Celebrating Vanderbilt’s inspiring achievements during Sesquicentennial year

Vanderbilt University

By all measures, Vanderbilt University pushed to the forefront this academic year as an innovator and leader in solving the world’s most pressing challenges.

A few examples of the multiple ways that Vanderbilt dared to grow are the launch of Dialogue Vanderbilt, the beginning of work to establish a new interdisciplinary college to advance discovery in computer science, and the breaking down of barriers to college affordability with expansion of the university’s no-loan financial aid.

Vanderbilt launches Dare to Grow campaign on April 21, 2023. (Vanderbilt University)

In addition, generations of Commodores got a glimpse of Vanderbilt’s promising future with Dare to Grow events across the country.

With this year’s Commencement now in the books4,323 undergraduate and graduate and professional students received diplomas—take a moment to celebrate the university’s extraordinary accomplishments this academic year as one of the nation’s elite research institutions.

Class of 2024 Commencement at GEODIS Park, May 10, 2024 (Vanderbilt University)

New deans welcomed

The 2023–24 academic year brought fresh leadership and growth opportunities to five of Vanderbilt’s schools and colleges, with dean appointments for Tim McNamara in the College of Arts and Science, Yolanda Pierce at the Divinity School, Melissa Rose at Blair School of Music, Krish Roy at the School of Engineering, and Tom Steenburgh at Owen Graduate School of Management. The deanships of McNamara and Rose continue their many years of leadership and service to Vanderbilt.

Discovery Vanderbilt sends Vanderbilt research soaring

The university’s landmark investment in Discovery Vanderbilt is bringing impressive returns in just a few years with the launch of state-of-the-art centers and institutes.


College of Connected Computing to welcome its first students in fall 2026
Vanderbilt is working to establish a new interdisciplinary college dedicated to computer science, AI, data science and related fields that impact nearly every aspect of life today. The College of Connected Computing will assist in preparing future students with the skillsets they need to pursue careers in technological fields while bringing together cutting-edge computing-based scholarship from across campus.

As an interdisciplinary college, the College of Connected Computing will collaborate with all of Vanderbilt’s schools and colleges to advance breakthrough discoveries and strengthen computing education through a “computing for all” approach.

A faculty-led Connected Computing Task Force chaired by Krish Roy, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Dean of Engineering is working to identify key characteristics for the college and inform the inaugural dean search. This marks Vanderbilt’s first new college since Blair School of Music merged with the university in 1981.

Quantum Potential, marquee video series, debuts

An award-winning video project hosted by Radiolab founder and Vanderbilt faculty member Jad Abumrad offers a behind-the-scenes peek at the Vanderbilt scholars, scientists and students whose discoveries are ultimately life-changing.

Jad Abumrad at the Quantum Potential Kickoff event at the Belcourt Theatre (Vanderbilt University)

One of the videos, “AI Unearths Untold Stories: Slave Societies Digital Archive,” won three awards at the 2024 Association of Research Libraries Film Festival. It highlights the groundbreaking work of Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History Jane Landers and Daniel Genkins, digital library architect and curator of the Slave Societies Digital Archive, using artificial intelligence and computer science techniques to scan through thousands of historical documents to assemble the world’s largest collection of records documenting the history of Africans and their descendants across the Atlantic World.

Professor of History Jane Landers launched Vanderbilt’s Slave Societies Digital Archive, cataloging nearly half a million images taken from more than 2,000 individual volumes, like the one shown here, that document the lives of 4 million to 6 million individuals. (Slave Societies Digital Archive/Vanderbilt)

Read Abumrad’s Q&A with Vanderbilt Magazine about the meaning of Quantum Potential.

Opportunity Vanderbilt, the university’s pioneering no-loan program, expands

Opportunity Vanderbilt has been a key component of the university’s rise among great universities since its launch in 2009. Vanderbilt was a bold leader when, during a national recession, it announced the program to replace undergraduate loans with scholarships.

This year the university committed to offering full-tuition scholarships to admitted students of families whose annual income is $150,000 or less. Scholarships for these same families typically include funds to support housing, food, travel and other college expenses. And many families with incomes above $150,000 still qualify for financial aid.

Opportunity Vanderbilt has helped boost student diversity, academic excellence and alumni giving. Approximately 54 percent of Opportunity Vanderbilt donors are alumni, and 65 percent of undergraduate students in 202324 received some form of financial assistance.

The Roberts Academy and Dyslexia Center opens this fall

Vanderbilt will be the new home for a world-class education, outreach and research opportunity focused on primary school children with dyslexia, thanks to an unprecedented gift from Hal and Marjorie Hollis Roberts of Lakeland, Florida.

An unprecedented gift from Hal and Marjorie Hollis Roberts will establish a new academy for primary students with dyslexia and an innovative center focused on outreach and dyslexia research at Vanderbilt University. (Vanderbilt University)

In September 2023, Chancellor Daniel Diermeier joined members of the Roberts family for the announcement and ceremonial tree-planting, “symbolizing the power and beauty of growth,” Diermeier said, “… most important, the growth of the children whose lives will be so profoundly shaped by the work we officially begin here today.”

The Robertses’ contribution to Dare to Grow, Vanderbilt University’s $3.2 billion campaign, will help transform the lives of children in Middle Tennessee and around the world who face incredible challenges from a language-based learning disability. The Roberts family cited Peabody College’s outstanding reputation and research for their decision to donate to Vanderbilt.

Impact Symposium celebrates 60th anniversary

Since its beginning in 1964, Vanderbilt University’s Impact Symposium has been managed by the student-run Vanderbilt Programming Board, with a goal of bringing leaders and intellectuals to campus to encourage discussion on issues impacting the world.

Speakers through the years have included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., William F. Buckley, Robert F. Kennedy, Timothy Leary and many others. The 60th annual symposium in March 2024 featured Anderson Cooper and Ziwe Fumudoh. Cooper is the great-great-great-grandson of university founder Cornelius Vanderbilt, a CNN anchor and a correspondent for 60 Minutes on CBS. Fumudoh is a comedian, writer and satirist best known for her commentary on politics, race relations and young adulthood.

Mark Byington named head coach for Vanderbilt men’s basketball

Mark Byington, who joined Vanderbilt in late March, has a passion for helping student-athletes thrive and a demonstrated record of winning games.

Commodores basketball coach Mark Byington’s first day on campus at Vanderbilt University on March 28, 2024. (Garrett Ohrenberg/Vanderbilt University)

Last season he led James Madison University to the NCAA tournament, the AP Top 25 Poll, and its most successful four-season stretch in more than 30 years. In announcing the new hire, Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletic Director Candice Storey Lee described Byington’s competitiveness, intensity and love for the game.

Sydney M. Savion named vice chancellor for people, culture and belonging

In the new role of vice chancellor for people, culture and belonging, Sydney Savion will help Vanderbilt staff reach their full potential and gain a greater sense of purpose and belonging in their work.

Sydney M. Savion, vice chancellor for people, culture and belonging, takes part in an immersion with the Vanderbilt University Police Department. (Vanderbilt)

With more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership roles, Savion is charged with shaping best practices related to leadership and employee development, culture and belonging, compensation and benefits, health and wellness, equal access, policy guidance and university strategy. She retired as a commissioned officer from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years of reserve and active service and most recently worked at Google.

Dialogue Vanderbilt launched to foster civil discourse

Teaching students and the broader community the importance of knowing how to constructively discuss challenging topics is among the goals for Dialogue Vanderbilt.

Dialogue Vanderbilt featuring Rabbi David Wolpe, hosted by Vanderbilt Divinity School Dean Yolanda Pierce (Vanderbilt)

During this sharply divided time among citizens concerning political candidates and societal issues, Dialogue Vanderbilt takes on the vital task of working to restore civil discourse. The initiative also provides a platform for research on how to strengthen free speech globally and develop practical, evidence-based solutions for addressing polarization.

Dialogue Vanderbilt, through the Unity Project and The Future of Free Speech and Open Dialogue Visiting Fellows programs, hosted the Symposium on AI, Free Speech and Human Rights, with guests ranging from Liz Cheney and Bret Stephens to Don Abram and Oksana Markarova, and elevated research on topics ranging from unity and democracy to AI and free speech.

Dialogue Vanderbilt event with Interfaith Networks Group founder Maha Elgenaidi, hosted by Vanderbilt Divinity School Dean Yolanda Pierce (Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt traditions

Of course, the academic year was enhanced with many annual Vanderbilt traditions, such as Welcome Week, Founders Walk, Family Weekend and Reunion, with more than 3,500 alumni and their guests celebrating the university’s Sesquicentennial.

More than $42.7 million was raised in conjunction with Reunion to support Vanderbilt and contribute to the university’s historic $3.2 billion Dare to Grow campaign.

These highlights of Vanderbilt’s 2023–24 academic year spark excitement for the university’s future, and preparations for next year’s goals are already underway—including welcoming the fantastic Class of 2028.