At the start of this school year, I had the honor of addressing first- and second-year Vanderbilt students—in person this time—as part of our annual Founders Walk. The occasion was as meaningful for me and our new provost, Cybele Raver, as I hope it was for the students and families gathered on that gorgeous late summer day on Alumni Lawn.
In my first year as chancellor, I witnessed the extraordinary efforts of everyone in the Vanderbilt community to carry on our mission of scholarship, creative expression and education despite the multiple challenges we faced. It was our proudest moment, but moreover, it clarified my initial impressions of the enduring strength of Vanderbilt’s culture.
By rallying around a shared purpose—and then working in close partnership together with a drive for excellence—we achieved more than we ever thought possible. This tremendous achievement was only possible because we acted as one community, guided by a shared purpose and grounded in common values: The Vanderbilt Way.
It all starts with a sense of belonging to our community. We have high expectations of our students, our alumni, our faculty and our staff members. Joining Vanderbilt is not easy, but we proceed knowing that there are Commodores to be found everywhere, from every background and in every part of the world.
The Vanderbilt Way means we have a strong sense of self-direction. Commodores chart their own course. As you’ll read in the story about alumnus and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. André Churchwell, members of the Vanderbilt community push hard to achieve their dreams, despite whatever obstacles come along. Those in the Vanderbilt community relentlessly carve their own paths, as demonstrated in the piece on alumna Jenny Qi, an accomplished scientist whose new poetry collection has just been published to great acclaim.
Finally, the Vanderbilt Way means working together in a collaborative spirit to advance the good of our university and our society. One of the best examples of this is Dr. Alex Jahangir, a Vanderbilt physician and alumnus of our health care management program, who is featured in a Q & A talking about his work leading Nashville’s COVID-19 response.
Vanderbilt is a place where standing together means as much as standing out. The Vanderbilt Way is to collaborate—to work with each other as alumni, students, faculty and staff so that we can always grow, together.
As members of our community, you are integral to the Vanderbilt Way. Alumni, especially, are stewards of Vanderbilt who ensure that we honor our best traditions while continuing to push our university forward. I appreciate all that you have done for Vanderbilt and look forward to forging a bright future ahead—together.