Provost announces new initiative to enhance faculty support for Immersion Vanderbilt

A pilot funding initiative from Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver will support faculty as they mentor students on Immersion Vanderbilt projects. The investment builds on Raver’s recent announcement of Discovery Vanderbilt, which, among other things, promotes collaborative and original research and discovery by undergraduates, faculty and other campus partners. 

“I know firsthand how important mentoring is to success in research, innovation and discovery at every level,” Raver said. “It is a crucial element of Immersion Vanderbilt, and it is increasingly central to our culture of creative inquiry as we encourage faculty and students to pursue their boldest discoveries and most innovative ideas. This funding will help ensure that faculty members have the resources and support they need to bring their best to this indispensable work.”    

Immersion Vanderbilt includes two main components: 1. an experiential, hands-on learning experience related to the arts, lab-based research, community arts research, study abroad, internships or a field or community-based experience, among many other options; and 2. a culminating project, which is a student’s final, tangible product and can include such things as an art piece, a research poster at the Vanderbilt Research Fair or an academic conference, a public presentation, a musical performance, an app or a short video.  

The Immersion Vanderbilt funding initiative will provide financial support to faculty members mentoring small groups of students outside the classroom as they complete their culminating projects. Full-time faculty members, including those in the graduate and professional schools, can apply for $5,000 in research funds or salary supplement to support their role as mentors.  

“The opportunity for all Vanderbilt undergraduates to engage in original research or develop an innovative idea into a prototype or work of art is key to ensuring equitable access to these transformative educational and socially significant experiences,” said Tiffiny Tung, vice provost for undergraduate education. “This investment in faculty members who facilitate collaborative growth and learning with students is essential to our mission, and I am incredibly grateful to our dedicated faculty who explore and create alongside our students.” 

Senior Kayla Prowell completed her immersion project with Larisa DeSantis, associate professor of biological sciences and Earth and environmental sciences, conducting independent research on past and present diet among Alaskan bovids (e.g., bison) and comparing diets among bovids in different ecological settings.  

“I learned how to use a confocal microscope, cast and mold teeth, and read data, and I also learned how to be a collaborative leader, learner and a more curious student overall,” Prowell said. “I also learned the importance of ecological research through my trips to Alaska and New Jersey. I find myself caring about something I didn’t know anything about. Now I am so confident in my research, and I feel passionate and more expanded in my knowledge about the world.”  

How to apply for immersion project mentoring funding 

Faculty mentors can apply for the new funding through the Office of Experiential Learning and Immersion Vanderbilt. The office also can aid faculty in selecting student cohorts with aligned interests and will support students and faculty as they advance through their immersion experience. Faculty will be asked how they plan to support the students’ culminating projects and to devise a timeline to help students complete their immersion projects. Faculty advisers who receive the funding will be invited to attend a workshop on mentoring undergraduates on immersion projects. 

The deadline to apply is Nov. 28. The faculty awardees will receive the funding in the spring semester, during which time the small cohort of students will complete their culminating projects. 

For more information, email Amy Johnson, assistant provost for immersion and experiential learning, at