Volunteer Leadership Weekend celebrates alumni, energizes supporters

Nearly 200 alumni and parent volunteers returned to campus April 1–2 for the annual Volunteer Leadership Weekend. This year marked a return to in-person events; last year’s program was virtual. 

The weekend’s theme, Vanderbilt in Classroom, Community and Conversation, was designed to give university volunteer leaders an inside view of changes underway at Vanderbilt and to provide firsthand insights from university leaders, faculty and students about how these initiatives improve the educational experience.  

When you participate in a chapter event and encourage others to do the same, you help build and strengthen the Vanderbilt network across the country and around the world,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier told volunteers at the reception and awards ceremony. “When you offer career advice, an internship or job opportunity, you open doors for today’s students and graduates. Whether you serve on a Reunion committee or one of our robust alumni affinity groups, lead a chapter or sit on the Parents Leadership Committee, your work advances our mission.” 

At the event, Diermeier helped recognize the recipients of the 2020 and 2021 Alumni Association Awards, many of whom were in attendance. Blair School of Music seniors Damon Zavala, viola, and Josh Karas, piano, performed after the ceremony.  

Attendees represented multiple alumni and parent volunteer groups, including the Alumni Association Board, AAPI Association of Vanderbilt Alumni, Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni, Black and Gold Club, G.O.L.D. Council, Ingram Scholars Alumni Board, LBGTQIA+ Association of Vanderbilt Alumni, Parents Leadership Committee, Parents and Family Association Board and Vanderbilt Association of Hispanic and Latinx Alumni, as well as Reunion chairs, regional chapter leaders and class agents.  

“Chancellor Daniel Diermeier’s vision and leadership have shaped this exciting time for our university,” said Bruce Evans, BE’81, chairman of the Board of Trust. “As we prepare to celebrate Vanderbilt’s 150th anniversary next year, we remain at a historic and pivotal moment. This is the time to work together to chart the course for our next 150 years. As active members of the Vanderbilt community, your perspectives, expertise and advocacy are vital.” 

Vanessa Beasley, vice provost for academic affairs and dean of residential faculty, provided an overview of Vanderbilt’s efforts to accelerate planning and construction of Residential Colleges so that more undergraduate students can benefit.  

She also spoke about Immersion Vanderbilt, the experiential capstone requirement for undergraduates starting with the Class of 2023. The program was modeled, in part, on Peabody College’s Human and Organizational Development Capstone and the School of Engineering’s Design Day.  

“Because of residential colleges and Immersion Vanderbilt, students eventually will leave here with three faculty mentors who know them deeply,” Beasley said. “What other university can say that?”  

The session closed with a panel on the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy. John Geer, Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science, Jon Meacham, Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in American Presidency, and Mariam Nadi, a senior in the College of Arts and Science, discussed the project, which was developed to address increased political polarization in the U.S.  

“The DNA of the university is always important to remember,” Geer said. “The gift that Cornelius Vanderbilt made was with the stated purpose of healing the wounds between the North and the South. This particular project is the modern version of that same effort.”