“The first time I ever stepped on the Peabody campus, it was like I had come home.”
Sharon Shields earned her doctorate from Peabody College in 1976, and has served on the faculty in a variety of roles since, most recently as faculty head of Murray House at The Commons.
“If you think your life is intense, consider this: I live in a house with 150 first-year college students,” she says with a laugh. “I have always been drawn to the idea of living—and learning—side by side with students.”
“I am on campus pretty much 24/7 and am in lot of places students are.” She often sits in the Murray House lobby, grading papers alongside students who are writing them. She has adjusted her sleep schedule to accommodate House meetings at 9:30 p.m. and midnight trips with her housemates to the campus market. “To them, I’ve become more than a person who only teaches. Students see me living life—I wear pajamas, I can throw a football, I get up early and go to class, I like my morning coffee on the patio.
Also known as “Mama Murray” to her housemates, Shields’ life at The Commons includes embracing new technologies and adjusting to students’ unconventional social schedules. As she pursues her own goals and dreams, Shields constantly looks for opportunities to learn from others and to pass along lessons learned to others.
“Living in a shared community with first-year students has changed my perspective and added depth to my relationship with students. We are all learners and, in a way, traveling on similar arcs in our lives. I have been at Vanderbilt for many years and I’m still asking, ‘What’s my purpose?’ ‘What’s next?’ So are my students.”