A Semester of Change
With the semester and the school year now in our rear view mirror, we can take a moment and reflect on the momentous change that we have all been a part of these past few months – from graduation, to the separation of the university and the medical center, to what’s ahead.
As an institution of higher education, all of our efforts are geared toward helping our students reach the culmination of their academic journeys – when they walked across the commencement stage in recognition of graduation. The walk symbolizes one of the biggest changes they will undergo in their lives as they transition from student to business professional, advocate, educator, nurse, researcher, doctor, lawyer or countless other life paths. Our students should feel confident in being fully prepared by their experiences here and in knowing they are about to join a robust network of accomplished alumni.
Change is exciting but it can also be unsettling as it represents venturing into unknown territory. The separation of the university from the medical center is one of the most momentous changes in Vanderbilt’s near 150-year history. Our university has an impressive track record of identifying opportunities for progress even when they at first appeared too daunting, too progressive or too unwieldy. Vanderbilt’s separation from the Methodist Church in 1914, while controversial at the time, allowed the university to recruit non-Methodist faculty and Board of Trust members – a critical step in our commitment to prioritizing excellence and advancing diversity and inclusivity. Many of the university’s prospected changes were first met with trepidation including launching a new graduate school of management, the Owen School, in 1969, or welcoming the Peabody College into the Vanderbilt fold in 1979, or later establishing the Blair School of Music as an undergraduate degree-granting school in 1981. Today, Vanderbilt is world renown for the work of the faculty, staff, students and alumni of all its schools and colleges.
The university/medical center re-organization may be one of the most significant on record. In 1925, Chancellor James Kirkland worked with the School of Medicine Dean G. Canby Robinson to move the hospital, clinics, laboratories and library from its downtown location, near present day Fifth and Elm, to our main campus. Kirkland recognized the importance of proximity for building trans-institutional ties to advance discovery and learning. It is what makes Vanderbilt special and gives us a competitive advantage in many areas. The leadership of Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos and VUMC CEO Jeff Balser marks a new page in Vanderbilt’s history and we will all be vigilant in ensuring that our long history of collaboration and trans-institutionalism continues unabated.
For many, the VU-VUMC changes will go unnoticed. Some faculty and staff may notice improvements as the transition is an opportunity to update and re-structure our support and operations – from human resources to grants and contracts. Another important change is the SkyVU initiative with the implementation of a new cloud-based financial, administrative and research support system for the university. This new system will dramatically improve the quality and accuracy of the information we have at our fingertips and help us to make smart decisions about university resources. It will also serve to empower more staff members to contribute to the university’s success.
This summer will also be a season of change as new leaders in new roles will be welcomed. We recently announced the recruitment of new University Librarian Valerie Hotchkiss and the Evans Family Executive Director Kate Brooks for the Center for Student Professional Development. On the Martha Rivers Ingrams Commons, there will also be four new Faculty Heads of House coming from all corners of campus to welcome the class of 2020. Notably, in the fall 2016, we will also welcome at least 38 new faculty. Finally, over the next couple months, the Chancellor’s Committees on Humanities, on Biomedical Sciences, and on Diversity, Inclusion and Community will deliver recommendations. I anticipate amazing opportunities to gain synergies with initiatives that are already transforming our campus.
How do we communicate the progress we made with different initiatives during the 2015-16 academic year? In part, The Open Dore newsletters aim to summarize announcements throughout the year. In addition, each of the provost’s working committees post reports on the Provost website at different periodic intervals. For example, I urge you to look at the quarterly Strategic Plan reports, the Provost’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Executive Summary, or the recently posted report titled, Highlights of Academic Affairs’ Efforts to Advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Everyone is working across all the schools/colleges and with all of the Vice Chancellors to bring about positive changes that will have sustainable, lasting impact.
To mark the end of this semester of change, The Open Dore will take a two-month break and return in August. I’d like to thank the faculty, staff and students for trusting and embracing these important changes and for working together to make positive outcomes a reality. It goes without saying that we will continue adapting, modifying, and improving as Vanderbilt University moves forward. For if we are not changing, we are not leading.
Susan R. Wente
Previous Open Dore Issues
In case you missed it….
Mental Health Awareness: A Role for All – April 2016
Reflections on our Graduate and Professional Student Community – March 2016
The True Value of Creativity and the Liberal Arts – February 2016
New Year, New Hires, New Perspectives – January 2016
Looking Ahead to 2016 – December 2015
A Message on Diversity and Inclusion – November 2015
All past issues