibrant than ever before.

Coming into this role also has allowed me to implement in new ways my three guiding principles as a leader: trust, transparency and teamwork. Throughout my 17 years at Vanderbilt, and especially during these last few months, I have continually witnessed the prevalence and the importance of these principles across our university community.

Trust is foundational, the contract at the heart of everything we do at Vanderbilt. It fuels collaboration and provides the bedrock confidence that we are all working together toward the same goal of driving positive change in the world. It goes hand in hand with optimism and the belief that progress is synonymous with trying new things. It is the key that unlocks rich conversations between students and professors. It bonds student-athletes and their coaches, and gives parents peace of mind as they drive away after Move-In Day. For alumni, trust means knowing that your alma mater is continuing to innovate and thrive, continuously enhancing the value of that hard-earned degree.

I have learned throughout my career that transparency is a requisite for trust. It clarifies our processes and makes clear why decisions were made. It brings people in and creates a shared platform for continued progress. For alumni and parents, transparency also means keeping you informed. It’s why we frequently share reports and news with you, and why we seek the community’s insight and feedback on key initiatives, such as the development of our residential colleges or the athletics strategic plan.

And, finally, there is teamwork, a function of both trust and transparency. Teamwork is an identifying feature of Vanderbilt’s culture—what I like to call our “secret sauce.” It’s the driving force behind One Vanderbilt, our interconnected community that enables us to reach across disciplines, schools and departments to work together. Teamwork compels us to think big, widen our perspective, go beyond collaboration and strive for cooperation, where we share our time, expertise and resources toward the purpose of the greater good, even if doing so doesn’t benefit ourselves. Teamwork creates an environment where we can know one another and nurture the relationships that knit our community together.

photo of Susan R. Wente in front of Kirkland Hall
John Russell/Vanderbilt

Examples of trust, transparency and teamwork can be found everywhere at Vanderbilt, and they are essential to our progress moving forward. When these values find their match in optimism and an open mind, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

Just look at the breadth of talent represented in the pages of this issue of Vanderbilt Magazine. Some of the world’s most renowned artists, scientists and thinkers have joined our faculty. Students are exploring new creative and interdisciplinary pathways. And alumni across the globe are drawing on their Vanderbilt education and experience to create a better future for us all. Each member of the wider Vanderbilt community is an indispensable member of our team. Our university would not be on such an exciting trajectory without you.

Trust, transparency and teamwork are essential for any organization to succeed, whether it’s a small group of collaborators, a university or a nation. I am proud to see these principles demonstrated at Vanderbilt every day, driving the remarkable things we are doing together as we continue to excel, evolve and lead.


Interim Chancellor and Provost