WATCH: These Class of 2024 students use ‘dare to grow’ passion to help others


Vanderbilt University’s motto, Crescere aude, is Latin for dare to grow. Each student has a unique passion and perspective on how to live out this motto. The members of the Class of 2024 highlighted below are pursuing unique interests with a strong vision to advance research and discovery, improve communities and help make the world better.

The concept that “science is not finished until it is communicated” is a mantra Kaitlyn Browning is making the foundation of the next chapter of her life. It’s a philosophy that will have the Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry from the School of Medicine Basic Sciences working in the lab and in front of lawmakers and other political influencers.

“A lot of misunderstanding and misinformation is because scientists don’t always effectively communicate their discoveries. I would love to be at that interface between the scientists innovating and discovering, and then the government officials deciding on our priorities,” said the Hillsborough, North Carolina, native.

Browning specifically studies how bacteria evolves and mutates and how that ties to the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance. “Instead of just creating new antibiotics, I want to help address the bigger issue of antibiotic resistance,” she said.


Kaitlyn Browning and her husband, Lance, get flu shots at Flulapalooza! (Submitted photo)

“When I think of dare to grow, I think it’s a challenge—it’s daring the students to grow and do something meaningful,” she said. “You know, you play that game, truth or dare. The word dare is an action and I love that. That is the challenge that is presented to every single student at Vanderbilt. We dare you to grow. We dare you to meet your potential, to do great things because we know that you can. That’s the culture of Vanderbilt.”

Read more of Kaitlyn’s story here. >


When Nashville native Trey Ferguson was growing up, he soaked up the sage advice from his grandfather: lessons of integrity, community, and mentorship.

Trey Ferguson’s grandfather, Adolpho Birch Jr., reading to Trey and his sisters (Submitted photo)

“The lessons that he instilled in me growing up were just so critical to who I am and how I interact with others,” said Ferguson, who is earning a dual J.D./MBA degree through Vanderbilt Law School and the Owen Graduate School of Management. “I think he would be the most pleased with my constant desire to lift as I climb—making sure that I remember that it isn’t me alone accomplishing these goals. And then making a commitment to lift others up.”

In a specific desire to help underrepresented law students who haven’t had the same support as himself, Ferguson wrote a book packed with advice for first year law students called A[mateur] to B[arrister]. He’s also president of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), and he volunteers on the board of Afro Scholars, a nonprofit organization dedicated to diversifying the legal profession.


“Dare to grow to me means consciously being uncomfortable. I think we are all kind of wired to stay in our own comfort zone. So, we need to recognize that the greatest growth comes on the other side of fear,” said Ferguson, who plans to go into health care private equity.

“What I try to do is if I’m going to fail, I want to fail fast and I want to fail well and learn from my mistakes. I think that will help make me a better student, a private equity associate, a classmate and leader.“

Read more of Trey’s story here. >

Biomedical engineering major Schyler Rowland doesn’t think you should be impressed by her accomplishments. Even though she’s spent all four of her undergraduate years working on research to make fighting cancer more successful and affordable, she’s not ready for kudos.

“I think not being a part of the change, when I feel like I have a capability to help, would be a disservice to myself and others,” she said. “It’s really hard to get arrogant in the research field—because you can know a lot, and you still know so little.”

Schyler Rowland presenting her biomedical engineering research (Submitted photo)

Strong relationships with Dr. Michael King, J. Lawrence Wilson Professor of Engineering, professor of biomedical engineering and of radiology and radiological sciences, and King’s former graduate student Jenna Dombroski are what Rowland said are key to her transformative research journey.

Rowland started assisting in the King Lab her freshman year, during the COVID pandemic, and credits her experience and relationships in that lab with helping to shape her future plans of continuing research in graduate school.

I don’t know if I would’ve had the research experience or personal experience I had anywhere else because of those strong relationships. Dr. King is clearly very successful, and he’s also empathetic,” she said.


“I think everyone has grown here. I’ve definitely had to grow. I feel like I’ve had more personal growth than anything—learning how other people work, learning how to collaborate, learning how to ask for help. And just learning to be humble,” she said.

Read more of Schyler’s story here. >