WATCH: Class of 2023 students build belonging, enrich Vanderbilt community


Stories by Amy Wolf
What does it mean to create belonging? For members of the Class of 2023, belonging comes with cultivating an atmosphere of support, creativity, collaboration and motivation as well as an overarching respect for others, believing those traits are destined to make the world better. 

Meet some members of the Class of 2023 who are cultivating belonging to strengthen, support and enrich the community at Vanderbilt and beyond. 

“The thing I’ve learned most from people who have different abilities, or any sort of diversity, is that belonging really means being able to be your complete, true self,” said Nora Smith, a special education and English double major. 

“I strive to create that sense for everyone, and they help me feel that way too,” she said. 

Read more of Nora’s story here. >>
Class of 2023: Future educator Nora Smith finds belonging among Vanderbilt’s disabled community

“I am outgoing in a quiet way,” said Namrah Ajmal, a biomedical engineering major and resident adviser. “I really like to meet students living on my floor, but I do it on a one-on-one basis so I have an opportunity to form a personal connection and not just pop up in social settings.  

“I want to get to know them for who they are and how they live their lives, and then further down the road, once we have a connection, I think they actually do come to me sometimes with issues that are a little heavier.” 

Read more of Namrah’s story here. >>
Class of 2023: Namrah Ajmal finds community in her identity, joy in giving to others

“One thing that I think is really powerful about music is its ability to express so many different emotions and affect others in a special way too,” said Jack Allen, a piano performance major. 

“I love the ability to connect with others in meaningful ways and portray my emotions and just play my heart out,” he said. 

Read more of Jack’s story here. >>
Class of 2023: Jack Allen shares passion for music- and compassion for others- through the piano

“I knew when I joined the honorable profession of bedside nursing, I wanted to be that person who made health care a little less scary for the patient,” said Mark Miller, a master’s student in the School of Nursing. 

“Finding your heart and not locking it away, using the skills that you hope can help this person and making sure you’re communicating to patients and families in a very human way—that’s the intersectionality I focus on,” he said.  

Read more of Mark’s story here. >>
Class of 2023: Crisis leads Mark Miller from business leadership to bedside care and advocacy

“It was important to me right out the gate to foster a sense of community that would let anybody else who felt out of place or weird or different or like their background wasn’t a typical fit for business school feel welcome,” said Taylor Rasmussen, an MBA student at the Owen Graduate School of Management. “I wanted to build a place they could come and maybe we could all be weird and different together.” 

Read more of Taylor’s story here. >>
Class of 2023: From Broadway to an MBA, Taylor Rasmussen combines creativity and business savvy