Next Steps for Immersion Vanderbilt
Last month, I announced a major new financial commitment that will support the launch of Immersion Vanderbilt, one of the cornerstones of the faculty-led 2014 Academic Strategic Plan. Specifically, the Chancellor is funding 25 new endowed Cornelius Vanderbilt Chairs. This significant investment in our faculty will honor our worthy colleagues, and moreover, it will provide the schools and colleges with new funds to help support and advance Immersion Vanderbilt. Notably, this investment comes NOW–nearly two years before the proposed launch of Immersion Vanderbilt so as to ensure the success of the program.
I devote this newsletter to addressing further questions regarding Immersion Vanderbilt and the current and future plans for this strategic initiative. Of special note, the answers come from the work over the past two years of many faculty, staff and students who have defined “immersion,” developed the program’s structure, and envisioned the desired outcomes.
Why is Immersion Vanderbilt of importance to the undergraduate experience? The faculty-driven executive and steering committees of the 2013-14 Strategic Planning process originally proposed this program. In those many conversations, our colleagues saw this initiative as a cornerstone for how we must educate global citizens in the 21st century. It is critical that our students leave our campus with an appreciation of broad, diverse perspectives and how, through hard work, they can make a difference. It is critical that our students are not just consumers of information, but they learn how to produce new information by pursuing learning that is often beyond the classroom and allows them to seek solutions to pressing problems facing society.
What is an immersion experience? They are intensive learning experiences that go beyond the classroom and culminate in the creation of an academic product. Specifically they range from internships, design projects, creative performances and research to experiences abroad. Today, most of our undergraduates have had one, if not two or more, of these experiences (see sidebar). What the creation of Immersion Vanderbilt will do is 1) give due recognition to students for those efforts and 2) provide additional support so that the experiences become a holistic part of their undergraduate experience and prepare them for their path ahead.
Further, the program will recognize faculty efforts involved in supervising immersions. Our faculty are already heavily engaged with our current students’ experiences – and over the past two years, a sampling of such have been shared in Board of Trust meetings (see sidebar).
What is the status of launching Immersion Vanderbilt? The goal is to have all undergraduates entering as first year students, beginning in the fall of 2018 and onward, be full participants in Immersion Vanderbilt. Over the past few months, Vice Provost John Geer has made presentations, to relevant committees in the undergraduate schools and colleges, to answer questions and to garner feedback on the work done by faculty and staff. More meetings and presentations are to come, including in the professional schools.
Since Immersion Vanderbilt will become part of all of our students’ undergraduate experience, this initiative is now working its way through faculty governance structures in each undergraduate school. I encourage you to better familiarize yourself with the program development thus far through the new website. There will also be more open forums for faculty and staff (see sidebar for those scheduled). In the meantime, if you have any questions about the program, what your role might be, or how it will be implemented, please feel free to reach out to Vice Provost Geer and his team by emailing Immersion@Vanderbilt.edu.
What are some of the proposed features of Immersion Vanderbilt?
- Structure: The parameters of Immersion Vanderbilt will be intentionally flexible and compatible with existing practices, starting in fall 2018 with all first year students participating in three general organizational phases: (1) individualized learning plan, (2) immersion experience, and (3) immersion product. The four primary pathways for immersions will be: Civic & Professional, Creative Expression, International, and Research (see sidebar).
- Central Support System: A common resource will be established for oversight, implementation, advising and student support, and data and analytics (in partnership with the Registrar’s office). This new office will be yet another major investment made to support Immersion Vanderbilt and ensure that this new program is not a burden on our faculty or staff.
- iSeminars: Being piloted in the spring 2017 through an extensive and active faculty collaboration, these ten seminars on the Commons will introduce first-year students to the concept of immersion and prepare them to identify opportunities. It will also provide an important opportunity for the faculty involved to think through the many issues involved in developing Immersion Vanderbilt. iSeminars will be taught by faculty from the undergraduate schools and colleges as well as faculty involved in the Commons.
- Program Review: A mandatory review of Immersion Vanderbilt will be conducted after 7 years, at which time 2 full student cohorts will have undertaken Immersion Vanderbilt. However, it is imperative we continually re-evaluate and consider the program’s impact as well as re-affirm the faculty commitment and student experience. As with all curriculum initiatives, faculty governance is essential and provides an invaluable safeguard to ensure excellence and effectiveness.
Immersion Vanderbilt will be a unique program that speaks to the caliber of our students who are already pursuing these types of opportunities. It also speaks to the excellence and engagement of our faculty in discovery and learning (see sidebar). The potential for breakthroughs when faculty and students are working together is exciting.
Overall, Immersion Vanderbilt is the perfect complement to a broad-based liberal education wherein students can pursue not only their passions but also apply them in a myriad of contexts. From the philosophy major who wants to intern at Google to the Engineer who wants to study architecture in Europe, our students are becoming life-long learners. Immersion Vanderbilt brings together and synthesizes a number of our efforts and will provide our students with a unique educational experience that prepares them to succeed in an increasingly complex, globalized economy and culture.
Your support of this important program is much appreciated and I look forward to continued feedback as we refine the planning for the fall 2018 and our class of 2022.
Susan R. Wente
Attention Faculty: Your feedback is requested via this short survey
The Provost and the International Strategy Working Group are asking faculty for valuable input related to international research and scholarship, please take a few minutes to complete the survey here.
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Previous Open Dore Issues
In case you missed it….
Adding 25 Endowed Chairs and Faculty Investments
A uniquely Vanderbilt budget model – September 2016
Welcome Back! – August 2016
A Semester of Change – May 2016
Mental Health Awareness: A Role for All – April 2016
Reflections on our Graduate and Professional Student Community – March 2016
All past issues