WATCH: Collaboration creates inspiration for Class of 2024 students


At Vanderbilt, collaboration is more than a word—it’s an inspired action. Collaboration includes opening up to new ideas and perspectives, challenging each other and innovating while working toward a shared purpose.

Meet some members of the Class of 2024 whose thoughtful collaborations within Vanderbilt and beyond are helping heal, advocate and inspire.

Tatum Earp is a musical storyteller, and her memories are her muse.

The music composition major credits her time at Vanderbilt and the Blair School of Music with cultivating her craft and honing her ability to shape raw emotions into sophisticated multi-instrument narratives.

Tatum Earp in her first year residence hall (Submitted photo)

“Art, especially music, definitely has the power to carry stories,” the north Texas native said. “I think opening up to that level of vulnerability and saying, ‘I am going to write about a story—a real life experience,’ has really been my biggest transformation.”


Earp said collaboration and community are keys to her personal and academic success. She first found community as a percussionist in her Texas high school marching band. That experience helped her step out at Vanderbilt—building an inspiring community among her classmates and connecting with valuable mentors, specifically music composition professors Michael Slayton and Michael Alec Rose.

“My professors really care about all of their students—and not just about the material that they teach, but about the well-being of their students and about creating spaces for them to become articulate people, critical thinkers, and to really challenge them and ask them to grow,” she said.

Earp has a strong Christian faith and has been focusing part of her studies on sacred music. She said Rose has challenged her in ways that have greatly improved her music.

“As well as being a passionate advocate of immersion in music of every kind, Professor Rose is Jewish, and we’ve been able to interact in this interfaith space,” she said. “It has actually made me better as a person and a musician. I hope that my life and my career in the future can be a larger version of that, where I can interact with people—Christian or not, religious or not, and we can come together to create more goodness in people’s lives.”

Read more of Tatum’s story here.>>

When Matthew Nettles joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, he knew he had to straighten up and find focus in his life. He definitely found it—along with empathy and passion to serve others in mind, body and soul. Nettles is graduating with doctor of medicine and master of divinity degrees from Vanderbilt.

Matthew Nettles and his oldest daughter (Submitted photo)

“I want to practice medicine and take care of people. I am deeply concerned, both intellectually and practically, with helping people who are suffering … I thought studying medicine and theology was the best way for me to do that,” said Nettles, a Pat Tillman Foundation scholar.

Nettles is focusing his next chapter on mental health: He matched with Vanderbilt University Medical Center for a residency in psychiatry.

“Matt embodies a commitment to service and fostering cultural change through health care with wisdom and the maturity of his soul. He will make a difference in the repair of this world,” said Nettles’ mentor Dr. Keith Meador, Anne Geddes Stahlman Professor of Medical Ethics, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at VUMC.


Nettles’ father is a pastor who laid a foundation of religious education for him. Nettles said that his degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School not only opened him intellectually but has equipped him to help patients in a deeper way.

“You see it on TV—those emotional moments when the doctor says, ‘There’s nothing else we can do.’ And those limitations are real. But the truth is, there’s always something we can do. We can always sit with someone and let them know that we’re going to be with them and help them through their suffering. They’re not alone,” said Nettles.

“There’s no other place I’d rather live in than right here, right now. With all of the problems as challenging as they are, I know progress is possible. And it doesn’t happen by magic. It happens by humans cooperating together, taking the challenges, the problems seriously and just trying to do a little bit better than they did before.”

Read more of Matthew’s story here. >>

The internet and social media are fun and scary, inspiring and draining, supportive and sometimes addictive. In this dizzying online world, Vanderbilt doctoral candidate Rachel Hanebutt is a guide, using research and partnerships to turn social media uncertainty into social flourishing.

Rachel Hanebutt teaching at Vanderbilt (Submitted photo)

The key to her work is collaborating with the very teenagers she wants to help.

“My ultimate goal is to improve the relationships that teens have with technology by co-designing solutions with them that work in their everyday lives,” said Hanebutt, who is earning her Ph.D. through the Community Research and Action Program in Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development.

Using skills she’s honed through community-engaged research with the Center for Advancing Racial Ethnic Equity, Hanebutt has found that, “teens not only love to be a part of the research process and learn a lot from it, but they also are really the experts of their own lived experience.”


Hanebutt’s continued research is being used as part of a partnership with Larissa “Larz” May, BA’16, Vanderbilt alumna and founder of the youth-based digital advocacy and empowerment platform #HalfTheStory.

Using her expertise in teen-centered methods, Hanebutt leads a teen advisory board with young people around the country. Hanebutt conducts research to make sure the work #HalfTheStory is doing is evidence-based and the programs being designed have the intended impact of helping empower young people to flourish in the ever-changing digital space.

Left to right: Rachel Hanebutt serves as a research partner for #HalfTheStory; Bao Lee is a #HalfTheStory youth adviser and Vanderbilt student; Larissa May, BA’16, founded #HalfTheStory. (Submitted photo)

“When I met Larz at Vanderbilt, she helped me understand the gap in this social media space and that we can be in schools and online, talking to teens about social media issues that directly impact them and helping parents understand what the heck is going on online with their kids,” she said.

“Vanderbilt is an inspiration and innovation incubator,” said Hanebutt. “We all come here with these amazing ideas and dreams. But being able to truly let these ideas incubate together and meet collaborators and get advice while taking rigorous classes, all of those things jumbled up together allows those ideas to truly become so much bigger and better than what we came here with.”

Read more of Rachel’s story here.>>