Get to know Vanderbilt’s residential faculty: Professor Frank Dobson

Associate Dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons and faculty head of Gillette House Frank Dobson.

*Prof. Dobson is a former faculty head of house*

One of the special parts of student life at Vanderbilt is the university’s uniquely personal and collaborative residential college experience. Undergraduate houses and colleges are led by faculty who live in community with students.

Our faculty heads of house and their teams are excited to learn more about their new student residents! They’re starting by revealing some things about themselves in this special portrait series.


  • Favorite book: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, from whom I took a class in grad school. I have taught it and I refer to The Fire Next Time often. I have used it as a scholarly reference and touchstone for how to understand the persistent and thorny issues of race and place. Moreover, on a personal note, there’s actually a classroom photo of me—on my alma mater’s website—at a roundtable across from Baldwin during one of his lectures for my class.
  • Favorite food:  Frozen kefir
  • Favorite spot on campus: The Pub
  • Although this year will be extremely different than years past, what are you most looking forward to in the upcoming academic year? Interacting with the incoming students, returning students and my RA staff. There is always so much to learn from others, and I expect that we will find innovative ways to share and grow together.
  • Why do you value being a faculty head of house? I value the opportunity to enlighten and empower the students through numerous discussions, films and service projects. We learn about each other, make many lasting connections, and we help to expand each other’s vistas. Together, we also find ways to serve one another and better our community. Moreover, we also come together to do service projects that serve the greater, off-campus community!
  • What advice do you have for new students coming to campus as well as returning students? To new students: Give it time. Vanderbilt will grow on you and you will grow and begin to thrive in new and intriguing ways. Eventually, VU will become “home away from home.” To returners: This is a time of change and excitement—on our campus and in our nation—as we, together, seek to improve this special place we all cherish.
  • Tell us a funny or poignant experience you’ve had at Vanderbilt. The evening we had a funeral for a tiny baby bird outside of Gillette. The students knocked on my door one evening and asked that I join them in giving this small, deceased creature a fitting final service. And we did! I guess I was the officiant. (Smile.)
  • Who do you mask up for? Everyone, particularly those most threatened and at risk.
Associate Dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons and faculty head of Gillette House Frank Dobson.