Moving Forward Together
We have all had much to reflect upon since Chancellor Zeppos shared his plans to step down as chancellor on August 15. Common themes have emerged from my conversations with faculty and staff, with students, parents, alumni and friends, and with the Board of Trust. Foremost among them are expressions of sincere and deep gratitude to Chancellor Zeppos for his exceptional leadership, warm wishes for his good health, and optimism for his return to the faculty. Many are also interested in what the search for our next chancellor will entail (here is an update from our Board Chair Bruce Evans). And many have questions about what the future will hold for Vanderbilt.
Above all, I have heard strong consensus that Vanderbilt’s focus should continue, wholeheartedly, to be on achieving our strategic goals and building on our momentum. These are themes that you’ve heard me talk about before. In fact, last April 2018, I wrote about the importance of progressing in innovative ways, and shared a famous quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt: “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” It’s a sentiment that rings so true in this moment, and is enriched by the words of Coretta Scott King, who said “the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
The takeaway from this? We must keep moving forward, and we must do it together as a community. As Chancellor Zeppos has urged us, we must look to the future—on harnessing our creativity to fulfill the aspirations of the Academic Strategic Plan, to drive our mission to enact positive change in the world – as we have no intention of standing still.
I am honored and humbled to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading Vanderbilt forward as interim chancellor beginning August 15. Thanks to our world-class faculty, staff and students, Vanderbilt has never been stronger and our prospects have never been better. With the Board’s continued leadership and support, and with the partnership of all our staff, students and faculty, I am confident that this transition will be a smooth one.
Chancellor Zeppos and I have worked closely together over the past six years on all aspects of university strategy. Exciting work taking place across campus will continue, from developing the Graduate Student Village and planning the future for our academic buildings, to implementing committee recommendations in areas ranging from the humanities and data science, to residential colleges and immersion, to international engagement and mental health and wellness. As we chart the course ahead, I will continue to be committed to further advancing inclusive excellence. I will, as always, also rely on shared governance through faculty, student and staff engagement. These actions are all essential steps to ensure that our future initiatives leverage the full breadth of our collective knowledge, and position us for lasting success.
Throughout my seventeen years of service at Vanderbilt – as provost these past five years and, previously, as co-chair on the development of the Academic Strategic Plan, as an associate vice chancellor for research, as senior associate dean and as department chair — and as a scholar, teacher and mentor, my guiding philosophy has always been to seek feedback, to be open minded and compassionate, and to communicate often and ensure transparency about the path ahead. I promise you that these principles will continue to guide me. You will hear from me often, and I want to hear from you.
When I reflect on the quotes by Roosevelt and King, and the tremendous accomplishments of Chancellor Zeppos, I am heartened to envision the many exciting and energizing ways that we will move forward—as leaders, as innovators, as a collaborative and caring community. Not only do we have no intention of standing still, but also—as one of America’s leading research universities—we are incapable of stopping. We are always inquiring, always learning, always discovering.
Thank you for all that each of you do to move Vanderbilt forward—today, every day and far into our future together.
Susan R. Wente
Vanderbilt named a top producer of U.S. Fulbright students
Nominations open for faculty awards recognizing research, service
Chancellor reflects on tenure, focuses on the future at Spring Faculty Assembly
Plans for new faculty commons, digital commons discussed at town hall
Paschal embraces ‘conductor of movement’ role at Commencement
New residential faculty to join Warren College, The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons
The Rev. Christopher Donald to lead Office of Religious Life
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