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Nicole Gunasekera

Class of: 2011
Hometown: Dayton, OH
School: Arts and Science

With an interest in health care and a growing understanding of the way that poverty affects both health and access to health care, Nicole has dedicated her college career to working with underserved populations. During her first and second years, Nicole co-founded a student service organization called Grassroots that connects Vanderbilt students with established community organizations striving for sustainable solutions to poverty and homelessness. She has primarily worked with the Nashville Dismas House, a transitional housing program for men recently released from prison, and has facilitated opportunities for members of the Vanderbilt community to prepare and enjoy meals with Dismas residents and to form relationships with them. Nicole has also served on the Dismas House Board of Directors since 2009. Serving in this capacity gave her insight into how stressful it is for a non-profit to be fully dependent on the generosity of others. Additionally, speaking with Dismas residents revealed how difficult it is for them to find the employment necessary for self-sufficiency. Desiring to address these issues, Nicole and a group of students wrote a business proposal for and are working to launch Triple Thread Apparel, a social enterprise that will create sustainable income for the Dismas House. The model is a custom t-shirt company that employs Dismas House residents, providing them with job training, references, and work experience for their resumes. Furthermore, all of the company’s profits will be reinvested into the Dismas House. Nicole is very excited about the positive impact that Triple Thread Apparel will have on the lives of Dismas residents and on the Dismas House itself.

Nicole has engaged in two summer projects as an Ingram Scholar. During the summer of 2008, Nicole had the opportunity to serve as a medical intern in two non-profit hospitals in Moshi and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. She helped to provide health care and to facilitate a diabetes education initiative, allowing her to learn about health issues and health care delivery in East Africa. During the summer of 2009, Nicole served as an intern for a research study commissioned by the Nashville city government that sought to identify differences between Nashville’s insured and uninsured populations. The goal of this study was to understand the city’s barriers to accessing healthcare, with the ultimate hope of informing the government’s approach to developing equitable health care policy.

Nicole is very honored to be an Ingram Scholar, and she is incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that the program has provided her.


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Key Dates

  • December 1, 2017
  • Ingram Scholarship Program (High School Seniors) applications and letters of recommendation due.

  • TBD 2018
  • Ingram Scholarship Program (Current Vanderbilt First-Year & Sophomore Students) applications and letters of recommendation due.