Dear members of the Vanderbilt community,
Today, as classes begin for many of you, we are stepping into an exciting moment in the life of our university.
This academic year brings with it a historic milestone: the 150th anniversary of Vanderbilt’s founding. Sesquicentennial celebrations throughout the year will bring all members of our community together. They will provide an opportunity to consider how far we have come as an institution—and to imagine bold new possibilities for what lies ahead. We will approach our future as one community dedicated to the lifelong realization of human potential, always remembering our motto: Crescere aude, Latin for “Dare to grow.”
Vanderbilt was founded in 1873 with the imperative to bridge a divided country; the very idea of the university was based upon the idea of unity. Our institution is steeped in the belief that the fundamental purpose of a university is to bring people of many viewpoints together to discuss ideas and generate solutions to society’s most pressing problems—and that has not changed. Indeed, given the intense divisiveness that pervades today’s politics, we believe it is our imperative to protect free expression within our community. Vanderbilt’s uniquely welcoming, collaborative and inclusive culture creates an environment where open forums and spirited debate can serve their highest cause: to expand knowledge and foster discovery.
We believe the values of open inquiry and civil discourse are essential to empowering the leaders of tomorrow. During this year’s Welcome Week for incoming undergraduate students, we hosted a convocation conversation on free expression, in which I engaged in a discussion with Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Tiffiny Tung and free expression scholar Jacob Mchangama. Our conversation was moderated by Jad Abumrad, the celebrated radio and podcast host and Distinguished Research Professor of Cinema and Media Arts and of Communication of Science and Technology. I encourage you to view the event, which is available to watch here, and to continue the conversation. You can also find out more about Vanderbilt’s stance on free expression here.
Our commitment to free expression has become all the more critical as we have weathered recent crises, upheaval and hardships resounding all over the world. Our campus is not immune to the lingering effects of these challenges. But our university is thriving, and our community is strong. In response to the innumerable complexities that exist in society, Vanderbilt is leading with compassionate community engagement and forward-looking scholarship and research.
Our incoming classes are the most competitive and diverse in our history—and the same goes for new faculty and staff. Our research programs are more robustly funded than ever before, enabling our pioneering experts to create innovative and lasting solutions for our world. Our student-athletes are setting new standards of excellence—with conference championships, postseason and world championship appearances, individual honors and a recent national championship—and striving to achieve still more. Our alumni also regularly make headlines in their pursuits, and our families from around the world are increasingly connected to our campus community and its work.
Vanderbilt certainly has come a long way since 1873. And the best is yet to come. We are poised to pursue bold aspirations in the coming years, furthering our transformation from a regional institution 150 years ago to a leading global university in the 21st century. I am looking forward to celebrating with all of you this year and to growing together in the years ahead.