Dear friends of the College of Arts and Science:
The campus came to life last week with the start of the new academic year. Despite the stubborn summer heat, there was a distinctly autumnal feel to the place as we welcomed the A&S Class of 2020 and laid before them the richness and variety of the courses of study and extracurricular experiences available to them in the next four years.
It is not just faculty and administrators who greet the first-year class each fall. Student groups lined the quadrangle paths on Aug. 21 to cheer incoming students at Founders’ Walk. Upperclass students welcomed freshmen to their residence halls, and many will continue to serve as close advisers and role models as part of the VUceptors/Vanderbilt Visions program.
I find that students often do a better job than I can in communicating to freshmen what is so special about the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt: its high-powered academics and cutting-edge research unfolding in an atmosphere of mutual encouragement.
Take Greg Rudd, a junior majoring in biological sciences and recipient of the Harold Stirling Vanderbilt Honor Scholarship. Greg, who is on the executive board of VUceptors/Vanderbilt Visions, posted a message recently about the annual Commons Reading.
Greg’s post responds to the book read this year by all incoming freshmen, the biography of Perry Wallace, Strong Inside (The author is Andrew Maraniss, a 1992 A&S graduate). Wallace, a Vanderbilt alumnus, was a sports and civil rights pioneer and the first African American to play basketball in the Southeastern Conference. He went on to receive a law degree at Columbia University and to become a law professor specializing in environmental law, finance and corporate law.
Greg writes, “Whether it was as a young boy learning to dunk on a playground field, a young man in basic training in Missouri, or a law student at Columbia University, Perry Wallace benefited heavily from the lessons and the stories he shared with those closest to him.” Greg remarks that he, too, has come to realize the importance of those closest to him, the people “who provide the pushes, large or small, that remind us to fight on.” He exhorts fellow students to help build communities – plural, not singular
– at Vanderbilt where they can push one another to “challenge limits,” whether self-imposed or external.
As we start a new year, I look forward to marking the academic and research accomplishments of Arts and Science students and faculty. I know there will be many such accomplishments to celebrate. I will remind myself to notice, too, the many small acts that give our community its special character: gestures of mutual respect, evidence of true open-mindedness, surprising moments when we learn from one another, and in the process change our minds and our directions for the future.
Welcome back to another great year at a great university.
Dean, College of Arts and Science
Nelson O. Tyrone, Jr. Professor of History