Vanderbilt’s Commitment to Nashville Extends Far Beyond Campus


As an institution of higher learning with a mission to bring out the best in humanity, Vanderbilt University is committed to bettering the local community. Facilitated through the Community Relations team, Vanderbilt invests in local and regional charitable organizations and fosters community engagement among students through varied volunteer opportunities.

Vanderbilt students at move-in day

“Vanderbilt is a community of learning dedicated to the fulfillment of human potential,” says Chief Community Impact Officer Midori Lockett. “We want to use our resources wisely to grow and develop our community — not just internally, but the broader Nashville community as well. When one of us rises, we all rise.”

When it comes to determining which organizations to invest time and resources into, Vanderbilt’s Community Relations department chooses nonprofits focused on five key areas of emphasis: 1) Food Insecurity; 2) Youth Development; 3) Mental Health; 4) New Americans; and 5) The Future of Nashville. In 2022, the university supported 70 area nonprofits focused on these strategic areas.

Food Insecurity

One in seven Tennesseans are food insecure, a concerning statistic that was made even clearer during the pandemic. Committed to leveling the playing field for Nashvillians of all ages,  Vanderbilt is a committed partner to local nonprofits addressing this issue, like One Generation Away, Tennessee Food Summit, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. In addition to providing resources to these and other like-minded organizations, Vanderbilt also empowers students to engage through volunteer opportunities and food drives on campus.  

Youth Development

From after-school programming to services that address issues facing young people, Vanderbilt supports a wide array of nonprofits committed to youth development, and much of the student volunteer engagement is with youth-centric organizations. “We are an institution that shapes young people, but we want to examine and help address the challenges facing young people across the entire city of Nashville,” says Lockett. “It’s important to us to support organizations that are providing opportunities to all young people, not just those with resources available to them.” As a result, Vanderbilt engages with a wide range of nonprofits serving the city’s youth, including Martha O’Bryan Center, Creative Girls Rock, 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, and Nashville Children’s Theatre.

Mental Health

In recent years, more and more people acknowledge mental health challenges facing everyone from teenagers who use social media to seniors who are isolated and alone. With a goal to normalize mental health care, Vanderbilt partners with organizations that are addressing mental health issues, such as suicide, anxiety, and depression, and providing services to those facing mental health challenges and illnesses. Among the diverse organizations tackling these concerns in Nashville, Vanderbilt is proud to partner with Park Center, Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, and Mental Health America MidSouth, among others.

New Americans

In a city as culturally and ethnically diverse as Nashville, Vanderbilt wants to serve as a unifier for diverse populations. “We are thrilled to live and work in a city as richly diverse as Nashville, and we want to do everything in our power to engage with New Americans to better understand their needs and provide resources to them as they build a new life here,” says Lockett. Vanderbilt partners with organizations, including Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and Conexión Américas, that support New Americans by providing them with educational opportunities, business and personal resources, and general info on how to become civically engaged.

The Future of Nashville

As an anchor institution in Nashville, Vanderbilt is actively engaged with organizations that are striving to shape the future of the city. One of the primary concerns of such rapid growth and development is the city losing its identity as a creative hub for artists. As such, Vanderbilt is committed to ensuring the sustainability of the city’s visual and performing arts scene. This desire to protect and cultivate Nashville’s artistic community encompasses everything from supporting performing arts organizations — including Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville Ballet, and Nashville Opera — to partnering with nonprofits committed to making Nashville more affordable and livable, like Nashville Public Education Foundation, Centennial Park Conservancy, Edgehill Neighborhood Partnership, and Center for Nonprofit Management.

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