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Get to Know Vanderbilt Students

Nate Marshall, Class of 2012

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Nate Marshall is quick to admit that Vanderbilt wasn’t on his radar in the beginning of his college search.

“I was actually applying to another school and they had a question on their application about what professors are you looking forward to studying with here, so I started doing it for all my schools, including Vanderbilt, and I was like, ‘Wow, these are actually people I want to work with and learn from.’ I submitted an application, came down to visit, and really liked it, so here I stand.”

Nate began writing poetry in grammar school and continues writing to this day. His work was published in the anthology “The Spoken Word Revolution: Redux.” He placed as the top individual teen poet in Chicago’s Louder Than a Bomb Teen Poetry Festival and went on to perform at the Brave New Voices national youth poetry slam featured on HBO.

“Outside of class, I do a lot of community service. One thing I started doing here that I do back home in Chicago is conducting writing workshops for inner city high schools.”

~ Nate

Nate released his latest book of poetry, Unconditional Love, in 2010 using a portion of the proceeds to set up a scholarship for young men of color in Chicago who utilize creative ways to transcend the violence that surrounds their everyday lives.

“Outside of class, I do a lot of community service. One thing I started doing here that I do back home in Chicago is conducting writing workshops for inner city high schools. At first, the kids are kind of like, ‘I don’t know about this,’ but they always end up responding really well to it. Aside from that, I’m also in a fraternity. I’m active in the Black Students Alliance. I’m active with the MOSAIC committee for multicultural recruitment. I still find time to write, to go to open mic spots in Nashville and perform. I work with Vanderbilt Spoken Word, I try to keep busy.”

“How do I balance? I’m addicted to my iCal. I constantly write to-do lists. I have to make schedules for myself and regulate that way, but it’s fun. You know, I definitely stay busy, but everything I do I care about. Everything I invest my time in, I try to make sure it’s a worthy investment of time. And personally, I think you find this with a lot of Vanderbilt students. We’re just kind of happier busy. You know, we juggle better with more balls in the air.”

“When I first got in, my mom had serious reservations. She kept saying, ‘I’ve never heard of this school. I don’t know anything about it.’ But then she came down to move me in, and now she’s a big fan of Vanderbilt. She loves it. She’s been down here like three or four times just since I’ve been in school.”

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Ariel Xinyue Liang, Class of 2011

With the help of undergraduate students from six continents, word about our reputation is reaching around the world. For Ariel Xinyue Liang and hundreds of international students who return to Vanderbilt each year, the experience comes with its own challenges, surprises, and rewards.

“My high school, Nanjing Jinling High School, is one of the oldest and most famous high schools in the nation. I was admitted to the honor class which focused on advanced study in math and science and aims to get students into those top colleges in China.”

“I am amazed at how similar our core values are even though we were born and grew up in places so far away from each other.”

~ Ariel

“Unlike some foreign language schools or international high schools, only five out of 800 students in my class applied to an American college. We didn’t have any advisers or alumni we could consult for college choices and the whole application process. I depended almost entirely on Internet resources and tried to handle the big workload of my high school at the same time. I feel very lucky that I got into Vanderbilt,” she replies with a smile.

“This semester is pretty challenging, because I have to do a lot of reading, research, papers, presentations, and debate. However, I love the classes that I am taking, and I feel excited every day about the amount of new things I have learned inside and outside the classroom. I especially like the things I learned about China. In my international politics class, I did a research paper about the soft power in China and debated whether the U.S. should have a hardline policy towards China’s economics. I am amazed at how much I have learned about my own country.”

Asked for advice on anyone considering Vanderbilt, she replies quickly, “I am very happy that I have kept an open mind and met so many smart and talented people. I am amazed at how similar our core values are even though we were born and grew up in places so far away from each other. The friends I have made here give me a feeling of family. They are the best part of Vanderbilt for me so far.”

Roark Luskin

“I read in a college handbook once that Vanderbilt is called ‘Fung Shei University,’ because it’s all about balance.”

~ Roark

Roark Luskin knows her way around the country’s top schools. While still in high school, she spent many hours on Stanford University’s campus and realized early on that she was looking for more than lectures and libraries.

“I read in a college handbook once that Vanderbilt is called ‘Fung Shei University,’ because it’s all about balance. Vanderbilt does a really good job of emphasizing that social aspects are as important as academics here. You can learn from your peers at any time, not just in the classroom.”

“Vanderbilt Visions, which I went through as a freshman and then volunteered for as a sophomore, pairs new students with a faculty member and an upperclassman throughout the first semester. They meet once a week for about fifty minutes and a lot of things come up. I always had my group do high/lows before we started, and a low was often, ‘This chemistry test just owned me.’ And they’d all be like, ‘Oh, problem five? That was a problem for me too,’ and it was this great situation where first-year students were commiserating with each other and this great camaraderie built up.”

“Alternative Spring Break is also very popular. A third of Vanderbilt students will have participated in ASB before graduating, and it’s amazing that this university has such dedication to service. I worked at the Carnivore Preserve Trust in North Carolina. They rescue tigers from people who would legitimately believe that they could raise exotic pets. It was a fantastic experience, just doing manual labor, and kind of connecting with the earth. It truly was an amazing week.”

As a tour guide, introducing prospective students to Vanderbilt comes with its own surprises. “I think it’s great that people here cheer for tours. They’re like, ‘Come to Vandy. Vanderbilt’s the best.’ That just reveals how excited people are to be here and honestly, that’s something that sold me. When I walked on this campus, I just kind of felt it. You know I got this sense of community, this pride, that they were willing to shout at a tour group that no one knew. I felt comfortable here, and it was one of those light bulb moments.”

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