WATCH: Unique perspectives from around the globe enrich the Class of 2024



More than 70 countries and all 50 states are represented in the Vanderbilt undergraduate community and more than half of undergraduates study abroad. This melding of unique cultures, perspectives, experiences, and identities cultivates a robust environment on campus and among alumni around the world.

Meet three members of the Class of 2024 who are using their global experiences and identities to enrich the Vanderbilt community.

In 2017, Vivek Kumar and his physician mom took a medical mission trip to Haiti. (Submitted photo)

Starting in middle school, family trips for Vivek Kumar meant donning scrubs with his physician mom, who traveled to provide much-needed medical care to low-income communities in Haiti, Brazil and Venezuela. It was just where he wanted to be.

“I remember on the flight back from Haiti my freshman year in high school, I knew I needed to be in health care,” said Kumar, a medicine, health and society major from Portland, Oregon. “Just to see their smiles when they received free medication and having someone care about them, outside of all the struggles that were going on in their lives, was just unbelievable.”

But Kumar said that during a medical outreach trip in Honduras for his Immersion Vanderbilt project, he saw that providing medical services just wasn’t enough.

“I want to see how we can work with residents to build a sustainable health care infrastructure and business model to help communities build themselves up, instead of people coming from the outside,” he said. “And I really believe there’s possibility and hope for us to do that.”


The cultural diversity of Vanderbilt’s campus helped Kumar to connect more to his own Indian roots. Though he had no formal dancing experience, he knew he wanted to try out for the award-winning BhangraDores. He has been involved with the dance troupe since his freshman year.

“Joining BhangraDores was my opportunity to explore what it means to be Indian, what it means to be proud of my culture and heritage. And I just love the social family aspect,” he said.

Vivek Kumar performs with the BhangraDores in November 2023. (Harrison McClary/Vanderbilt)

He also credits the South Asian Cultural Exchange student group, and his time as its president, with expanding his appreciation of his culture and creating a sense of community on campus and with alumni.

“It’s going to be such a gratifying experience to be able to look back on my college experience and be like, wow, I’ve grown so much and had such incredible experiences,” he said. “All those small interactions really add up over time, and I am so thankful.”

Read more of Vivek’s story here.>>

Mohammad Aziz Medhioub was just 16 years old the first time he left his North African home of Tunis, Tunisia. He packed an optimistic attitude and a dream to turn his and his parents’ sacrifices into success.

Aziz Medhioub and his parents in Tunis, Tunisia (Submitted photo)

Now the mechanical engineering major is part of Vanderbilt’s award-winning Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Lab’s rocket team. And after two successful internships with Tesla, he’s secured a position as a test engineer for the Tesla Bot.

“I’m really grateful that my parents said yes for that first experience—and every other experience that opened doors all the way to this,” he said.


Medhioub quickly found support at Vanderbilt. The residential colleges and the School of Engineering helped him expand and balance his friend group. He said Vanderbilt created an atmosphere for connection and healthy debate.

“I personally love talking with my friends about the world and politics and our differences in culture,” he said. “Some of my friends and people in my classes have different perspectives on things because of their cultural backgrounds and upbringing. The people I’m around now are people I can have conversations with where we can disagree in very important ways, but still see that we both are humans.”

The students he spends a lot of time with are those in the engineering school’s senior rocket design team. Medhioub said he dreamed of space-related engineering since his freshman year after seeing NASA’s launch of the Mars rover in 2020 and the SpaceX mission with their first human flight and docking with the International Space Station.

“It’s such a good feeling, like I set my mind to being on this team as a freshman, and I was able to get here. And so hopefully I can carry that momentum forward in my life in general,” he said.

Read more of Aziz’s story here. >>

Vanessa Morales and her children, Joshua and Naomi, during her pinning ceremony in December 2023 (Submitted photo)

Every day, military veteran Vanessa Morales carries the memory of the profound love of her husband, along with the weight of the tragedy of his death in military combat. It’s that combination of resounding love and loss that drives the Bass Military Scholar in her mission to fulfill the couple’s shared dream of helping others through health care. Morales is doing this by earning a master of science in nurse-midwifery from the Vanderbilt School of Nursing.

“We met while we were in Fort Bragg, and we fell in love and married and had two children. It was a wonderful life,” Morales said. “Our plan was for him to go to physician assistant school, and I would move from a military intelligence non-commissioned officer and go into a military nursing program.”

But the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, and their lives changed forever.

Morales was deployed to Iraq, and her husband, Allen, was sent to Afghanistan as a U.S. Special Forces medic. Their baby and toddler went to live with Allen’s parents.

Six months after deploying, Allen was killed in action, and Vanessa was forced to start a new chapter of her life.

“Everything I’ve done with my kids and with my life is to honor him and just to let him know that his life and all his sacrifices were not in vain,” she said.

Morales entered the School of Nursing as part of Vanderbilt’s first cohort in the Bass Military Scholars Program, which provides scholarships to highly talented veterans pursuing graduate and professional degrees.

“It’s great because there’s a sense of community and camaraderie. [Bass Scholars] take care of each other, and it feels good,” she said.


Morales started dreaming of being a nurse when she was a child growing up in Puerto Rico.

“Always I wanted to be a nurse. I just took the scenic route to get to where I am right now,” she said.

Morales is using her fluency in English and Spanish to forge special bonds as a nurse midwife.

“It’s a blessing to patients to be able to talk with them because they’re very vulnerable and can feel isolated sometimes … when not all the personnel know Spanish. And speaking through an interpreter or translation phone line is not the same as connecting with an individual with warmth and cultural links,” she said.

Read more of Vanessa’s story here. >>