Who are the respondents?
Among the 1,677 responses, alumni represent the greatest proportion at 41 perdent, followed by students at 23 percent. Staff and faculty each represent 15 percent of the response pool, while the final 5 percent is represented by parents and other community members.
Total number of responses is 1,677. This graph shows the number of respondents in each category.
What did respondents discuss most frequently?
This graph shows the number of times that a particular word was mentioned in a response. “Diversity” was the most frequently mentioned, thus requiring a deeper look into what respondents said about diversity (see below). “Academic” and “experience” were also frequently mentioned, typically in combination, necessitating that we examine the context of those terms (see below). The word counts draw from all respondents and from all five questions on the survey.
What did respondents say about diversity?
Comments about diversity among the four groups of respondents fell into three major categories: 1) support for initiatives that focused on diversity in terms of demographic characteristics (race, ethnicity, sex, gender) and social location (first-generation college student, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc.); 2) criticism of those particular diversity initiatives; and 3) support for efforts that focused on recruiting and supporting faculty, staff and students with diverse viewpoints and supporting free speech. N values represent the number of respondents who discussed issues of diversity.
What did respondents say about community?
Among respondents who discussed issues of community, the vast majority saw the culture of the Vanderbilt community as a strength and something that the new chancellor should continue to foster. When respondents were asked about challenges facing the new chancellor, nearly half noted that we should expand beyond the boundaries of Vanderbilt and forge stronger ties with our Nashville, Tennessee and global communities. N values represent the number of people discussing this issue.
Do respondents prefer an academic or a nonacademic?
When respondents were asked about the experience and qualifications of the new chancellor, there was a clear preference for a chancellor with academic experience in an institution of higher learning. (We read closely a subsample of two-thirds of the responses to this question to extract these opinions.)
Do respondents prefer an internal or external candidate?
Respondents were asked about the experience and qualifications of the new chancellor, and there was no clear preference for an internal or external candidate. (We read a subsample of two-thirds of the responses to this question to extract these opinions.)
Taking a Closer Look at the Feedback
The Chancellor Search Online Feedback Form alone generated more than 145,000 words of text. Additionally, members of the Advisory Committee corresponded privately with a great number of their constituents.
The Advisory Committee, therefore, was presented with a delightful problem of volume and how to deal with it. As noted above, we could not, for reasons of confidentiality, release the entirety of the feedback we received. Nonetheless, we had a strong desire to convey the flavor and precision of the text submitted. While the text was subjected to the computer-driven analysis detailed in Appendix A, each word was also read by multiple members of the committee. The care and liveliness of the feedback inspired us to create this appendix.
Below are passages selected by members of the Advisory Committee, both from the Online Feedback Form, and, in some cases, from private correspondence. These excerpts are in no way exhaustive, or even fully representative. They are offered both to expand on and to complicate the overarching themes detailed in the body of our report.
- Vanderbilt needs someone with a bold, innovative and inclusive vision for the future of Vanderbilt and its place in the country and the world. I very much hope that our next chancellor will be able to hold many things to be true at once.
- We are Vanderbilt, and should find a path forward that engages what is unique to our institution.
- Sharing power is vital for the success of the next chancellor.
- In addition to a strong background in higher education, the next chancellor should have characteristics that exemplify honesty, integrity, transparency, backbone and an open mind.
- What made Chancellor Zeppos so effective and beloved was his visible enthusiasm and unflagging positivity in representing the university. You couldn’t help but get swept along in it. We need more of that, coupled with a mind for creative solutions, boundless energy and a strong sense of purpose.
- The next chancellor should continue to move the university into the 21st century. This means expanding the university’s global reach and reputation; becoming more sophisticated in messaging and fundraising; and continuing to expand the diversity and inclusivity of the faculty, staff and students.
- A chancellor should have years of experience as a teacher and researcher in academia. Her education credentials are as important as her administrative ones. She should also depend on the input of the educational community—undergraduate, graduate and faculty—to guide high-level decision-making.
- The next chancellor should have experience working with diverse teams and a commitment to diversity and inclusivity. The chancellor should have teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
- The top priority must be continuing the culture of mutual respect on campus, combined with the vision to bring people together as One Vanderbilt.
- Clearly this role needs [to] have a respect for very high-quality academics and leading-edge thinking across fields.
- Vanderbilt has an established team ethos—this collegiality is a tremendous strength and supports meaningful, impactful collaboration across departments. How this is documented and celebrated by a great communicator will support further individual and group commitment to the institution.
- Keep the momentum going with access for the best students, regardless of ability to pay!
- One of the strengths that the next chancellor should foster is our goal for groundbreaking research and equity within.
- The next chancellor should be a connector … someone who brings genuine energy to every touchpoint that is so critical to this university’s position. This is a person who earns the trust and affinity of the student/faculty community, someone who brings vision to the mantle of the presidency to elicit alumni and donor confidence and support, and someone who can ignite enthusiasm among prospective students and parents. He/she should bring impressive professional credentials, with experience in the higher ed and/or private sector. Equally important to that pedigree, however, are the human qualities to be relatable and true to the spirit and commitment behind Vanderbilt’s success.
- Vanderbilt’s chancellor will have to navigate a national climate in which academic freedom, tenure-track positions and university presses are increasingly under siege. Investing in our own academic press, tenure-track (rather than lecturer) positions, and in the humanities and social sciences as well as other fields will allow Vanderbilt to uphold its values and promote learning and civil debate in an increasingly polarized political landscape.
- The next chancellor should work to build Vanderbilt’s reputation by fostering research collaborations and active involvement in key problems in the community.
- Vanderbilt is now a top-ranked undergraduate institution. Improving the quality and rigor of graduate education and research should be a top priority. More internal resources in this area would strengthen the environment (research facilities, graduate fellowships, administrative support for faculty submitting training and large institutional research grants, etc.).
- Chancellor Zeppos’s spirit was enormously valuable and consequential in his OUTWARD impetus, his ingenious mechanisms for transforming Vanderbilt into an institution of almost unlimited attraction and competitive edge. Nick has given us an excellent and durable foundation for the INWARD movement we are now ready to make. Now it is time to build a beautiful space for the faculty to BE a faculty.
- Vanderbilt University has a long, troubled history regarding diversity and inclusion. However, the selection of Vanderbilt University’s next chancellor is an opportunity to show our growth.
- As great of a job as Chancellor Zeppos did, he did have one blind spot that I hope our next chancellor can correct: intellectual diversity of the faculty. Zeppos devoted A LOT of resources to diversifying the faculty along any number of dimensions but not intellectual diversity.
- I would love to see Vanderbilt take a good look at how it treats its non-tenure-track faculty who are not paid very well and receive few perks for their often outstanding work. I also think that morale suffers because so many goodies (salary, research money, etc.) are given to those perceived to be “stars” while “not star” faculty do a huge amount of the day-to-day work that keeps the university running. I think equity is a huge issue at Vanderbilt.
- The chancellor should be engaged with student life and student health, especially issues like mental health in students who may be the first in their family to attend college. I also think that, as a graduate student, it would be nice to hear more directly from the chancellor. We are often not awarded the same attention as undergraduates, despite the fact that we are an integral part of campus life and often times we are the first Vanderbilt instructors students will have during their general education coursework. I think that fostering a community which values graduate students as well as undergraduates will only benefit the university as a whole.
- Cost of living affordability and transportation access to campus are increasingly a problem for Vanderbilt.
- It remains a significant disadvantage for faculty recruitment, research funds generation and student career placement that Vanderbilt has weak engagement with public policy, does not have a policy school, and has a fairly narrowly focused policy program.
- To my knowledge, VU has among the weakest international affairs outreach efforts and is one of very few in the top 25 rated universities without an office to do so.
- Improving graduate student life should be a key priority. In particular, ensuring that departmental PhD programs are run with oversight that ensures mentors behave appropriately.
- We have a terrific university with a lot of energy around excellence in research and teaching, and forward momentum on a strategic plan. The next chancellor needs to maintain the positive results-driven culture on campus. As well, we might start thinking a bit more about town-and-gown issues. As Nashville has transformed into the “it” city that it now is, housing prices and overall costs are sky high and many in our community—including our staff—are being left behind. What can Vanderbilt do to address local issues while boosting and broadcasting its research and teaching profile to a global audience? This is a challenge for the next chancellor to take up.
- Our next chancellor will need to be able to quickly solve the problem of being able to attract and retain quality talent.
- … actively progressive vision with a willingness to take bold risks—Vanderbilt tends to be too safe and conservative; it tends to follow trends rather than set them.
- … honesty, integrity and concern for humanity and the planet. Our next chancellor needs to be willing to take bold stances on the big challenges [facing] our society.
- … a person who radiates genuine excitement about the work of students at the university, and who can attract others to share in this work with an equal degree of excitement.
- … a visionary—able to see the landscape in higher education and project beyond that.
- … a visionary … with a holistic view of the student.
- … knowledge of what happens (or needs to happen) on the ground and/or daily at the university for things to work; ability to interact with and motivate all constituents, who will work harder if they feel connected to the mission but will grow resentful and fearful if they do not.
- … proven leadership experience, and ability to listen to the needs of the community as a whole. The candidate should embody an innovative spirit that is not afraid to think outside the box to tackle new, modern challenges.
- … the collegiality that creates a sum greater than its parts in research, scholarship, graduate training and undergraduate education.
- … using influence as the leading Nashville employer to address and shape wage, benefits and affordable housing in Nashville.
- … presence. These are big shoes to fill, so the next chancellor must be able to establish a presence on campus. They don’t need to have the same character, but they need to demonstrate that they understand our campus and community, and that they are a part of the community.
- … critical reading and public speaking skills, fostering an inclusive agenda for university members of all backgrounds, genders and abilities.
- … the philosophical commitment to a liberal arts education at our core; the ability to admit we must get better at inclusion … a commitment to open-mindedness.
- … academic excellence. Well-rounded students with life experiences beyond the classroom.
- … demonstrated skill at fostering inclusive communities (not just diverse communities but ones where people truly feel like they belong).
- … charisma; easy interaction with faculty, board of trust, students, potential donors.
- … inclusion for the whole Vanderbilt community: students, staff/faculty, contract employees and professors, and the neighboring community.
- … valuing and developing talent within Vanderbilt—faculty and staff—to best support our academic mission.
- … fostering the role of the humanities and “big picture” questions of meaning and purpose in education.
- … emphasizing the importance of the arts and humanities in a digital age.
… emphasizing that we are a community dedicated to higher education.
Interim Summary of Input from Stakeholders (August 2019)
Below are a series of bullet points the Advisory Committee has gleaned from their meetings and conversations with members of the Vanderbilt community. Please note we have many more opportunities for the community to engage in the process, especially with the start of classes. We are also working on a systematic assessment of the online survey data that will be a key part of the report. So this summary, as advertised, is very much an interim report. The order of the bullets is not an indication of importance.
We want to start by mentioning one overarching theme that arose consistently in our countless conversations: the Vanderbilt community wants an inclusive search that yields an exceptionally talented and diverse pool of candidates from all corners of the globe. It is from that foundation we can ensure that our next chancellor is the very best choice to lead our university.
- Continue the momentum of the last decade, advancing further VU’s reputation
- Continue to implement the Academic Strategic Plan
- Complete the residential college system
- Continue to enhance Vanderbilt’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion at all levels
- Strengthen faculty shared governance model
- Maintain and foster more connections between VU and Nashville/Tennessee
- Support Opportunity Vanderbilt, ensuring it remains central to our values
- Use Vanderbilt’s rise in the rankings to advocate for importance of higher education in a polarized society
- Mesh innovation in education (e.g., online) into our teaching, research and service missions
- Foster a healthy balance between athletics and academics that could serve as a national model
- Build more of a data-driven culture to drive decision making
- Focusing more on and investing more in graduate education within both tight budgetary constraints and the jump in cost of living in Nashville
- Fostering VU-VUMC collaborations post-split
- Building a more inclusive faculty and staff to align with the increasing diversity of our students
- Forging a greater global footprint
- Investing more in creative arts and humanities
- Developing trans-institutional mission while ensuring the rankings of our departments and colleges continue to rise
- Finding ways to expand both graduate and undergraduate missions at the same time
- Advancing liberal arts internally and externally at a time when they are facing strong headwinds
- Maintaining excellence among staff, especially as the cost of living in Nashville soars
- Improving research and teaching infrastructure in the face of continuing financial demands of residential college system
- Aligning key centralized services (IT, grants, research support, DAR) with rise of ETOB budgetary model within the schools and colleges
- Skilled researcher and teacher
- Skilled fundraiser, especially important with public phase of capital campaign looming
- Charismatic, someone who can speak to all groups from students to faculty to the media
- Executive experience
- Naturally inclusive
- Self-aware, self-critical
- Intellectually curious
- Sense of humor
- Good listener
- Impeccable integrity
- Financial skills to navigate complex budgets
- Build effective teams that can support financial management, fundraising, inclusion and academics
- Forward thinking
Chancellor Search Advisory Committee Timeline
- April 2, 2019 – Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announces retirement
- May 3, 2019 – Chancellor Search Advisory Committee appointed
- May 24, 2019 – Community Feedback Form launched
- June 5, 2019 – Vanderbilt Community Update
- Summer 2019 – Each member of the advisory committee hosted small meetings with colleagues and constituents to have a chance to talk in person about Vanderbilt’s next chancellor and really gain insight into our community’s feelings.
- July 8, 2019 – Nursing School Town Hall
- July 9, 2019 – University Staff Advisory Council Meeting
- July 10, 2019 – Meeting with Senior Administrators to Collect Feedback
- July 11, 2019 – Meeting with Deans to Collect Feedback
- July 11, 2019 – Graduate Student Council feedback event
- August 13, 2019 – University Staff Advisory Council Meeting
- August 23, 2019 – All Faculty Town Hall
- August 23, 2019 – All Staff Town Hall
- August 26, 2019 – Vanderbilt Community Listening Session
- August 27, 2019 – Vanderbilt Community Listening Session
- August 27, 2019 – Vanderbilt Community Listening Session
- August 28, 2019 – Vanderbilt Community Listening Session
- August 29, 2019 – Vanderbilt Community Listening Session
- August 30, 2019 – Vanderbilt Community Listening Session
- TBD – Vanderbilt Student Government Coffee Hour
- September 5, 2019 – Graduate Student Council Meeting
- September 9, 2019 – Undergraduate Student Leader Town Hall
- September 10, 2019 – University Staff Advisory Council Meeting
- September 11, 2019 – Blair Faculty Town Hall
- September 12, 2019 – Alumni Leaders Virtual Town Hall
- September 13, 2019 – Alumni Leaders Virtual Town Hall
- September 17, 2019 – Report Release
- September 19, 2019 – Meeting with Nashville mayor to collect feedback
- September 19 – Meeting with Nashville community leaders