Dear Arts and Science community,
I am pleased to share with you my first newsletter as dean of Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science. Since I believe strongly in transparency and engaging in conversations with our community about the College and its future, I look forward to periodically sharing A&S news with you.
Needless to say, we stand at an interesting, challenging, and exciting time in the world, and for the College of Arts and Science. As I scroll through the morning news, I am struck by the complexity and unpredictable nature of the biggest challenges facing us today—climate change, health, immigration, inequality, political polarization, privacy, and racism, to name a few. These pressing issues all share one thing in common: they are deeply interconnected and interdependent, and much too complex to be solved by one perspective or discipline alone. We can only make progress on these near intractable problems when committed people from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds come together to challenge the status quo, ask unexpected questions, and offer innovative solutions. We must conduct, in effect, a multi-front campaign.
As the largest and most academically diverse school at Vanderbilt, the College of Arts and Science is built on that very premise. From Chemistry to Cinema, Philosophy to Physics, Economics to English, we train our students to think about connections and collaborate to forge creative solutions to thorny problems. We must also look beyond our own school and realize that our colleagues across Vanderbilt—and beyond—advance our understanding of these important problems.
We are already embarking on this multi-pronged approach through various “trans-institutional” efforts, such as applying diverse technologies to advance drug discovery, ensuring humanities infuse conversations about healthcare, and using bio-archaeology to understand how past societies both thrived and struggled.
To build even greater momentum in the College, we must be transparent and ensure all decisions are based on relevant data. My vision for A&S, which is being enhanced and refined through many conversations with key stakeholders, focuses on advancing the research, teaching, and service mission of the College. To be both innovative and strategic, we will be launching a new strategic planning process to work toward a compelling five-year plan.
As we pursue these important goals, there must be a fundamental commitment to inclusion. Forging conversations among students, faculty, and staff with different backgrounds and interests is an essential part of the Vanderbilt experience, and one that is integral to A&S’s commitment to the liberal arts. The effort to build open and broad bridges is not always easy, but it propels us forward as a school—and as a society.
It is a true privilege and a deep honor to be dean of this amazing college. As someone who bleeds black and gold, I am eager to make the most of A&S’s unique position to tackle society’s most pressing issues in a thoughtful, inclusive, and collaborative way alongside our dedicated and talented faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends. I look forward to working with this passionate community to accomplish these important goals and ensure that the College of Arts and Science continues to make a real difference in all of our lives.
John G. Geer
Dean of the College of Arts and Science
Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science
Arts and Science News
Senior Lecturer of Cinema and Media Arts Jonathan Waters’ fierce commitment to helping students from all walks of life achieve success in the arts was among several reasons he was awarded the 2018 Chancellor’s Cup on Tuesday—an award given annually to only one Vanderbilt faculty member.
No politics is local anymore and it’s driving us apart, according to a new mathematical model of political competitiveness developed by Professor of Economics Mattias Polborn.
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Larisa DeSantis‘ latest research confirms that tooth wear best indicates the kind of food koalas and kangaroos ate, not whether it was covered in dust and dirt.
Professor of Biological Sciences Carl Johnson and his team discovered on-and-off interactions between the proteins that create rhythms which regulate our biological clock.
Christopher Carpenter, professor of economics, and his colleagues found gay men were more likely to receive routine medical care following marriage legalization.
A&S in the News
The Chronicle of Higher Education: We Are All Research Subjects Now (Sarah Igo, associate professor of history, political science, sociology, and law; director of American Studies Program)
The Conversation: 2018 Nobel Prize for chemistry goes to scientists who learned to ‘hack’ evolution in the lab (Brian Bachmann, professor of chemistry and biochemistry)
The Verge: How Trump’s tariffs will hurt U.S. tech companies (Eric Bond, Joe Roby Professor of Economics, quoted)
UPI: Earth’s first animals formed complex communities, study shows (Simon Darroch, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, quoted)
Bloomberg: Unity is Nigeria Opposition’s Key Hurdle in Defeating Buhari (Moses Ochonu, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of History, quoted)
Newsweek: Will science ever prove that God does or does not exist? (Scott Aikin, assistant professor of philosophy, quoted)