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Crafting the Plan

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In June 2013, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos launched an academic strategic planning process.  This inclusive process synthesized input from the entire campus, including all ten colleges and schools.  Through a bottom-up, faculty led approach, the effort included hundreds of faculty formally and informally in the process.  In total, over a thousand colleagues (faculty, staff, alumni, etc) contributed to the process.  The end result was an Academic Strategic Plan that aspires to shape the future of higher education and make a positive difference in the world at-large. The plan was driven by a set of dynamic and inter-connected themes, including the undergraduate residential experience, trans-institutional programs, healthcare solutions and education technologies.

With the establishment of the Academic Strategic Plan, the university was in a position to pursue a campus land use initiative, or campus master plan, that provides a framework for ensuring that the future growth and development of the built environment aligns with the academic mission.  In addition, the city of Nashville has seen unprecedented growth in recent years. Since 2010, the region has had the eighth-highest growth rate in the United States with over 82 people moving to the area each day.  The university aims to maintain its ties with the surrounding Nashville community and to avoid becoming insular to the change occurring around the university campus. Similar to the academic strategic planning process, the land use planning process has been an open and inclusive process involving over a thousand community members (faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees, and Nashville community members).  Broad consensus and support of the overarching guiding principles has been a cornerstone of FutureVU land use efforts.



The university’s most recent land use planning process, launched in 2015, culminated in the FutureVU Land Use Plan – a comprehensive vision for the university’s footprint which provides a basis for campus stewardship that enhances the university’s mission.  The FutureVU Land Use Plan supports the Academic Strategic Plan and focuses on the following objectives:

  • Creating standards for facilities and landscapes that embody Vanderbilt’s commitment to diversity and inclusion;
  • Improving the collegiate environment and fostering notable success of the residential college experience;
  • Fostering trans-institutional collaboration, result, and development;
  • Adopting an ethic of sustainability;
  • Fostering community outreach and connectivity, and the “One Vanderbilt” principles of collaboration that are an important element of Vanderbilt’s uniqueness.

Community engagement has been a founding pillar to the development of FutureVU.  Students, faculty, staff and trustees were deeply engaged throughout the process, and the FutureVU Land Use Plan represents innovative ideas that have emerged through collaborations with the Vanderbilt community and the design team.  A variety of events including dinner series, presentations, town halls and an expo event were held, and working groups and advisory committees were established.

Over 1600 people were engaged as part of the planning process in crafting the FutureVU land use framework, up until December 2017.  Engagement continues as we launch into implementation and further studies.



In September 2015, Vanderbilt University engaged Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and its design team in an effort to create a holistic, aspirational and long-term campus vision.  The team, including Reed Hilderbrand, Atelier Ten, VHB and Rickes Associates, worked closely with Vanderbilt’s staff, faculty, students, and trustees resulting in a plan that understands Vanderbilt today and defines transformative paths forward.

The FutureVU land use initiative began with a series of discussions and events focused on teasing out the core humanistic values to guide the planning process. In November 2015, Chancellor Zeppos hosted a campus-wide symposium that brought together faculty representing a range of disciplines to address various approaches to thinking about how physical space, planning and learning influence and affect each other. The symposium closed with a discussion where attendees offered their thoughts on core values to guide the planning process including themes such as balance, collaboration and community, discovery and innovation, diversity and inclusion, interactions, purpose and responsibility.

Following, in December 2015, Chancellor Zeppos hosted a campus-wide town hall with over 110 faculty, staff and students in attendance. The town hall focused on the history of Vanderbilt’s campus planning followed by a group brainstorming effort. The diverse group of participants shared thoughts on positive and negative aspects of the existing campus, as well as concepts that should be considered as the land use planning process moved forward.

In addition, university leadership held a series of land use history presentations with over 250 staff, as well as a variety of student feedback events with over 150 students, to obtain additional feedback on values throughout the spring of 2016.

These events culminated in the creation of the FutureVU Land Use Guiding Principles, drafted based on feedback received from the Vanderbilt community. The principles are integral to all planning efforts and will continue to guide efforts going forward.



Phase 0 – Kickoff and Value Definition

Included firm selection, trustee working group kick-off and community events that resulted in defining the core humanistic values that would guide efforts going forward.

Phase 1 – Information Gathering and Principle Definition

An analytical and objective dual-pronged process that involved over 40 interviews with Vanderbilt administrators, faculty, staff and students, plus a physical analysis of the existing campus in terms of buildings, landscape, circulation, sustainable practice and infrastructure.  Various feedback events were held with the Vanderbilt community.  Culminated in the creation of the FutureVU Land Use Guiding Principles.

Phase 2 – Development of Conceptual Alternatives

A synthesis of the data derived from “Information Gathering” with both broader university objectives and specific concepts regarding open space, connectivity and opportunities for new construction – particularly new residential colleges, academic and research buildings, landscape opportunities, parking, traffic and infrastructure.  The transformational concept of a campus-unifying greenway was embraced.  This collaborative process engaged many members of the Vanderbilt community.  Various working groups were created and integrated planning sessions were held.

Phase 3 – Development of a Preferred Alternative

Development of a defined, holistic approach to the planning vision for the campus.  Involved the kickoff of various advisory groups and collaborations, and engaged many members of the Vanderbilt community.

Phase 4 – Documentation / Presentation

Digital and hard copies of the process, plan and guidelines prepared.


Master Planning Precepts

The land use planning process was guided by the following six precepts:

(1) Connectivity at all scales: pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular

(2) Preservation of memorable spaces and objects: buildings, outdoor spaces, trees, art

(3) Creation of new public space: exterior green spaces

(4) Appropriate densities: scale and proximity to buildings

(5) Use/program/growth: grounded in the Academic Strategic Plan

(6) Sustainability: environmental, building, landscape


FutureVU Land Use Guiding Principles

FutureVU is guided by a set of principles created based on feedback from the Vanderbilt community as part of the planning process.  These principles serve as a compass for all current and future physical building and landscape projects on campus.  Read more about the FutureVU Land Use Guiding Principles here.


Committees and Collaborations