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the Wond'ry E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

October 2017

From hosting a Mini Maker Faire where 4,000+ people from across the community attended, launching a number of new workshops/seminars, and being honored as a “Global Emerging Entrepreneur Center of the Year” award finalist by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC) – the preeminent university innovation and entrepreneurship organization – October has been a whirlwind of excitement for the Wond’ry!

In partnership with Make Nashville, the Nashville Mini Maker Faire, hosted for the first time at Vanderbilt, drew tremendous interest. A festival-like, block party atmosphere, this event included hundreds of creators and makers from across Vanderbilt and the community displaying and presenting their research, inventions, and creativity. With over 4,000+ attendees this was an amazing event that we plan to continue in the future.

Later in the month, we also welcomed back several notable alumni innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world to share their stories and inspire our Vanderbilt Community to think globally. Traveling from Russia, Robert Courtney (VU ’77) shared his experiences launching ventures in Eastern Europe and provided attendees with great insight and advice on how to navigate these efforts successfully. Charlie Brain (VU ’16), founder of Lubanzi Wines, wowed the Wond’ry with his stories of starting a winery in South Africa right after graduation – an idea that was first percolated by his study abroad travels as a VU undergraduate.

Finally, later in the month, the Wond’ry team was honored at the GCEC Annual Conference as an “Global Emerging Entrepreneur Center of the Year” award finalist. Honoring the innovation or entrepreneur center who has been in existence for less than 5 years and made the most impact, this recognition was truly rewarding as it recognized the tremendous efforts that Vanderbilt and the Wond’ry team have put forth to catalyze innovation on campus.

October has been an exciting month and we welcome you to come by the Wond’ry and see all the programs we have underway!

Innovate Onward!

-Robert Grajewski
Evans Family Executive Director of the Wond’ry

Featured Recent Event:

“The Tricky Waters of Global Business: Navigating with an Entrepreneurial Mindset” with Robert Courtney

Traveling from Moscow, Russia to share his story, on October 5th, the Wond’ry hosted Vanderbilt alum Robert Courtney (VU ’77), a passionate global entrepreneur and international business lawyer, for an engaging talk on his experiences navigating and creating pioneering ventures in commercial real estate, health care, and retail across the globe including founding 12 ventures in 12 countries covering 9 industries.

Robert’s presentation featured the key ingredients of entrepreneurship, leadership (particularly in crisis situations), and failure, illustrated with and punctuated by insightful stories and experiences taken from his 30+ global business career and overseas experiences.  Business cases and related stories ranged from Tri-Lateral Joint Ventures between USA-Mexico-China to Leadership during the Russian Constitutional Crisis in October 1993. What all of these anecdotes had in common were that they captivated the audience and provided a fresh international perspective that was greatly appreciated. Ultimately, the principles the audience learned were universal and timeless and certainly applicable in both domestic and international opportunities.

Currently, Robert currently teaches transactional law in Moscow and is a Board and Executive Committee member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia. We were fortunate to have him share his 25+ years of expertise while he was back in Nashville for reunion weekend.


On October 27th and 28th, the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities, Center for Teaching, Robert Penn Warren Center, Curb Center, and the Wond’ry will host a THATCamp at the Wond’ry. THATCamp stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” It is an unconference: an open meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture, what a party at your house is to a church wedding: it’s more informal and more participatory. It’s not too late, click here to learn more and/or to register.

  • It’s collaborative: there are no spectators at a THATCamp.
  • It’s informal. The emphasis is on productive, collegial work or free-form discussion.
  • It’s spontaneous and timely, with the agenda / schedule / program being mostly or entirely created by all the participants during the first session of the first day.
  • It’s non-hierarchical and non-disciplinary and inter-professional.
  • It’s fun, intellectually engaging, and a little exhausting.


One Object, Many Stories Creative Writing Workshop Coming Soon

First-year students are invited to The Wond’ry on November 9th for a special opportunity to let their creativity shine. Dr. Kate Brooks, executive director of Vanderbilt’s Career Center, and Andrew Maraniss, author of the Commons Reading STRONG INSIDE, are leading a creative writing workshop entitled “One Object, Many Stories.” Students will view an artifact from 1960s Vanderbilt and will then be invited to write a piece that incorporates the object into their storytelling. They may write a work of poetry, a short story, a mock advertisement, a song, a scene from a play – whatever they desire. The session is part of the Ingram Commons Pathways Workshop program, runs from 5 to 8 p.m., and includes dinner. Any interested first-year student is invited to attend. RSVP to Jennifer Atwood by Nov. 3.

I-Corps Program Interest Form Available

Have a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) idea? Developed a technology in the lab that you think has commercial potential? Looking for funding and mentorship?

If so, visit our webpage to learn more. The Vanderbilt I-Corps site program provides up to $2300 in funding and an opportunity to apply for the National I-Corps program, which provides $50K in funding and increased success rates for those applying for SBIR/STTR grants.

the Wond’ry Spotlight:

Meet Noah Robinson- Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Ambassador

Hi, everyone, I’m Noah Robinson. I am a second year doctoral student studying clinical psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Hollon. My research focus is on using virtual reality to treat addiction. This line of research requires collaboration among the Dept. of Psychology, Dept. of Computer Science, and industry. When I first arrived to Vanderbilt, I found it difficult to foster this kind of interdisciplinary research; the silos of academia were difficult to penetrate.

I came across the Wond’ry in my second semester. Mr. Grajewski met with me and invited me to work as a Wond’ry Ambassador under Ole Molvig, Dept. of History and Vanderbilt Institute of Digital Learning, to form the Wondry’s Emerging Technology (EmTech) Lab. We now have three virtual reality computers and headsets, a Microsoft Hololens, 3-D scanning technology, a full body motion capture suit and much more.

Last year, more people died from opiate abuse than either gun violence or fatal car crashes. Over the next five years, I look forward to working within the Wondry’s environment to fight this epidemic and develop a new type of clinical intervention.

If you’re interested in trying Virtual Reality, I can take you on a guided tour of the Metaverse. My office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6 pm. You can sign up for a demo here.

In the News:

Highlights from Recent Events:

From Robots to Drones to Costumes and Ultralight Planes: Nashville Mini Maker Faire

From September 30th to October 1st, the Wond’ry, Engineering and Science Building, and Garland Ave. were bustling with makers, tinkerers, and inventors showing off their creativity. The event drew over 4000 people and featured unique exhibitors, such as Rick Prince, former FaceOff contestant, showing off some of his favorite creations and discussing the methods he uses to create them and Vanderbilt’s own Alex Sargent displaying costumes created for the Vanderbilt Theatre Department that were made from repurposed materials. Many of the booths were interactive and visitors could operate robots, control a Tesla coil by playing an electronic keyboard, and solder their own light-up pin to take home. “It was terrific to bring so many people with different experience and talents together,” Kevin Galloway, the Wond’ry Director of Making said. “I’ve heard many people sharing information on how they produce their work.”


Reception with Charlie Brain of Lubanzi Wines

Charlie Brain (VU ’16) is another shining example of the innovative spirit of Vanderbilt students and the Wond’ry was honored to host him for a presentation on what led him to found Lubanzi Wines following a semester studying abroad at the University of Cape Town, in South Africa. Brain returned to Vanderbilt so in love, that he decided to pitch a business idea on importing South African wine for an entrepreneurship course his senior year. Motivated by his success in the course and positive feedback from his VU peers, Brain turned this concept into reality and Lubanzi Wines was born. Today, Lubanzi Wines partners with South Africa’s most successful independent winemakers and large family owned, fair-for-life certified farms to create wines that not only uniquely reflect the territory, but also reflect the character of South Africa more generally.

CEO/CTO Meetup

On October 17th, the Wond’ry hosted its 2nd CEO/CTO Meetup. Members of the student-led tech business Aloa Labs, industry experts from Vanderbilt alumni-led development firm Forty AU, and faculty, staff, and students with ideas met to connect and explore potential new partnerships. We look forward to continuing this monthly meetup.


Music Entrepreneurship Workshop

Brothers Jeremy and Jason Burchard, founders of RootNote and mentors at the Wond’ry, held an interactive workshop on Music Entrepreneurship on October 17th. Participants divided up and formed teams around student artists for this fun and challenging experiential session.

Our Pillar Programs:

Innovation Garage

In the Innovation Garage, an array of corporate and non-profit sponsors partner with Vanderbilt student and faculty teams on cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary projects. The goal of this program is to identify disruptive and innovative solutions that improve industry all while providing unique opportunities for students to build their skills via real-world problem solving.

Entrepreneur PreFlight and PostFlight

For aspiring Vanderbilt entrepreneurs, the Wond’ry offers a 10-week PreFlight program that provides the foundational knowledge needed to successfully identify and assess ideas for a quality for profit or non-profit venture. This program is now a part of Vanderbilt’s I-Corps Site program for STEM entrepreneurs that provides micro-grant funding from the NSF and access to the National I-Corps program. PostFlight is a 9-week program aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs that have already completed customer discovery and market validation and are ready to learn the steps needed to launch a venture.

Social Entrepreneurship & Ventures

The Social Entrepreneurship Program is an important platform for students to work together to tackle important societal problems like affordable housing, transportation and health, which if successful can be adopted into full scale programs and potential partnerships with non-profit and government organizations.

Fostering an Innovation Culture

From artist/music exhibits and speaker series to hackathons and business plan competitions, the Wond’ry hosts workshops, speakers and events that cater to an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

Past Versions of News from the Wond’ry:

To view past versions of News from the Wond’ry, please visit our website:

Upcoming Events:

The Humanities and Technology Camp. It is an unconference: an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot.

Friday, October 27th to Saturday October 28, 2017
Friday 4-6 pm, Saturday 9-4 pm
the Wond’ry 2nd and 3rd floors


National Graphene Innovation Summit and Expo
This event brings together current and future stakeholders in graphene to drive innovation, and to promote and facilitate the commercialization of graphene products. Learn more here.

Sunday, October 29th to Tuesday, October 31st
Sunday, October 29th at the Wond’ry from 12:30- 6:30 pm
Monday to Wednesday at the Music City Center


Faculty Mixer
Meet your colleagues from across campus during this fun, informal mixer. VU Faculty and Staff only. Light food and drinks will be served.

4-5:15 pm
the Wond’ry 1st floor


VUArc Kit Building Workshop with Tim Holman
Want to engage with our electronics makerspace, but not quite sure how? Join Tim Holman for a kit building workshop. Appropriate for all skill levels.

Friday, October 27, 2017
3-5 pm
the Wond’ry 2nd floor Electronics Makerspace


EMERGE: Vanderbilt’s First Annual Symposium on Emerging Technology
Featuring keynote speaker Christina Heller, CEO and Co-Founder of Los Angeles-based VR Playhouse. Lunch, t-shirts, and swag provided. Opportunities to network with local professionals

Saturday, October 28, 2017
10- 12:30 pm
Engineering and Science Building


One Object, Many Stories Creative Writing Workshop
For Vanderbilt first year students- Join us for a special opportunity to let your creativity shine. Participants will view an artifact from 1960s Vanderbilt and then be invited to write a creative work incorporating that artifact. Dinner will be served.

Thursday, November 9, 2017
5-8 pm


CEO/CTO Meetups
Meet fellow aspiring entrepreneurs and techies from across campus and the Nashville community

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
6-7 pm
the Wond’ry room 104


Fundraising Session
Capital Raising 101. Join our mentor-in-residence to learn who to go to and when, which structures might be best, how much equity to relinquish, and the general dos and don’ts of fundraising.

Thursday, November 2, 2017
4-5:15 pm
the Wond’ry 3rd floor


Booz Allen Information Session
RSVP for this info session on Doreways

Thursday, November 2, 2017
6-7:30 pm
the Wond’ry 3rd floor


Entrepreneurial Mentality
Have an innovative idea or an interest in business startup? Join us for a 2 day workshop on developing an entrepreneurial mentality.

November 6&7, 2017
4-5 pm
the Wond’ry 3rd floor



Vanderbilt Green Fund

Did you know the Vanderbilt Green Fund allocates $150K to fund student-proposed sustainability projects? Some past projects include the Solar Dok on the Commons patio, hydration stations, and solar panels on the tennis center. If you have an idea for a sustainability project that would benefit the Vanderbilt community, submit a proposal now on AnchorLink. The preliminary proposal deadline is Friday, November 17th and the final deadline is Monday, January 23rd. Have questions? Email Jimmy Troderman for more information.


I-Corps- Vanderbilt Site and National Program

Have a STEM idea? Have a piece of technology you’ve developed in the lab that you think might have commercial application? Vanderbilt is a newly designated I-Corps site. Teams participating in the site program are eligible for $2300 in funding and to participate in the National I-Corps program, which provides $50K in additional funding. Visit our website to learn more about this exciting program.


Values and Ventures Competition

A unique annual competition for undergraduate students from around the world to pitch plans for businesses, products or services that make a profit while also benefiting the environment, the community or a specific population. Presented by the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center and held in Ft. Worth, TX. Top prize is over $100K in cash and in-kind services. Intent to compete forms available now. 


Call for Art Exhibits

We are currently looking for members of the Vanderbilt community that would like to create a unique art exhibit for display inside the Wond’ry. Proposals for interactive exhibits using technology in cool, innovative ways will be given top priority and those selected will receive funding to assist with bringing the project to life. Proposals can be submitted via email to Wondry@vanderbilt.edu.


WiSTEM2D Scholars Program

If you are a woman conducting research in STEM, manufacturing, or design, check out the WiSTEM2D Scholars Program. This Johnson & Johnson Scholars Program aims to fuel the development of female STEM2D leaders and feed the STEM2D talent pipeline by awarding and sponsoring women at critical points in their research careers. The award will fund one woman per discipline who has completed her advanced degree, who is working as an assistant professor and who is not yet tenured at an accredited university or design institution. The application deadline is October 31st.


Meet our Mentors:

Have a question about intellectual property, commercialization, a business or product idea, professional leadership, etc.? Connect with our network of local Nashville entrepreneurs and business experts, as well as professionals from other departments around campus during their open office hours on the 3rd floor of the Wond’ry.


Stay Connected:

For the most up-to-date information, event reminders, and opportunities, connect with us on social media (@theWondry, the Wondry).


Located at:
2414 Highland Avenue
Suite 102
Nashville, TN 37212

Connect with Us

For additional information on the Wond’ry, including office hours, please visit thewondry.com.


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