Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Vanderbilt 2018-19 Report

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A Message from Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente

To the Vanderbilt community:

Our university is, by nearly all measures, in one of its strongest positions ever. It is no coincidence that at this same moment of historic momentum, our diversity and inclusion efforts at Vanderbilt are also at an all-time high. Our incredibly talented and welcoming community of students, staff and faculty is at the heart of our strength and our promise.

With this exciting progress comes heightened responsibilities. There have been dramatic changes, driven by excellence, in whom we admit and invite to Vanderbilt, but have we implemented the full spectrum of programs and resources needed to support our evolving community? Have we fully adapted our teaching, systems and our structures accordingly? Are we continually welcoming students, faculty and staff into an environment where they feel safe and trust that they will thrive?

As evidenced throughout the pages that follow, the answers to these questions are two-fold. Yes, we have advanced significant engagement and improvements —from the Provost’s Women’s Initiative to our Trailblazers portrait series to our new partnership with the National Museum of African American Music—but there is always more work to be done. This report, which covers examples of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts from all divisions over the 2018-19 academic year, takes stock of our collective progress and provides a resource upon which to build future work, which is—in itself—an excellent step in the right direction.

Together, our efforts not only advance our values at Vanderbilt, but also foster achievability on a much larger scale. We must continue to work together to be inclusive and to acknowledge how others may struggle or not be fully heard because of their identity. Finding one’s voice should not be a solitary pursuit. We must listen and help one another to aim high, step up, speak up and be resilient in our efforts always to strive forward.

Although we are in our strongest position yet, we must continue our commitment to make improvements, heighten achievability and ensure that every person at Vanderbilt can take advantage of everything we have to offer.


Susan R. Wente
Interim Chancellor and Provost
Vanderbilt University



Vanderbilt University is dedicated to strengthening its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, and the campus community recognizes that embracing and celebrating diversity is critical to the education and research missions of the university. In the 2018-19 academic year, Vanderbilt extended its charge to expand programs and policies that supported a campus culture of equity, diversity and inclusion. Every school, college, department and office at Vanderbilt plays a role in advancing an inclusive culture at the university. Throughout this report are examples of the many ways that Vanderbilt is furthering an environment of equity and inclusion. From programs and initiatives launched to support and elevate all members of the campus community to responsive actions taken in critical situations, Vanderbilt is deeply committed to a culture of diversity and inclusive excellence that is embedded with the university’s core mission of informed and creative research, scholarship, service and teaching.


Building Our Community, Expertise and Outreach for Inclusive Excellence 

Vanderbilt creates and deploys the ideas, knowledge and leaders driving innovation and positive change in our world. This work is inextricably tied to the nurturing and development of the people of Vanderbilt—our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. Achieving excellence in learning and discovery is only possible through fostering a diverse and welcoming environment where every person can thrive—intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. In pursuit of the university’s vision for inclusive excellence, Vanderbilt is committed to building a community in which every individual experiences a strong sense of belonging and feels empowered to elevate the university’s mission of teaching, research and service.

Select Achievements, Current Initiatives and Upcoming Efforts

Inclusive Leadership

Vanderbilt hired and promoted new leadership to assist the university in creating a more diverse and inclusive environment. Along with many others across the institution, these leaders in their new roles will shape Vanderbilt’s approach to equity, diversity and inclusion, both internally and externally.

Leadership Development

The university continued supporting leadership pipelines by intentionally increasing training and development; each program considered diversity and inclusion as part of its recruitment, support and content.

Women at VU website graphic
Women at VU website

Women’s Initiative

The Office of the Provost launched a new women’s initiative, including an inquiry into the status of faculty, students and postdoctoral trainees who identify as women or gender minorities. The Division of Administration and the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion also collaboratively established the Staff Steering Committee for Women’s Initiatives.


Vanderbilt continued its emphasis on recruiting and retaining a diverse student body while ensuring the success of all students at the university. The demographics of the student body are increasingly diverse. The first-year class entering in 2018 was among the most diverse in the university’s history, with 43.2 percent members of underrepresented minority (URM) groups and 15 percent receiving Pell Grants.[1]

  • Students saw expanded internship opportunities across the university, including through top administrative offices, such as the Athletics Graduate Fellows program.
  • The university increased efforts to support campus-wide mental health and well-being, including the launch of the Student Care Network, a holistic system of resources for all students, which includes the Office of Student Care Coordination and the University Counseling Center.
  • Work continued on the Graduate Student Village, a 600-bed equitable housing community for graduate and professional students.
  • Campus Dining launched a food insecurity meal plan to support students who receive significant financial aid and remain on campus over fall, spring and winter breaks, as well as during the week prior to Commencement.
  • Campus Dining also expanded religious and dietary accommodations, including kosher proteins, halal chicken and a Ramadan meal plan.
  • The Bass Military Scholars Program launched, providing scholarships of $25,000 per year to an annual cohort of talented veterans pursuing graduate and professional degrees.
  • The Office of Student Access Services enhanced its offerings by:
    • Hiring an assistive technology specialist to train students on the use of different technologies and educate faculty on document accessibility.
    • Moving the office to an online data management system, the Commodore Access Portal, allowing students to request accommodations and proctoring space via phone, computer or tablet.
    • Developing a method for quickly and confidentially returning individually-proctored tests to faculty.
  • The Dean of Students continued to promote equity, diversity and inclusion throughout its offices, centers and areas of focus.[2]
    • The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center provided opportunities for student mentoring with career mentoring lunches, as well as workshops focused on LinkedIn, studying abroad and interviewing. The BCC also provided targeted programing for Vanderbilt graduate and professional populations, including by hosting the BLACKish Mixer for black graduate students, faculty and staff and establishing office hours for the Graduate School’s life coach. During Black History Month, the BCC organized a two-day immersive trip to Alabama for 50 students to increase their understanding of the civil rights movement.
    • The Office of LGBTQI LifeOut in Front LGBTQI+ Leadership Conference” welcomed more than 200 student leaders from Vanderbilt and other regional institutions, over 90 percent of whom said it was worthwhile and that they would recommend it to others, in addition to countless other events and programs supporting our thriving LGBTQI community.
    • The Office of Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence facilitated 36 trainings, reaching more than 1,600 individuals.
    • The Office of Greek Life facilitated Greek Member Experience through which 1,768 Greek student members attended at least two events focused on diversity and inclusion. Greek Inclusivity Alliance members hosted 55 chapter-specific programs/discussions related to diversity and inclusion.
    • In coordination with Experience Vanderbilt, the student-led, university-supported initiative that provides funding for extracurricular activities with fees to undergraduate students who have economic need, the Office of Student Organizations distributed $308,000 dollars to 966 students to help fund a co-curricular experience.
    • Interim Chancellor Wente speaking at Women's Center anniversary.
      Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente speaking at the 40th anniversary celebration for the Women’s Center held in Sarratt Student Center

      The Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center hosted a series of events to celebrate its 40th anniversary and saw a total of more than 900 attendees. The Women’s Center also saw a 17 percent increase in the number of students using the Women’s Center as a study space.

    • Representatives from the Office of the Dean of Students served on an off-campus authorization and housing assignments working group that provided recommendations to further the residential learning experience.
    • More than 150 student staff members from Residential Education participated in unconscious bias training to learn how best to respond to matters of equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Vanderbilt Athletics continued to emphasize diversity and cultural experiences for student-athletes, as well as summer programming, including:
    • Annual civil rights weekend
    • Annual MLK Day trip
    • Summer Bridge program
    • Diversity bus tour
    • Pre-flight program
    • Summer internships and study abroad opportunities
    • Annual international service trip partnering with Soles4Souls
    • Debut of video series titled “I Am More Than a Student-Athlete”


Vanderbilt continued to focus efforts on the recruitment, retention and long-term success of staff members.

  • In partnership with Human Resources, schools, divisions and offices across the university continued ongoing efforts to recruit and hire an increasingly diverse workforce, with especially increased efforts in Development and Alumni Relations and the Office of Investments. Efforts have included:
    • Extensive advertising of vacant staff and professional positions across targeted minority-focused media and more than 50 diversity-focused job sites, resulting in more than 75,000 diversity-focused job ad placements.
    • Launching a pilot project with The Precisionists, Inc., an organization that provides training, workforce development and an employment pipeline for individuals on the autism spectrum.
    • Including diversity and inclusion characteristics in “Success Factors” and “Success Factors for Leaders,” which are recommended for inclusion in all position descriptions, along with the “Commitment to Vanderbilt’s Culture of Diversity and Inclusion” section included in every job description.
  • Through Human Resources, Vanderbilt partnered with, attended or had regular outreach with more than 100 events and organizations that support minorities, women, LGBTQI individuals, individuals with disabilities and veterans, including the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, Park Center, Catholic Charities, Hispanic Family Foundation, Goodwill Career Solutions, Tennessee Career Center and the PRIDE Festival, among many others.
  • Human Resources continued its efforts to provide staff development and continuing education for skill-building, as well as career paths for service employees to advance into skilled crafts, such as the newly hired chef of culinary excellence and new educational development resources for staff at the Child and Family Center.
  • Human Resources created a comprehensive resource “Gender Affirming Journeys: A Toolkit for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Employees and Leaders” to support the LGBTQI community.
  • Vanderbilt continued to lead in its efforts with the Greater Tennessee Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC), a state-wide organization affiliated with the national HERC association, which is focused on dual-career partners and on diversity, equity and inclusion in the higher education workplace.
  • Human Resources established an executive search service that incorporates unconscious bias training for hiring leaders and search committees.
  • Vanderbilt completed its first comprehensive labor market review for staff and professional positions, allowing campus leadership to better understand compensation opportunities relative to the labor market, and highlighting comparative internal compensation that leaders may have previously been unaware of or that had not previously been addressed strategically.
  • The university enhanced its adoption, fertility, and surrogacy benefit programs to reflect more inclusive benefits for eligible employees. Changes include:
    • Increasing the reimbursement limit associated with an adoption or surrogacy from $3,000 to $5,000.
    • Removing the requirement that infertility must be demonstrated to qualify for Advanced Reproductive Therapy (ART).
    • Updating eligibility to a maximum of two benefits per employee/family (e.g., one adoption and one surrogacy; two adoptions; or two surrogacies).
  • Vanderbilt was the only university in the Southeastern Conference with African Americans serving in the roles of athletics director, head football coach, men’s basketball coach and deputy athletics director/senior woman administrator.
  • The Division of Administration hosted its third annual Facilities Field Day: Putting Diversity into Action event for staff.
  • The university put significant effort into removing gender-based pronouns from major communications and remarks, such as Commencement remarks and announcements and programs for the Service Awards ceremony.


Vanderbilt remains committed to inclusive excellence among faculty members by recruiting a diverse faculty, developing early-career faculty and creating a culture of inclusion and support for all faculty.

  • The university launched the Chancellor’s Public Voices Fellowship, designed to expand Vanderbilt’s global reach by amplifying the impact of faculty research through media training and strategic communications.
  • The Office of the Provost collected detailed data on faculty recruitment and retention for tenure-track and tenured appointments.
    • Of the 29 new faculty hires beginning fall 2018, 65.5 percent were women and 34.5 percent were faculty of color (African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, International of color, two or more races).
    • Administered 49 retention cases during the 2018-19 academic year, 18 of which advanced diversity in their departments. The university retained 13 of the 18 (72 percent of group, overall retention rate of 78 percent).
  • The Office of the Provost formed a University Faculty Development Committee to promote and foster the professional development of faculty in all tracks and ranks.

    Faculty Gateway website graphic
    Faculty Gateway website
  • A new Faculty Gateway website enhanced resources and accessibility for faculty.
  • The Office of Inclusive Excellence offered monthly training on “Finding and Attracting Top Talent: Best Practices for Faculty Searches” and met with several search committees to provide individualized coaching as needed.
  • The Office of Faculty Affairs developed and launched Tenure Track Faculty Dependent Care Travel Grants.
  • The Office of the Provost offered various faculty development workshops, including the IMPACT leadership development series and community writing sessions for faculty.


Vanderbilt is committed to inclusive engagement with an increasingly diverse alumni base across the country and the globe.

  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Tina L. Smith
    Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Tina L. Smith

    Development and Alumni Relations appointed Tina Smith as associate vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, with a particular focus on promoting inclusive excellence, enhancing alumni engagement and overseeing the Chancellor’s Dores of Distinction Alumni Advisory Board.

  • Staff from Development and Alumni Relations attended the Society for Human Resource Management Diversity and Inclusion Conference and also worked with the CASE Advancement Internship Program, which seeks to promote diversity in the field of higher education development.
  • The Alumni Association identified diverse alumni to serve as presidents and co-presidents of 14 of the 40 alumni chapters, a 25 percent increase over the prior year.
  • Alumni Association Board membership is more representative of the student community, with 33 percent of the board made up of underrepresented minorities, reflecting the Alumni Association’s commitment to inclusive excellence.
  • The university expanded Volunteer Leadership Weekend programming and participating groups which included the Alumni Association Board, the Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni, chapter leaders,Dores of Distinction, Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) volunteers, parent volunteers and reunion volunteers.
  • The university and the Alumni Association saw increased diversity among the leadership and faculty presenters for Vanderbilt Commodore Classrooms and its travel program.
  • Development and Alumni Relations operationalized a communications plan for the Chancellor Search Committee and Advisory Committee to reach alumni and parents, ensuring diverse alumni and family input on future leadership at Vanderbilt.

Schools and Colleges

School- and college-based initiatives continued to develop and advance efforts promoting inclusive excellence. (For more detail, see Highlights of Academic Affairs’ Efforts to Advance Inclusive Excellence, available from the Office of the Provost.)

  • College of Arts and Science: Of the 18 new faculty hires in the College of Arts and Science, 15 (or 80 percent) advance racial, gender, and LGBTQI inclusion in their areas. The college also created the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Advisory Group to advise the dean on topics related to culture, compensation, professional development and evaluation/promotion.
  • Blair School of Music: The school increased its efforts to feature concerts and other events that reflect the increasing diversity of Blair students and culture. Blair continued improvement in admittance of underrepresented minorities, increasing from 41 percent of admitted students in 2018 to 49 percent in 2019.

    Law School during the MLK to BLM symposium organized by Vanderbilt Divinity School, Peabody College, Vanderbilt Law School and other campus partners.
    Law School panel discussion during the MLK to BLM symposium organized by Vanderbilt Divinity School, Peabody College, Vanderbilt Law School and other campus partners.
  • Divinity School: The 2019-20 entering class at the Divinity School is composed of 43 percent racial/ethnic minorities and is 55 percent female. In 2018-19, the school furthered diversity and inclusion through many guest speakers, including Maisha Handy, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Interdenominational Theological Center; Thelathia Young, associate professor of women’s and gender studies and religion, Bucknell University; Tamura Lomax, PhD’11, co-founder and managing editor, The Feminist Wire; and more. The Divinity School also held special programming, such as the “Resistance+Faith+Art: Race and Sexuality Summit,” held in partnership with Fisk University and Tennessee State University.
  • School of Engineering: Among the School of Engineering’s six new faculty members is the 2018 Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips Chancellor Faculty Fellow, Audrey Bowden. The school’s undergraduate enrollment for fall 2018 reflected a dedication to diversity and inclusion, with 38 percent female enrollment, well above the national average of 22 percent female enrollment in engineering. Undergraduate URM enrollment also increased to nearly 24 percent, compared to 21 percent nationally.
  • Graduate School: The Graduate School evaluated graduate program admittance data to determine where strategic efforts can be made to increase diversity, and especially how social science programs attract a strong applicant pool of underrepresented minorities.
  • Law School: Of the 15 new Law School faculty hires over the last eight years, six are underrepresented minorities, representing 40 percent of new hires.
  • School of Medicine: The School of Medicine sponsored six Discovery Science Emerging Scholars over the year. The school also increased inclusive programming in the Basic Sciences and was instrumental in Vanderbilt’s inclusion in the National Academies Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education.
  • School of Nursing: In addition to continuing the Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series, the School of Nursing also hosted a poverty simulation, an experiential learning model that teaches diversity and social determinants of health.
  • Owen Graduate School of Management: Owen hired three new faculty, two of whom advance gender and racial diversity among Owen faculty. The Owen school also hired a new director of student engagement and inclusion to implement, support and promote inclusive campus programming and student organizational activities.
  • Peabody College: Peabody implemented new programming focused on diversity, inclusion and community-building, including Narrative Circles, A Seat at the Table and Spoken Justice.


Spaces, Symbols and the Physical Environment

Creating a Welcome and Accessible Environment Built for Inclusion

A guiding principle of the university’s strategic land use plan is the emphasis on creating a welcoming and accessible campus environment that recognizes, celebrates and affirms the rich mosaic of individuals that make up the Vanderbilt community. Vanderbilt is further developing spaces on campus and investing in initiatives that support the people who live, work and learn here. The university has made significant progress in developing innovative building designs and welcoming spaces that align with its commitment to inclusive excellence and core missions of learning and discovery through the Academic Strategic Plan. Additionally, the university continues to revisit existing names, symbols and images across campus, while establishing new artwork, displays and spaces that represent and reflect a multiplicity of identities and backgrounds.

Select Achievements, Current Initiatives and Upcoming Efforts


The FutureVU framework ensures that the campus is designed and prepared to uphold the university’s mission and values, including diversity and inclusion. Efforts are guided by principles developed through community feedback, in which diversity and inclusion are deeply embedded.

  • Future VU
    Future VU

    FutureVU continued to engage Vanderbilt community members in various working groups and aspects of the initiative, including a diverse group of faculty, staff, students, trustees and community members since the start of the initiative.

  • The Division of Administration launched Facilities University, a six-week orientation class designed to familiarize the Vanderbilt community with the operations of a successful campus. The class features education on the FutureVU process and guidelines, including its focus on facilitating an inclusive campus environment.
  • Vanderbilt completed two sustainability operational studies aimed at developing a vision and strategy for energy, including renewable energy, that would incorporate the needs of the entire Vanderbilt community.
  • In April, the university announced an ambitious carbon neutrality goal through FutureVU Sustainability. The FutureVU Sustainability website and the BlueSky Energy Vision final report were both developed with accessibility in mind to ensure all can access and participate in Vanderbilt’s sustainability goals.
  • The university established a zero-waste advisory committee and master plan to reduce and divert waste in support of Vanderbilt’s carbon neutrality goals.
  • Major building projects are underway at Vanderbilt, all of which include making spaces accessible and more inclusive, including the construction of Residential College A near the corner of 25th Avenue, West End neighborhood beautification efforts, and the Home Economics and Mayborn renovations.
    • The West End neighborhood beautification project, for example, embodies diversity and inclusion. Pathways within the neighborhood will now all be accessible, and additional community event space and outdoor spaces will increase social interaction and bring people together.
  • Vanderbilt completed a comprehensive ADA analysis of campus to actively incorporate an inclusive “built environment” consistent with FutureVU principles and objectives as well as with the Academic Strategic Plan. As a result, Vanderbilt Facilities completed hundreds of accessibility projects including sidewalk repairs, lighting upgrades, signage changes and more. Following the ADA analysis, university stakeholders established the Advisory Accessibility Task Force, composed of faculty, staff and students, which worked throughout the academic year on an accessibility review of current and future spaces. The task force prepared a draft five-year accessibility improvement plan to ensure inclusion for those with physical impairments or disabilities.
  • Mobility and transportation study efforts are continuing, including input from a variety of faculty, staff and students, and will result in a comprehensive mobility and transportation plan for the university tied to the FutureVU vision.
  • The graduate and professional student housing working group, composed of faculty, staff and graduate and professional students, continued its work on advising the implementation strategy for graduate and professional student housing. The project design includes congregating space for all graduate and professional students that will enhance interdisciplinary and diverse interactions.
  • The university continued to actively engage with external Nashville community in all of its campus planning efforts, including with the Mayor’s Office, Metro Planning Office, Hillsboro Village and Edgehill neighborhoods, and various Metro Council members, to ensure plans were inclusive and welcoming to neighboring areas.
  • The university rolled out a comprehensive communications plan and a variety of engagement events and activities, including a series of town halls and pop-up events, to increase engagement on FutureVU efforts, ensure all campus voices were heard in the planning process and enhance awareness of FutureVU efforts and engage with the VU community.

Inclusive Spaces and Features

Vanderbilt made progress in its efforts to enhance inclusive areas for all buildings, including:

  • Gender-neutral bathrooms
  • Lactation rooms
  • Braille signage
  • Touchless fixtures in bathrooms
  • Interactive maps displaying accessible routes across campus and locations of accessible building features

Honoring our History

The university erected a historical marker at Memorial Gymnasium honoring the legacies of Perry Wallace and Godfrey Dillard and their contributions to the civil rights movement.

Art Initiatives

The provost launched the Faculty Committee on Campus Planning Consultation on Building Art Initiatives, charged with identifying and developing a diverse body of art that can be used in future residential colleges.

Increasing Accessibility

The Division of Administration is implementing an effort to codify Vanderbilt standards in the design standards that will be applied to all university construction projects, large and small, most of which exceed those minimally required by building codes and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines. Top leaders at the university are challenging all professional design teams at Vanderbilt to consider resources and solutions that are inclusive of all community users. For example, Printing Services will support enhanced accessibility in wayfinding by leveraging its existing web portal for design and order entry, coupled with new sign fabrication equipment. Both ADA accessibility standards and Vanderbilt University branding guidelines will be taken into consideration in support of this effort.

Mobility Safety

The Vanderbilt University Parking Services Mobility Safety Committee completed a number of projects to improve the safety of non-motorized transportation on and around campus.



Cultivating Our Community’s Values, Furthering Mutual Respect and Creating a Campus Culture that Embraces and Welcomes All

Vanderbilt is building a community that defines itself by the values of collaboration, civility, inclusion and collegiality. Recognizing that multidisciplinary and trans-institutional discovery is best achieved through a culture of dignity, trust and mutual respect, Vanderbilt endeavors to be a university that engages in civil discourse and open dialogue and embraces a multitude of experiences, viewpoints and differences. Embracing diverse perspectives is critical to our community as we seek to understand and boldly address the most challenging issues facing humanity.

Select Achievements, Current Initiatives and Upcoming Efforts

Celebrating Progress

Vanderbilt placed an emphasis on sharing its diversity and inclusion initiatives and values, infusing diversity and inclusion messaging within priority institutional communications efforts, and amplifying the stories of the university’s vibrant and diverse community of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

  • The Division of Communications partnered with schools, colleges, divisions and offices across campus to ensure that all external communications reflect our ongoing commitment to diversity, including recruitment, fundraising, news and public materials.
  • Vanderbilt Trailblazers portraits were unveiled in Oct. 2018.
    Vanderbilt Trailblazers portraits were unveiled in Oct. 2018.

    The Office of the Chancellor established the Vanderbilt Trailblazers portrait project, which honors members of the Vanderbilt community who broke barriers at the university and in society at large by placing portraits and other artistic renderings of them in prominent locations across campus. The Trailblazers project also includes a 16–member selection committee to determine future portraits and artists for each year.

  • The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center unveiled the Legacy Pioneer portraits in its study lounge to honor past and present members of the Vanderbilt community who promoted an inclusive environment.
  • The university elevated awareness and support of the 10th anniversary of Opportunity Vanderbilt, a hallmark program that has transformed socioeconomic diversity on the campus. The 10th anniversary outreach campaign illustrated the impact of the program through a showcase of students whose lives have been changed through this philanthropic support.

    Opportunity Vanderbilt celebrated its 10th anniversary.
    Opportunity Vanderbilt celebrated its 10th anniversary.
  • The 2018-19 academic year marked the 40th anniversary of the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, which celebrated the milestone through a series of events, affiliated initiatives and news pieces.
  • The K.C. Potter Center celebrated its 10th anniversary in October during LGBTQI History Month.
  • The Division of Communications launched the “I Am Vanderbilt” storytelling series aimed at amplifying the diverse narratives of Vanderbilt’s staff and recognizing them for the important ways they contribute to the university’s mission.
  • The Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion continued to promote a culture of inclusion at Vanderbilt while hosting programming and discussions that elevated the importance of diversity in the university community. Chancellor Zeppos appointed André L. Churchwell to the role of interim vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer for the university. Churchwell also serves as chief diversity officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and senior associate dean for diversity affairs at the School of Medicine.
  • Faculty, staff and students from Vanderbilt represented the university at numerous local and national institutions and organizations, such as the National Diversity Council, the Urban League of Middle Tennessee, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and peer institutions.
  • Campus offices and organizations facilitated more than 70 open and courageous conversations on topics such as queerness, disability, intersectionality and more.
  • Human Resources initiated an Employee Resource Group task force to strategize future affinity groups across campus.
  • The university offered new training modules and resources for faculty, staff and students, including:
    • Cook-Ross unconscious bias training
    • Deciding Factors unconscious bias simulation
    • Insights Discovery diversity assessment
  • In response to identity-based violence and hate crimes that occurred on a national level, the Division of Communications collaborated with the Office of the Provost, the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and leaders from across campus to provide responses to identity-based violence/hate crimes at the national level.
  • Top leadership from the university conducted 20+ roundtable forums with EDI-related committees across the university.
  • In partnership with Human Resources, the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion provided consultation and training regarding employee transgender medical transition.
  • The Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion expanded EDI Service Awards recognition to include both individuals and teams.

Office for Inclusive Excellence Expands

To broadly support the campus community, during the summer of 2019, a set of identity centers shifted to report to Interim Vice Provost William H. Robinson. The reorganization credits the significant efforts of these resource centers and illustrates their service to the entire community of students, faculty and staff. These centers include:

  • The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center
  • The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Life
  • The Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center
  • The Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life


The Office for Inclusive Excellence, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion launched the InclusAbility initiative. The initiative included an awareness campaign and campus-wide events and programming, and suggested changes to infrastructure and policies to ensure improvements across campus. The campaign resulted in introducing disability and accommodations content into Residential Education and Student Centers trainings, as well as instituting Disability Awareness Month on campus.

Opening of the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation

The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation opened this year.
The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation celebrated its grand opening.

Following two years of pilot funding as a Vanderbilt Initiative Award from the Trans-Institutional Programs Initiative of the Academic Strategic Plan, the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation, was founded through a $10 million endowment from Jennifer and Billy Frist. The center, which focuses on supporting and developing the talents of neurodiverse individuals, celebrated its grand opening in newly renovated space in the Engineering and Science Building’s Innovation Pavilion.

Community Outreach

Vanderbilt increased its support of and outreach to the diverse Nashville community.

  • The university served as presenting sponsor for the National Museum of African American Music’s sixth annual Legends Gala and announced a new long-term partnership with the museum.
  • Vanderbilt joined the Center for Nonprofit Management as the title sponsor for diversity and equity training sessions in a partnership with Crossroads, Inc. This program engaged with hundreds of nonprofit leaders to increase awareness, determine ways to combat systematic racism and create a pipeline for young minorities to find professional opportunities within the nonprofit community.
  • Government and Community Relations collaborated with 87 community partners through the Community Impact Fund to inquire about board diversity, determine if the promotion of diversity and equity is incorporated into their respective missions and assist in increasing their commitment to diversity and equity by recommending potential board members. In the past year, 48 percent of all community donations from Government and Community Relations were to advance and promote diversity and equity.
  • The university continued its support of neighboring HBCUs, including supporting attendance of Fisk students at Vanderbilt athletics events through a ticket-share program.
  • Government and Community Relations participated in collaboration with State Representative Harold Love Jr. to discuss challenges facing residents and local businesspeople in historic parts of Nashville.
  • Vanderbilt increased staff outreach and involvement in the greater Nashville community through partnerships, sponsorships and volunteerism with groups such as:
    • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee
    • Habitat for Humanity
    • Healing Trust
    • Nashville Rescue Mission
    • Open Table Nashville
    • Operation New Hope
    • Napier-Looby Bar Association
    • Francis S. Guess Bridge to Equality Fund
  • The university continued efforts to enhance supplier diversity, increasing utilization of suppliers that qualify as a small business, a disadvantaged business enterprise, a HubZone certified business, an 8(A) designated business, or a minority-, women- or veteran-owned business.
  • The Division of Communications continued to strengthen relationships with media outlets such as Nashville Pride, Tennessee Tribune, Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Diverse and others that serve underrepresented communities.

Creating Space for Authentic Dialogue

Multiple offices across the university modeled and broadened the diversity and inclusion conversation through campus lectures and programming.

  • Chancellor's Lecture Series with Astronaut Mae Jamison
    Chancellor’s Lecture Series with Astronaut Mae Jemison

    The Office of the Chancellor increased diversity among the Chancellor’s Lecture Series speakers (e.g., Stacey Abrams, Temple Grandin, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Mae Jemison, and more).

  • The Chancellor’s Lecture Series successfully launched an expansion of a smaller series of events hosting a diverse array of alumni and expert speakers engaged in intimate settings with Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff. The inaugural guest speaker was Adolpho Birch III.
  • Communications that focused on diversity were included in the chancellor’s “What’s On My Mind?” column and the provost’s Open Dore newsletter.
  • Chancellor’s Charter Bus Tours took students, faculty and staff on local bus tours focused on Nashville’s thriving nonprofit community and on sustainability.
  • The Divinity School, the Law School, Peabody College, the Graduate School, the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of the Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence partnered together to hold “From Martin Luther King to Black Lives Matter—50 Years of Struggle,” a transdisciplinary symposium exploring the impact of Martin Luther King’s legacy on struggles for racial and social injustice, including keynote speaker Patrisse Cullors.
  • The Office of the Chancellor and the Division of Communications hosted a campus screening of Triumph: The Untold Story of Perry Wallace, and made the film available to campus partners, area schools and other interested stakeholders for a private viewing.
  • The Office of the Chancellor launched a Chancellor’s Book Club including a diverse array of book selections.

Sports and Society Initiative

Vanderbilt launched the Sports and Society website to support and promote the event series and overall initiative.

Office of the General Counsel Diversity Open House

The Office of General Counsel hosted its first Diversity Open House, inviting diverse firms, bar associations, attorneys and firm representatives, with whom Vanderbilt can partner on future projects.

Increasing Education

Multiple departments, including the Equal Opportunity Employment Office and the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, provided ongoing EEO/AA, diversity and inclusion, and unconscious bias education for the Vanderbilt community, including training on:

  • Equal Protection and Nondiscrimination Law
  • Attitudes Toward Differences
  • Sexual Misconduct
  • Title IX
  • Diversity Awareness
  • Cultural Competence
  • Compliance Fundamentals, a two-module class on leader responsibilities and employee protections

Recreation and Wellness

The David Williams II Student Recreation and Wellness Center implemented Women’s Only Swim Hours at the pool in support of both women and Muslim members of the university community.


[1] URM= Underrepresented Minority

[2] Some of the offices and centers that were under the Office of the Dean of Students will move under the Office for Inclusive Excellence in 2019-20 in an effort to promote their work with all members of the campus community.