Everything you need to know about campus traditions

Since Vanderbilt’s founding in 1873, a number of campus traditions have evolved as the university has grown. Here are a few favorites that highlight community, belonging and history at the university.  


Move-In 2023 at The Ingram Commons (Nick Hessler/Vanderbilt)

Members of the Vanderbilt community, including students, faculty and staff, lent a helping hand in carrying the first-year students’ belongings to their new rooms on The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons.  At the conclusion of Move-In Weekend, first-year, transfer and Next Steps students participate in Founders Walk, where they form a procession and walk from The Commons Lawn to Alumni Lawn and are formally welcomed by the chancellor, the provost and other campus leaders.  


Graduate School Convocation 2023 (Harrison McClary/Vanderbilt)

Convocation is the Graduate School’s signature celebration marking the beginning of the academic journey at Vanderbilt. Convocation formally welcomes new students to the Graduate School. Graduate students hear from Vanderbilt’s distinguished leaders and various faculty members and then can attend a resource fair in Alumni Hall.  


After years of hard work and dedication, the student experience comes full circle at Commencement as graduates ceremonially exit the same gates of Vanderbilt that they entered during Founders Walk.  


The Commencement Celebration, a new take on the Strawberries and Champagne celebration, celebrated the Class of 2023. (Joe Howell)

Once all the names have been called and all the degrees have been conferred at Commencement, it’s time to celebrate! Every year, Vanderbilt hosts a party that includes a live band, light refreshments and champagne to toast the graduating class. 


(Photo by @kendyll117)

Introduced by Commodore cheerleaders in 2003, the popular “VU” hand sign is formed with the thumb, index finger and middle finger of your right hand, palm out. The index and middle fingers form the “V,” and the “U” is formed by the thumb. 


Since 2004, the anchor has been a part of Vanderbilt’s football program and is prominently displayed on game days. During home games, the anchor is carried in the Star Walk procession to the stadium, and a group or an individual is invited to “drop the anchor” at midfield before the game.  


Senior Dance at Harambee. A cultural showcase presented by the African Student Union. (Photograph by @jannygaophoto)
The Senior Dance at Harambee, which is a cultural showcase presented by the African Student Union (Photo by @jannygaophoto)

Vanderbilt celebrates its community’s rich diversity in many ways, but one of the most entertaining is its cultural dance showcases planned by student organizations. These showcases are open for anyone to join—no dance experience required. There are four annual performances: Diwali, the South Asian Festival of Lights, which is held by the South Asian Cultural Exchange; Harambee, African Student Union’s cultural showcase; Lunar New Year Festival, which is held by the Asian American Student Association; and Vanderbilt Association of Hispanic Students’ Café con Leche. 


Vanderbilt couldn’t truly be part of Music City without an awesome musical tradition. Since 1971, Vanderbilt students in the Vanderbilt Programming Board have organized and hosted the music festival Rites of Spring on Alumni Lawn.   


Students in the Class of 2027 sign the Vanderbilt Honor Code Pledge. (Harrison McClary/Vanderbilt)

Formally known as the Honor Code Signing Ceremony, the Community Commitment signing is hosted by the Undergraduate Honor Council for all incoming students. Students sign the commitment, and the Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity office posts the signatures in Sarratt Student Center for the duration of the class members’ time at Vanderbilt.