Strategic Academic Plan

APRIL 2002

Table of Contents





A. Vanderbilt’s Role in Educating Leaders

B. The Affordability of Education and an Investment in Talent and Leadership

C. Creating a Unique, Supportive, and Dynamic Community of Faculty and

Students: Establishment of a Vanderbilt Residential College System

D. Creating a Community of Different Peoples Who are Part of a Community and

Who Engage in Discussions and Teach Each Other

E. Constructing a Curriculum, Learning Experiences, and Opportunities for

Discovery Built on Vanderbilt’s Strengths and Mission


A. Recruitment of Faculty to Vanderbilt and New Centers of Excellence

B. The Draw of Being Part of a Robust and Diverse Intellectual Community

C. Retaining Outstanding Faculty

D. Ensuring a Faculty that Mirrors Society and the World




A. Exploring Culture, Society, and Humanity

B. Understanding the Human Mind

C. Exploring, Understanding, and Engineering the Physical, Biological, and

Mechanical World of the Unseen

D. Markets, Political, Economic, and Legal Institutions




A. The Academic Venture Capital Fund

B. Forging of New and Different Partnerships

C. A Continuous and Dynamic Strategic Planning Process, Benchmarks, and





Vanderbilt University finds itself at a propitious moment faced with opportunities and challenges. Over the past fifteen years it has gone through remarkable changes, with dramatic and tangible evidence of important progress. As one would expect for a great University, these accomplishments are found in those key investments made in human capital, the faculty and students on this great campus:

  • Dramatic improvement in the distinction in the faculty’s research accomplishments including faculty memberships, fellowships and awards: National Academy of Engineering
    • National Academy of Science
    • National Endowment for the Humanities
    • NSF Faculty Early Career Development Awards Institute of Medicine
    • American Association of Arts & Science
    • Fulbright
    • Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to Stanley Cohen in 1986
  • Rapid increase in quality of students:
    • SAT average increase from 1264 to 1307 in 10 years, including steady increases for each of the last five years
    • High School GPA average increase from 3.42 to 3.59 in 10 years
  • Rapid Improvement in the diversity of students:
    • Increased percentages of every minority group within freshman class compared to 1992
    • Increased admission rates for Hispanic and African-American students
    • Increased enrollment percentages of students from Middle Atlantic, Southwest, West, and international students, while maintaining strength in the Southeast

Of equal significance as a foundation for our future, Vanderbilt’s financial resources and its “places” for the great discoveries by students and faculty have shown equally dramatic improvement. As this document is written, over $250 million of construction is being completed on this campus, providing support for a rich and diverse set of disciplines including Engineering, Music, Law, Biochemistry, Genetics, and Medicine. This substantial investment represents not a building boom, but the culmination of a careful strategic and financial planning process that corresponds closely to the unique and diverse strengths across and between the ten great schools of this University.

Finally, this strategic planning process is spurred by the arrival of a new Chancellor, Gordon Gee, and his charting of a new vision and issuance of challenges upon his arrival. Upon his arrival Chancellor Gee laid out five challenges for the Vanderbilt community:

  1. Recommit ourselves to establishing an unparalleled learning experience for undergraduate students
  2. Fully integrate our outstanding professional schools into the undergraduate and graduate programs
  3. Reinvent graduate education
  4. Modify and improve upon our budgetary and business structures
  5. Reaffirm our covenant to the broader community

Chancellor Gee’s goals and challenges represent aspirations for a great university like Vanderbilt, but also represent opportunities for transformative change that remain firmly grounded in the distinctive traditions and strengths of Vanderbilt.

The Strategic Academic Planning Group (SAPG) responsible for this Draft Plan undertook its work over a period of almost three years. Inevitably and initially its work focused on challenges and opportunities at Vanderbilt, particularly in those five areas identified by Chancellor Gee upon his arrival. The SAPG analyzed key challenges in the area of faculty and student recruitment, and in evaluating the strength of key academic programs, looked for areas of investment, particularly those across the schools of Vanderbilt. Yet it became apparent to the SAPG that its work had to be focused on far broader trends in technology, higher education, and the role of a great research university in the twenty-first century. What is the distinctive role of Vanderbilt in its training, mentoring, and teaching of the remarkable students who choose Vanderbilt for their education? What should the learning and social environment be for students on campus while outside the classroom? What role do faculty play in that experience? Indeed, is the concept of teaching in a classroom too constraining of both our responsibilities and opportunities to society and to our students? What promise can Vanderbilt hold out to the broader society for producing knowledge that has an impact beyond campus walls? What responsibility should each and all of the schools of Vanderbilt have for training future leaders in society? How will Vanderbilt respond to new technology in its core missions of teaching, research, and the exportation of learning?

As the SAPG addressed these issues and devoted its energies to integrating answers to them into a broader academic plan, other structural, budgetary, and governance issues arose. The need for this broader focus is illustrated by the discussion and recommendations concerning inter-disciplinary and trans-institutional programs. We are confident that the breakthroughs in exploring fundamental challenges in science, humanism, and society ultimately will be trans-institutional in structure, with an exceptionally broad intellectual and teaching focus. Yet it has become apparent that our current budgetary and governance structures are ill-suited to the nimble and dynamic structures that must be created, nurtured, and will be increasingly the centers of research and discovery. Our future greatness and ability to leap forward reside in our will to be self-examining about these structures and adopt the corresponding and necessary changes. As will be clear, there are already forces at work that make us optimistic that we are on the right path.

Our report is divided into six parts. Part one is most important. It sets out Vanderbilt’s mission in this world and seeks to mark and define the unique attributes of Vanderbilt’s greatness, and the vision for Vanderbilt’s future. Without defining our mission, identifying what is unique about Vanderbilt, and what is its future, our plan would lack a soul, and chart us without a compass. Thus, in part one we build what we believe is the foundation for our plan. Grounded on this sense of mission and self, part two and three focus on the critical human capital that by all accounts defines the greatness of a University, but more importantly defines and shapes the character of the community unique to Vanderbilt – these are the students and faculty. Part two discusses student life, challenges in recruiting and retaining students, and more broadly a philosophy of higher education, intellectual community, and culture that we believe can position Vanderbilt on an enviable strategic path for the future. Part three lays out strategies for recruiting, retaining, and nurturing the Vanderbilt faculty. It is said often – but always bears repeating – that at the core of a great university are the faculty and students. We believe, however, that this is a truism recognized by every great university and all of our competitors. Hence, our plan insists that we leverage off key Vanderbilt assets and strengths in making and maximizing our investments and recruiting and retaining faculty based on these distinctive strengths. Part four sets forth several key areas for immediate investment that are based upon existing strengths and which seek to maximize across schools our key faculty and programs. Some of these intellectual and learning centers are either already in existence. We also identify a number of exciting and important trans-institutional initiatives that are either at the cusp of formation or those in earlier stages of planning that warrant further consideration and discussion. Part five discusses the need to transform graduate education, an area of many opportunities but financial and institutional challenges as well. Finally, part six discusses current and necessary changes in structures and operations that are essential to Vanderbilt’s future. While we are confident that this draft plan lays out important ideas, goals, and aspirations, we remain firmly convinced that fulfillment and indeed further stretching of our goals must reside in doing things differently. Most importantly, we emphasize that this draft plan must be only the first step in a long- term dynamic planning process, a process that reflects not central planning, but a broad scale process of discussion, idea generation, and experimentation, always accompanied by accountability and the benchmarks for success.


In the past decade, almost every great American university has engaged in a strategic planning process. We are aware of those efforts and their outcomes at other schools. Yet it is our sense that planning and strategy can be undertaken and successfully implemented only if Vanderbilt can identify its mission, self-confidently declare what is unique about Vanderbilt, and fuse that mission and the unique attributes into an institutional identity that serves as our compass for the future.

Vanderbilt is a research-oriented university of the first rank. It works in the realm of ideas with a dedication to the advancement of society through the creation of knowledge and the education, growth, and mentoring of leaders. It is a community characterized by inquiry, discovery, and learning of “the highest order.” Yet, the plan for Vanderbilt is to become much more and the call for action is now. Our vision of a future Vanderbilt is one of sheer vibrancy, of intellectual excitement and productivity, based in a community of scholars and learners comprising students and faculty. We envision a Vanderbilt community where ideas are brought into action, where talented people can realistically come to a place that is a true intellectual-learning community to be challenged, and to develop further, an invigorating and inviting place for people to learn from each other. Vanderbilt is a place where ideas and issues are openly discussed and debated in an atmosphere of trust and collegiality—providing an “education for democracy.” Vanderbilt will be where talents and ingenuity become dedicated to the advancement of human kind — to serve the public good in and across every discipline, department, and school. Vanderbilt will be an engaged university, where research is conceptualized as a public good, civic content, discovery, and leadership are integrated into the curriculum, and knowledge is made more profound and accessible to the public. Most of all, Vanderbilt’s legacy must be to inspire and to touch the future while providing greater understanding of the past and of the human condition. By assuming its leadership role with even greater seriousness and purpose, it will become a leader among leading universities, and its students and faculty will be leaders in every aspect of society.

Being the best is not easy. It is not a static process, and it is not a process without the need for engagement and discussion by everyone associated with Vanderbilt. It depends on building on strengths, traditions, and the need for links to Vanderbilt’s longstanding character, but does not entail doing more of the same. Advancing one’s leadership role involves change, boldness in thinking, constant openness to opportunity, and the anticipation of trends. Of course, growth and development encompass a process involving continuity as well as discontinuity. Thus, it certainly means being true to one’s enduring values and strengths, but it also means moving forward aggressively and flexibly in new and potentially fruitful directions. It means taking risks and the road not frequently traveled. It also means being selective. True excellence can be nourished in only a few arenas. That is why it is so rare.

These are important charges and challenges to the highest of aspirations — and what in Vanderbilt’s traditions and the place we call Vanderbilt will allow us to reach these heights? What are the tangible and intangible qualities on which we will build? We strongly believe that being at the forefront and defining greatness in mission rests significantly on capitalizing on human and intellectual relationships, a tradition of civility and community, and the untapped potential therein. The great universities of the future will and have increasingly acknowledged that there must be intellectual, social, and academic synergies. It is in productive relationships, founded on civil and meaningful communities, that creative powers become maximized. Thus, our focus must be to build upon and forge powerful relationships—among faculty, among faculty and students, among students, among ideas and disciplines, and among faculty, students, and our alumni—so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

So, how will Vanderbilt set itself apart? From where will it derive its distinctiveness and its boldness in action? It will do so by capitalizing on the changing nature of research, teaching, learning, science, and scholarship and by leveraging a strength that can be said to be uniquely of Vanderbilt’s making. It will do so by identifying and leveraging off the unique tangible and intangible assets and by “doing things differently.” It will do so by doing a few things well. It will do so by being true to who we are and by building powerful and creative relationships that nurture positive change.

Vanderbilt has a great faculty. But so do many top-ranked universities. We have, however, several strategic advantages and unique attributes which help us to benefit from the power of relationships. First, Vanderbilt is unique as a university in having an unusually civil and collegial culture. Students and faculty choose to come to Vanderbilt because of the unusual sense of community and civility in which sharp intellectual disagreements and differences are tolerated and indeed encouraged. Whether the result of its region or its leadership, this tradition of community and civility is a source of strength and advantage on which we must build. Second, Vanderbilt has a unique collection of schools clustered closely on a beautiful campus, centered in the middle of a vibrant, entrepreneurial, and manageable city. If, as we believe, inquiry, teaching, and research are increasingly based in connections across disciplines and schools, Vanderbilt is positioned to be a leader in strategically building this new learning and discovery environment. Third, Vanderbilt is distinctive in terms of the sheer strength in its professional schools. The solid core in the arts and sciences is surrounded by an unusually distinguished and large number of professional schools in business, education, engineering, law, medicine, music, nursing, and religion. The breadth and diversity of intellectual inquiry and teaching at Vanderbilt is virtually unparalleled. Finally, in every corner of Vanderbilt there is a commitment to teaching and nurturing students that remains one of Vanderbilt’s distinctive advantages.

These singular strengths, which are effectively what define Vanderbilt’s culture and traditions, must be the very basis for our leap forward, for creating intellectual richness, and for establishing a pervasive atmosphere of inquiry and discovery at Vanderbilt. In short, the very fuel for progress and significant advancement towards our vision actually lies in the forging of synergistic relationships, which in turn is based upon the unique attributes we described above. They allow novel discovery and insights to become actualized and will make Vanderbilt the destination for talented faculty and students who seek to make a difference as leaders in this world.


In the 1990’s Vanderbilt made impressive strides in critical areas of student recruitment, particularly in the undergraduate entering class. This progress was all the more impressive given that it occurred in a period of increased and intense competition among top universities for undergraduate students, marked of course by a robust free market in financial aid supported by growing college endowments. By several key indicators Vanderbilt excelled in this competition. In the period from 1992-2002:

  • the number of undergraduate applications increased from 7,559 to about 9,800, an increase of 29%
  • the admit rate for undergraduates decreased from 58% to 45%, including a 15% drop from 1999- 2001
  • the average SAT of the entering class increased from 1264 to 1307
  • the average high school grade point average increased from 3.42 to 3.59

We expect that this competition for students will continue, but in all likelihood will be in a far different financial and educational context, with greater need to focus on the value and importance of an education at a private research university. These changes, we believe, present both challenges and significant strategic opportunities for recruitment of students. Below we sketch out these challenges and corresponding strategies that we believe will address and indeed enhance our opportunities for excellence. But first we believe it is important to address a fundamental but often overlooked antecedent question – for what reason do we measure our progress and base our vision on the recruitment of the best students? The answer is not self-evident, and accordingly, we believe it must be addressed.

A. Vanderbilt’s Role in Educating Leaders

In a world that has tended to be marked by increasing consumption and acquisition of status goods, and an obsession with rankings of all sorts, there is a danger that academic institutions may be competing for students with the mere recruitment of top students being an end in itself. We plainly reject this strategy and make explicit the linkage between our need to recruit the best students and our stated mission. The nation’s and world’s future leaders will be drawn from generations of the most talented students. There are many great universities and colleges available to students, but it is our firm belief that Vanderbilt has a special role to train these future leaders, because it will do so in a unique environment marked by cooperation not cutthroat competition, civility not discord, and community not atomism, and grounded in knowledge and discovery drawn from its distinctive collection of schools clustered as neighbors on our campus. In short, we believe that recruiting the best students to Vanderbilt is not an end, but a means to an end, with that end being teaching, learning, and discovery that contributes to a better world and fosters understanding of the differences and commonalities that define humanity, culture, and society.

Additionally, students and faculty learn from each other, through the constant posing of questions and challenges to orthodox ideas. If – as we believe – Vanderbilt’s stated mission is to produce knowledge and learning of the highest order, it is essential that we build a community of and environment for students who are eager and capable of teaching each other, and who explore and indeed alter, expand, and redefine the boundaries of disciplines and knowledge. The future welfare of society depends upon investments in the human capital represented by the potential for leadership found in bright and talented young people from around the world. The future of the world will depend upon establishing community and understanding of peoples separated by oceans, race, histories, or religions, upon whether we cure ravaging diseases, upon whether technology is deployed towards peaceful and productive means, and upon the hope that the next great symphony will be written and performed. Vanderbilt, with its unique environment and collection of disciplines and schools, must be a place where these future leaders grow intellectually, socially, and spiritually, and meet the challenges ahead.

Finally, we explicitly acknowledge that Vanderbilt’s success and mission cannot be measured or met solely by what our students accomplish in the classroom. A great educational institution, committed to making a significant difference in the world – by making an impact on the lives of others – must strive to do more than educate the most talented students. After all, as Vanderbilt continues to draw to campus the most unusually talented students and faculty to all of its schools, it must press itself to answer the question – to what end are we engaged in discovery, teaching, and research with this extraordinary group of individuals? We doubt that Vanderbilt should be content simply with increasing the depth and breadth of its learning and discovery that comes with more distinguished faculty and more talented students. Instead, Vanderbilt must seize the opportunity, in this community of extraordinary individuals, to educate the whole person, and to recognize that the growth of the intellect must be coupled with growth in moral and ethical reasoning, and the capacity to understand the role of a person to become a citizen and leader in all aspects of life. It is this combined focus on exceptional learning, discovery, and research, in an environment that constantly presses to address broader questions of leadership in the world that our students will inhabit, that will truly mark Vanderbilt as a university claiming a special place in higher education.

B. The Affordability of Education and an Investment in Talent and Leadership

Against this highest of aspirations to train future leaders, the question remains, will these students and their families be able to afford a Vanderbilt education? Will the cost of a Vanderbilt education deter students and their families from applying to Vanderbilt? One of the most significant challenges Vanderbilt faces is the cost of education for parents and their children. Currently, each year of education at Vanderbilt costs approximately $35,000. For families of modest means, who are often sending more than one child to college, these costs affect the choices they make in seeking an education.

In our democracy and in our world community, it is essential that a Vanderbilt education be available to all, regardless of wealth. A great university cannot possibly remain great if it enrolls only those with the ability to pay the cost of their attendance on their own. To do so is to deny opportunity, limit the growth of human potential, and ultimately undermine the fundamental notion of a meritocracy. We must be mindful of a significant fact about talent in our nation and the world. Talents and the potential for leadership are distributed throughout all classes and groups in society. They are found in all social and economic strata. While the SAT serves as only one metric – and a distinctly controversial one – it is worth noting that of the two million high school students who annually take the SAT, approximately 90,000 of these students score over 1320 on this test, approximately the average score for an entering Vanderbilt class. However, of these 90,000, over 80,000 have average family income less than $100,000. Clearly, many of these families with high achieving students cannot afford to attend Vanderbilt, particularly since in these families multiple children are aspiring to attend a great college or university. Hence, in the battle for talent and the quest to train tomorrow’s leaders, scholarship funds must be available.

Unfortunately, scholarship funds and financial aid are areas where Vanderbilt has significantly lagged its competitors. Of the top 25 universities, Vanderbilt students graduate with the third highest debt burden, a function of the fact that our financial aid packages are – particularly when compared with our competitors – more heavily tilted towards debt rather than need-based scholarships. This debt burden has three adverse implications for our strategic positioning.

First, parents and prospective students are knowledgeable consumers and hence simply will not apply to Vanderbilt, limiting the number and quality of the applicants from which to choose to build an educational community. Thus, while the number of applications received by Vanderbilt has increased over the years, the following shows that we still lag our competitors to a considerable extent:

Applications Fall 2001

Number of Applications



Washington University














We strongly believe that Vanderbilt offers an outstanding educational and social learning setting, and competes for students with the great universities and colleges of the world. Yet our potential for leadership is much greater, since fewer students see Vanderbilt as a viable option for undergraduate education. We cannot help but believe that our lack of competitiveness in financial aid affects the applicant pool, contributing to an unfortunate perception that Vanderbilt is a school primarily or predominantly for those who can afford it, or for only the affluent. The best way to change this is to improve dramatically our financial aid. We have little doubt that by doing so, many more outstanding students will choose to apply to and attend Vanderbilt.

Second, for students who come to Vanderbilt, a heavy debt burden upon graduation limits future career and educational choices. A Vanderbilt graduate encumbered by heavy debt may delay or forego professional or graduate school, or choose a career not because of the satisfaction it brings or the good it produces for society but because the salary offered allows for debt to be retired. The special quality of Vanderbilt is that it offers a student so many different opportunities to learn, discover, and find her chosen passion: It may be music, teaching, literature, politics, service, law, or medicine. But to offer this array of opportunities, and then to constrain those choices and limit the opportunity for personal exploration and growth because of debt burden, is to undermine the educational philosophy and mission of this great University.

Third, the deficiency in financial aid affects the composition and nature of the community that we seek to create as the entering class, and hence limits the discourse inside and outside the classroom. It is axiomatic that students learn from each other, and grow intellectually and mature individually through their exposure to differences in background, outlook, and viewpoint. Limited financial aid limits the range of those who can contribute significantly to the debate and discourse on our campus. We must also note that an education at Vanderbilt is a foundation for the individual’s experience in professional, private, and civic life. Our students will go out into their communities and the world, with the opportunity to work with a wide array of people from different backgrounds, faiths, races, and regions of the world. We do not serve them well by limiting their learning communities. It is essential that our students be engaged in learning with faculty and other students that broadly reflect the world that our students will enter. Absent doing so, we simply cannot say that we are meeting our mission.

Accordingly, a key strategy must be to improve our financial aid, particularly need-based aid. While our needs are pressing, we are confident that we will obtain the resources and devise strategies for financial aid that improve the educational environment for students and faculty. Our confidence draws from three important developments. First, Vanderbilt’s senior leadership and the University’s current Capital Campaign have clearly identified scholarships and financial aid as one of the key goals of the fundraising efforts. While extraordinarily ambitious, the Capital Campaign seeks over $300 million for student scholarships and financial aid, and with the success of large-scale programs such as the Ingram and Carell Scholars, we believe this focus and alignment of priorities holds great promise. Second, we are confident that with adequate resources we can develop strategies that produce tangible and significant results. With the entering undergraduate class of 2001, Vanderbilt had available additional financial aid funds that were invested in pilot programs that experimented with loan caps and “need- aware” honors scholarships. These two programs produced significant results, accounting for almost 5% of the entering class. With a successful Capital Campaign we would expect even more dramatic results, and more importantly, the opportunity to market a financial aid program that would widely signal Vanderbilt’s affordability and thereby increase the number of applications, and more importantly, allow for the creation of a diverse, robust, and broad learning community that serves our mission.

By improving our ability to make a Vanderbilt experience and education affordable, we would also extend our recommendations to include more generous support for international students in the undergraduate schools. Our students are going to enter a competitive and dynamic world of different people, religions, cultures, and political institutions. We do them a disservice by limiting their opportunities to learn without being part of a more international campus community. We would add as well, it is important that Vanderbilt expand its educational mission to include citizens of the world. If – as we believe – Vanderbilt’s standards of excellence in teaching and research, coupled with a unique and civil community, are indeed unique in higher education, we simply cannot forsake our role to educate leaders throughout the world. As we reflect upon Vanderbilt’s greatness, and as we chart its future in this plan, we are confident that Vanderbilt can indeed build leaders for all societies and cultures. Below we discuss a variety of new, innovative trans-institutional programs that can uniquely be built at Vanderbilt. For example, we outline the opportunity for a Center for Culture and Religion. This Center is designed to allow faculty and students to explore and examine the many different religions of the world, and the cultural, historical, political, and social contexts in which they arose, thrive, and compete. We think it obvious that Vanderbilt’s mission, with the establishment of such a Center, cannot stop at our nation’s borders. We must seek the means to recruit students from the global community to Vanderbilt.

Accordingly, we believe that we must make significant progress in improving our financial aid packages and be uncompromising in bringing to Vanderbilt the future leaders of our region, nation, and the world. Although our discussion above highlights the challenges raised in our undergraduate schools, they are endemic to all of the schools of Vanderbilt. Too few resources for financial aid affects the number of applicants, the diversity of the entering class, and hence the quality of the educational experience. Consider the following data on the number of applications received by the Owen School of Management:

Business School Application and Enrollment Data

# of Applications Fall

Approximate Full-time


Entering Class

University of Penn



Northwestern University



Duke University



Dartmouth College






Cornell University



Washington University



Vanderbilt University



Emory University



Tulane University



Source: Business Week

Similar results can be seen in the Law School:

Law School Application and Enrollment Data

# of Applications

Entering Class Size

Fall 2001







University of Pennsylvania









University of Virginia






Source: US NEWS

Clearly a major strategic goal for all of the schools of Vanderbilt must be to seek to increase the number of students who are applying for admission. Vanderbilt’s academic reputation has never been stronger, and as we discuss elsewhere we expect that other strategic steps will enhance our academic stature throughout. While we do not intend to discount the challenge ahead to raise the funds for financial aid, we are quite confident that once we make Vanderbilt more affordable, our academic quality will allow us to draw more of the best students.

C. Creating a Unique, Supportive, and Dynamic Community of Faculty and Students: Establishment of a Vanderbilt Residential College System

Improved financial aid is clearly a cornerstone of a recruitment and admissions strategy for all schools in Vanderbilt. However, we are of the view that additional strategic steps must be taken to further Vanderbilt’s educational mission. Clearly, bringing talented students to all the schools of Vanderbilt is critical, but how we are judged as a great University will ultimately depend on their experiences once they get here, how they are broadened and marked by their Vanderbilt educational experience, and how that experience allows them to shape the world our students enter. For if all we focus on is who comes here, without regard to our goals and educational outcomes, we will have indeed not articulated much less fulfilled our mission. Accordingly, we recommend that several strategic steps take place. Significantly, we are of the view that these steps, alone and powerfully in conjunction, will not only differentiate Vanderbilt, but leverage on existing strengths and allow us to fulfill our core mission of educating future leaders.

We recommend that Vanderbilt adopt a system of residential colleges, where students and faculty from across the University live together in social, academic, and co-curricular communities. Such a residential college system would leverage off of many key strengths at Vanderbilt: an outstanding residential housing system that allows us to house almost 90% of our undergraduate students, a beautiful compact campus, a strong, traditional sense of community marked by collegiality and the free exchange of different ideas, a thirst among both students and faculty for more opportunities outside of class for informal exchanges, informal advising, intellectual debate and discourse, and social and co-curricular events. We are firmly of the view that education now and increasingly in the future is about the opportunity to be in proximity to and to associate with multi-talented individuals who have different perspectives and ideas that can be explored inside and outside of the classroom. By creating close-knit intellectual and social communities among students and faculty we believe that Vanderbilt can distinguish itself and offer tremendous and valuable learning experiences and opportunities for personal and intellectual growth.

Although we do not seek to define in detail this residential college system, we are of the view that it must strive to meet four essential challenges. First, it must be a critical part of our strategy to set the standard for educational and academic excellence in a rapidly changing educational market. As we note above, a Vanderbilt education can cost $35,000 per year, and we are determined to make this opportunity available to all who seek to attend, regardless of their ability to pay. Both as a strategy to obtain this funding, and for charging this cost for those who can indeed pay, it is essential that Vanderbilt focus keenly on the value and meaning of being educated at a place called Vanderbilt. Indeed, in the face of low cost, for-profit providers of learning on line, investment in educational community is likely to be the very important role assumed by great private universities like Vanderbilt.

Second, a residential college system must be the place of “home” and support for each and every undergraduate student on campus. Vanderbilt offers to young students a vast array of social and co- curricular organizations. Yet for many reasons, many Vanderbilt undergraduates do not find their place or group and hence are not able to enjoy and thrive in the Vanderbilt environment. Despite recent progress, compared to its peer schools Vanderbilt continues to see too many students transferring after their freshmen year. When Vanderbilt accepts a student and that student chooses to attend, we have made a substantial investment in that student, as he or she has in Vanderbilt. We simply cannot afford to have so many students – or indeed a single student – leave Vanderbilt because of a feeling they do not belong or they have no connection to a community. Moreover, even as our retention improves, we must continue to address the key question: what are we doing to advise, mentor, challenge, and inspire those who attend Vanderbilt and graduate? In other words, we think of a goal of a residential college system not simply to address the 4-6% who leave after the freshmen year, or the more than 10% who do not graduate, but to more completely meet our mission for the 95% who do return as sophomores, and the 85-90% who graduate.

Third, the residential college system must enrich the out of class intellectual, cultural, and learning experience for our students. Vanderbilt has been on the vanguard of innovations in service learning and research involvement by undergraduates, both of which present Vanderbilt with a competitive advantage over other colleges and universities. Given the diversity of disciplines, schools, and faculty on campus, and the unique and ever expanding cultural opportunities in the city of Nashville, we are of the view that a residential college system presents unbounded opportunities for learning, service, and research outside of the classroom.

Fourth, a residential college system must be central to Vanderbilt’s mission to train future leaders. An important part of this system will be student leadership and governance in many aspects of academic, social, and co-curricular activities. Student as leaders will be expected to allocate the programming funds of the college for activities which they determine will enhance the educational experience for their communities. Students as leaders will also play a key role in innovating and in proposing new courses, programs, service activities, or inter-college competitions. In short, a residential college program would be an attraction to students who seek a leadership experience in college.

We recognize that the planning and implementation of a residential college system presents significant financial, political, logistical, and cultural challenges. For that reason, we believe that any comprehensive long-term plan must begin somewhere, with a carefully planned first phase that will provide a unique and enriching educational experience for students. This first phase must also set forth clear and objective metrics and methods for evaluation and fine tuning of this project. We are confident that by adopting a broad and inclusive process of faculty, students, and administration, our first residential college will be able to build upon Vanderbilt’s unique attributes and ensure successful and prudent investment of resources.

D. Creating a Community of Different Peoples Who are Part of a Community and Who Engage in Discussions and Teach Each Other

The world and nation into which our students will go is a complex one, consisting of people from many different races, faiths, backgrounds, and traditions. To be sure, Vanderbilt has strived to ensure that the learning community on our campus begins to mirror the differences and diversity of our nation and world. And over time, as noted above, the character and diversity of our learning community has changed. This is a foundation upon which we must build, and not become content or complacent, for we have not yet been successful in ensuring that we have created the environment where learning and community building across these differences is truly accomplished.

Scholarships and unique opportunities for learning are essential to creation of this learning community. These are the initial reasons why people from all backgrounds will be drawn to Vanderbilt. But there must be more. True learning across differences, and the environment that will draw the best students from all backgrounds, can exist only if Vanderbilt is tirelessly committed to fostering an open, engaging, and dynamic campus community. It matters little what statistics are reported on the composition of a student body, if the engagement by students does not take place. For this reason, we further support a residential college system at Vanderbilt. As leaders in the University, we remain concerned that we are not meeting our educational mission by seeing students and faculty from different and diverse backgrounds disperse after class and leave campus at 5:00 p.m. A great university is not simply a facility for instruction, with a regular and constrained production schedule. Rather, it must and can be a place that remains intellectually engaged and vibrant at all hours, for it is after class that students and faculty are likely to learn about differences, and to understand the problems these differences continue to pose, and to seek out solutions. These very differences shape our nation and our world, and at once can be our greatest source of richness and strength, but also of our deepest cleavages and our most painful and shameful conflicts. We do little for our students as future leaders if we do not invest in creating a place where true community and exchange for ideas across race, culture, faith, and class can occur.

E. Constructing a Curriculum, Learning Experiences, and Opportunities for Discovery Built on Vanderbilt’s Strengths and Mission

Like other great universities, Vanderbilt must be prepared to offer a wide ranging curriculum grounded in well established but ever evolving disciplines and discoveries. With its four outstanding undergraduate colleges spanning arts, humanities, social sciences, music, physical and biological science, engineering, human development, and education, few universities can provide such a diverse and enriching offering of classes. Constant exploration and redefinition of basic knowledge has led and will continue to lead to innovations in the curriculum and offerings available to students.

Part of our strategy for the undergraduate learning experience must make the whole greater than simply the sum of our parts. In other words, our learning experience must be based on the full range of learning opportunities and discovery experiences presented by Vanderbilt University, not simply by the accumulation of the enriching curricular offerings of our great individual schools. As more broadly conceived, there are exciting and significant opportunities and responsibilities, particularly for undergraduate students: Opportunities, because there are factors that lead to the conclusion that Vanderbilt is strategically advantaged in designing new and innovative curriculum, and responsibilities because we perceive the need to more clearly map the mission of the University against the curriculum that is currently available to undergraduates.

1. Incorporating research and discovery into the undergraduate experience

We recommend that Vanderbilt develop new and exciting learning and curricular opportunities that are based on distinctive strengths. Vanderbilt competes with many great liberal arts colleges and research universities. The former offer a special experience in an environment that stresses teaching and small classes. The latter offer the opportunity to be taught by those exploring and expanding the research frontiers of existing and new disciplines. We believe that Vanderbilt can offer the best of both of these worlds. Vanderbilt has been and continues to be committed to the intimacy and cohesiveness of a liberal arts college, but has seen its leadership advance to the first rank in many and varied areas of research. We believe that it is a rare opportunity for Vanderbilt if it can offer to students, through experiences inside and outside of classes and during the summer months, a chance to be a part of innovative and frontier basic and applied research. Such a strategic move would have enormous pedagogic and strategic advantages. Students engaged in research would become creators of knowledge in a dynamic learning environment, a valuable foundation given the many changes in technology, society, and the world they are likely to confront as they are forced to be adaptable and innovative learners and leaders in their chosen work. Students engaged in research would likely feel more of a joint enterprise with faculty. As is well established, the research distinction and profile of a university’s faculty is the basis for its academic ranking and reputation. Yet undergraduate students – and even some faculty – believe that research breakthroughs occur at the expense of teaching and mentoring. By engaging undergraduates more actively and systematically in our research on campus this longstanding and often flawed view of a necessary trade-off can be avoided. Indeed, with research strength in so many areas of health, society, and the economy across the ten great schools of Vanderbilt, we would expect our undergraduates to have many varied opportunities to create the very knowledge that they and their peers will study and apply.

We recognize financial, logistic, and structural barriers to such a program. Yet we are heartened by the fact that many successful research partnerships already exist on campus between faculty and undergraduates. With wise investments of resources and appropriate consideration of the workloads of both faculty and students, we believe that such a program should be further developed. Resources of course will be central, for this intensive learning experience through research is clearly best done in small learning environments, sometimes in one-on-one settings. We cannot expect to accomplish this goal unless we have available the high quality faculty necessary.

2. Integrating professional schools into the undergraduate experience and curriculum and establishing new programs of early admission to Vanderbilt’s professional schools

We believe that it is essential for Vanderbilt to develop new and innovative curricular and teaching partnerships between the undergraduate schools and professional schools. Vanderbilt’s Law, Medical, Business, and Divinity Schools are among the strongest in the nation, and indeed are perennially featured in national rankings in their respective areas. To this day, however, no program for integrating the professional schools into the undergraduate curriculum and teaching has existed. This must change, for Vanderbilt is missing a huge opportunity in training leaders and in gaining a competitive advantage in recruiting students. This oversight is all the more odd given that more than 50% of our undergraduates enter expecting to attend a professional school. Accordingly, we recommend that Vanderbilt establish the following:

  • A distinctive and innovative curriculum involving faculty of the professional schools in the undergraduate program that includes team-taught cross-disciplinary classes
  • A distinctive and innovative undergraduate curriculum focused on the role of professions in the economy, society, and in history and culture
  • An expansion of “sophomore” admission programs, under which a sophomore at Vanderbilt could be admitted to Law or Business School as is currently done in early admission to Vanderbilt Medical School.
  • A clear and focused strategy of joint programs in disciplines that are intellectually and academically related such as Law and Politics. The exciting program in Neuroscience between Arts and Science and Medicine, and the ongoing and emerging partnership in the Kennedy Center between Peabody, Medicine, and Arts and Science are but successful models on which these new ventures can be based.

Our plan includes some of these new trans-institutional and inter-disciplinary proposals, and we are confident that they will serve as a basis for Vanderbilt’s continuing excellence. However, we believe it is essential that these ventures produce excellence in undergraduate teaching, and be a magnet for the recruitment of undergraduate students to Vanderbilt.

3. A Program on Professional Liberal Education

As noted above, Vanderbilt currently admits sophomores into its Medical School, based entirely on their high school record and their early performance at Vanderbilt. No MCAT is required. This program places no obligation on these extraordinary students. They are admitted into Vanderbilt Medical School as sophomores, but may choose to attend another medical school or forego medical school altogether. It is a strategic bet on the extraordinary talent and commitment exhibited by a young person, and a show of confidence in our own undergraduate training for future success in medical school.

We recommend consideration of a broader and far more ambitious program that strategically leverages off of our outstanding professional schools. We suggest exploration of a unique program under which we would offer to students seeking to enter Vanderbilt as undergraduates an opportunity at that point to seek joint admission to a Vanderbilt professional school – Divinity, Law, Owen, or Medicine. Such an innovative approach would be appealing to top high school students, and build on, in a highly visible way, Vanderbilt’s unique array of professional schools. Attached to this kind of unique admissions program would be a broad range of special programs, classes, and activities. This might include distinctive curriculum, service projects in a professional setting, and internships in the professions. This kind of program could establish itself as a unique training ground for future leaders in all the professions and beyond.

4. Expanding opportunities for service learning and applied research

We recommend that Vanderbilt develop further in all of its schools and consider establishing a distinctive linkage with curriculum, programs, and internships in applied learning or service learning. In the Law School, Medical School, Peabody, and throughout the undergraduate experience at Vanderbilt there are innovative and creative programs in service learning, where knowledge and discoveries are applied. We are of the view that this emphasis on service, applied knowledge, and community are distinctive marks of the Vanderbilt experience. We also would contend that such programs are critical to our distinctive role in training leaders in society.

Programs in applied knowledge or service learning can be developed in many ways and in different contexts. We do not intend to prescribe any particular curriculum or service requirement. Instead, we would expect that various opportunities will grow out of the work of individual schools and colleges, research programs, student organizations, and faculty initiatives. Moreover, we would expect that residential colleges would play an important role. The college community of faculty and students would no doubt develop new and innovative service learning opportunities, tied to experimental curriculum, applied research, or distinctive projects out of the college.

5. A new curriculum in moral reasoning, ethical values, and the role of the individual in a democracy

The overwhelming focus of university and college learning has been on the inculcation of substantive knowledge in both traditional and evolving disciplines. Students graduate from Vanderbilt after having been challenged by outstanding peers and faculty in a wide range of topics. With this background in a diverse and challenging curriculum, Vanderbilt undergraduates go on to attend graduate and professional schools, or immediately choose one of many career paths. We are confident that with our focus on recruiting outstanding faculty and students, Vanderbilt’s reputation for a first-rate educational experience grounded in a strong and broad curriculum will remain firmly established.

Beyond this, however, Vanderbilt has the opportunity to distinguish itself and further its mission by focusing more directly on establishing curricular offerings that focus on moral reasoning, ethical principles, and the development of character. Several factors suggest that Vanderbilt is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this field. First, Vanderbilt has great strength and distinctive faculty in these areas. The departments of philosophy and religion in the College of Arts and Science, the department of Human Development in Peabody College, and the Schools of Divinity, Owen, Medicine, and Law, all contain outstanding faculty in the areas of moral reasoning, ethics, and character development. Second, Vanderbilt has established programs that mark it as a leader in expanding both curriculum and programs that focus on moral reasoning and ethics. The Cal Turner Program in Moral Leadership, which crosses several schools and is a resource for both the University and the local community, has established a reputation for excellence and distinction. The Ingram Scholars program, with its emphasis on personal growth through service, is a nationally recognized program that other universities seek to emulate.

Third, the scale of Vanderbilt is small enough to explore issues of moral reasoning, ethics, and character development in a way that is a common thread throughout the community. Indeed, we might expect that this focus on moral reasoning in a distinctive Vanderbilt community is the thread that runs throughout.

For these reasons we urge consideration of a distinctive and challenging curriculum in moral reasoning, ethics, and character development. It is important that this initiative be cross-disciplinary and reach broadly across the schools of Vanderbilt. The complex and changing nature of moral reasoning, ethics, and character development is too important and challenging to be confined to a single school or to a single discipline. And again, Vanderbilt’s strengths across professional and undergraduate schools allow it to create a distinctive cross-disciplinary program. Once established, Vanderbilt graduates will be further prepared and marked as leaders in their chosen fields, and prepared not only in the important areas of their chosen field of study, but of equal importance, have an education grounded in moral reasoning, self-examination, and character development.

In sum, we recommend that the undergraduate and student experience at Vanderbilt be enhanced and made more fulfilling by investing in those distinctive aspects of Vanderbilt’s traditions. A system of residential colleges should be created, blending students and faculty from across all schools of Vanderbilt into supportive and creative learning communities that flourish artistically, culturally, academically, and socially. We should also establish new programs and curriculum that leverage off of Vanderbilt’s outstanding professional schools, its research prominence and excellence, and its reputation and tradition of service learning and applied research. Finally, given our mission to train future leaders, we should deploy our distinctive resources to establish curricular offerings that allow our students to explore and address in a direct, critical, and rigorous fashion the moral, ethical, and character issues that they will face in all aspects of their life after leaving Vanderbilt.


As we hope is clear throughout, recruiting and retaining faculty of the highest level of research and teaching distinction must be a priority at Vanderbilt. Over the past 15 years Vanderbilt has continued to grow in stature as one of the preeminent research and teaching institutions in the world. Accordingly, we have recruited to this great University some of the most talented, creative, and intellectually inspiring teachers and researchers. At the same time, however, our success has brought with it considerable new challenges. In our efforts to recruit the best faculty, Vanderbilt is increasingly competing with other top universities. It is common place for faculty sought after by Vanderbilt also to be receiving offers from the nation’s most distinguished universities. Moreover, these same great universities are seeking to recruit away from Vanderbilt our very best faculty. Hence, the recruitment and retention of faculty are among the most significant challenges for Vanderbilt’s future.

This strategic challenge to recruit and retain the best faculty takes place against what is surely one of the most dynamic and evolving marketplaces for faculty talent. In what some have described as “winner take all” markets, and with cognate opportunities in the private sector, universities have engaged in fierce competition for the best faculty. Of course, we are of the view that Vanderbilt must compete in this battle for talent. Yet we also recommend that in doing so we focus not simply on luring talent through competitive salary and benefits. Rather we believe that there are a number of concrete steps that can be taken to improve our ability to build a cohesive, vibrant, and creative faculty as an intellectual community. Indeed, we believe that our advantage in recruiting the best faculty must – like so much of our plan – leverage off of intellectual community and campus geography that are unique to Vanderbilt.

A. Recruitment of Faculty to Vanderbilt and New Centers of Excellence

Although perhaps sounding like a truism, this is in fact a key strategic point. Faculty, deans, and other academic leaders need to be supported and encouraged across the entire university when engaged in recruiting top faculty. It is not surprising that the best faculty often have a wide range of intellectual, research, and teaching interests, and will be drawn to a place where those interests can be challenged and broadened. Perhaps no other university in America can offer both the collection of schools and intellectual centers of excellence as Vanderbilt. And certainly no university can offer them on such a compact campus. Yet members of the faculty — including members of the SAPG — were convinced that faculty being recruited to Vanderbilt are not being exposed to or recruited by the entire intellectual community and leadership. Clearly, for our faculty to reach the very highest rank in our chosen areas of investment, this must change.

We are of the view that this strategy of recruiting broadly to the Vanderbilt community will be more critical, and present more opportunities, as we hire faculty into both schools and our new interdisciplinary centers. We expect that substantial university resources will be invested in areas and centers of focus and excellence. We are strongly of the view that the focused investment in these new exciting areas of research, discovery, and teaching will be a substantial draw for recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty. Clearly, the most talented faculty seek as their goal the advancement of knowledge and discovery in their areas of investigation and teaching. Our success in selecting areas for true excellence will distinguish Vanderbilt in its building of an outstanding faculty.

B. The draw of being part of a robust and diverse intellectual community

As we create areas and centers of excellence, it would be a mistake to believe that the intellectual community or scope and compass of investigation at Vanderbilt will be narrowed. In fact, we expect just the opposite – that we will create a broad, exciting, and inclusive intellectual community – and this community will itself be a substantial draw for recruiting and retaining faculty.

The best faculty are not content to be confined to narrow disciplinary or school lines. With their goals to teach the best students and to explore the boundaries of their own research, outstanding faculty are drawn to universities that offer a unique sense of intellectual excitement and engagement. As we outlined above, we believe that Vanderbilt can realistically claim to be such a place. The very assets that make Vanderbilt unique – its collection of schools and its compact campus – are the basis for our call for investment in trans-institutional initiatives. Moreover, we have identified at Vanderbilt a strong commitment to a sense of civil community. Hence, we are of the view that we need to invest wisely in creating broad intellectual communities, for it is these that will draw and retain the best faculty.

But more must be done. For all of the intellectual overlap at Vanderbilt, we have done little to allow faculty to teach and collaborate across schools and departments. Thus, we note that there are far too few joint appointments across schools and departments. This is particularly odd given that Vanderbilt’s future success lies in trans-institutional initiatives. We strongly encourage the Deans and faculties of the schools of Vanderbilt to lower the barriers to joint appointments. We would urge that the basis for joint appointment not be governed by perfect disciplinary overlap, but instead by a belief that the faculty are concerned and engaged in a common enterprise of investigation and discovery. For example, we would note that despite many overlapping teaching and research interests, far too few faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences hold an appointment in Law, Owen, or Divinity. Given that the research and indeed often the disciplinary methods used among faculty in these schools overlap considerably, we wonder why more frequent joint appointments are not made. For these reasons, we would also recommend that the Deans and Provost adopt new structures and mechanisms to allow faculty with joint appointments to move more freely across schools, allowing their time to be devoted more broadly to the research and discovery in the entire University.

Finally, we would emphasize that when joint appointments are made, that they are not merely for courtesy. Often faculties are resistant to make joint appointments because of concerns about governance rights and other internal governance issues. While we do not wish to diminish these concerns, we believe that at the outset joint appointments ought to be driven by the desire to meet our core mission in research and teaching. Hence, it may be that it is appropriate to create joint appointments that allow for faculty to move more freely intellectually across schools, without necessarily granting full governance rights in multiple schools. We say with a certain confidence that we know of few faculty who seek joint appointments out of a desire to increase committee work or governance responsibility. Accordingly, we believe that joint appointments ought be animated and focused upon intellectual participation, and by doing so make them genuine and true to the core missions of the university.

C. Retaining Outstanding Faculty

Retaining top faculty remains one of Vanderbilt’s priorities. Too often Vanderbilt has lost top faculty to other outstanding institutions. Even more so, with decisions made to invest in key centers of excellence and trans-institutional initiatives, it is incumbent that Vanderbilt be creative and aggressive in retaining faculty. It would indeed be short sighted for Vanderbilt to invest to build centers and trans- institutional programs of world class rank, but then leave itself vulnerable to raids by other universities. Yet that threat is likely to be faced with success in unparalleled excellence in building new and existing programs. Hence, we believe that an aggressive and new strategy for retaining faculty must be explored.

First, we recommend that the university make the securing of endowed chairs a priority. The recognition of a chair, along with the flexibility the funds often attached to the chair provide, are absolutely essential for Vanderbilt’s future success. Currently the Colleges and Schools of Vanderbilt (other than Medicine and Nursing) have only 64 chairs. This is far fewer than our competitors such as Washington University, Stanford, and Emory. Without the chance for this recognition and reward it will be very difficult for Vanderbilt to retain top faculty, especially when, in all likelihood, another university is offering a chair as part of its competitive offer.

Second, we recommend that the University also make as a priority the securing of funds for other chairs that will be key to retaining faculty. Increasingly top faculty are lured away at very early points

in their career. Often this can occur before tenure is even awarded. For this key group of young and promising faculty, it is essential that some recognition be given to them as well. It might be that they are too early in their careers to be awarded a chair. However, an alternative form of recognition is the award of a “rotating” research chair. Such chairs would provide a research leave for a junior faculty member, as well as carry financial rewards as well to recognize the promise held by this young teacher- scholar.

Third, we recommend that the University not engage in a passive posture of waiting to meet outside offers. Instead, we recommend that the University become proactive, recognizing early the talented faculty likely to be recruited away. If Vanderbilt is not proactive, it will enter into a bargaining game all too late, often after the faculty member has been wooed by another school and received a competing generous offer. The best posture may be to make our own faculty preemptive offers, ensuring that they remain at Vanderbilt. Our record of retention in some schools and colleges require that we adopt a more aggressive strategy.

Fourth, we recommend that Vanderbilt consider other more creative methods for retaining outstanding faculty. An option put forward in the strategic planning group was to create retention incentives for top faculty. We see virtue in exploring this as an option. We fear that the “one size fits all” tenure contract has often limited the creativity of universities such as Vanderbilt. Instead, it may be appropriate for Vanderbilt to explore and experiment with “contracts within contracts” where incentives are created with faculty on an ad hoc basis to create the incentive for them to remain at Vanderbilt.

D. Ensuring a faculty that mirrors society and the world

Faculty have many roles on a university campus. They obviously teach, conduct research, and advise students. More broadly, however, faculty are role models and intellectual peers for students. Students come to Vanderbilt because of its outstanding faculty, and expect these faculty to be leaders, mentors, teachers, and some times lifelong friends. These students also expect that the faculty – and the University – will prepare them fully and adequately for the complex and interesting challenges they will face after they graduate and realize the full and long lasting value of a Vanderbilt education.

Given this central role for faculty as role models and intellectual leaders and peers, we must focus our energy, commitment, and resources to comprise a faculty that truly mirrors the world our students will enter. In many different arenas, including the media, judicial opinions, research journals, and books, arguments proliferate about the value of an environment composed of people from different races, faiths, and backgrounds. We think it clear that the mission of a great educational institution is linked to this diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and viewpoints. The experiences and education of our students are enriched by a faculty of this breadth. Students have the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by faculty who are from the same background, but likewise all students benefit by their exposure to many different peoples. We believe it axiomatic that our students, who will become future leaders, will go out into our nation and the world, and form communities, relationships, partnerships, and solve problems with people from many different backgrounds. We reaffirm that our faculty must reflect this real world that our students will enter.

In many areas Vanderbilt has made strides in hiring faculty that make our learning environment broader and more challenging. Yet there is also the clear need to do more, particularly in the retention of faculty of color. Vanderbilt has made some outstanding lateral appointments of faculty, but unfortunately these have been offset by difficulty in retaining faculty. Resources are always a concern, but we are also of the view that a climate and environment that nurtures and recognizes differences, and is generally supportive, will also be critical to our success. Perhaps obvious, we believe that the path to building this great faculty lies in some of the other recommendations outlined in our draft report. At the heart of a great university is an intellectually engaging and tolerant community of teachers and students, who are willing to engage in frank and open discussion about difficult intellectual issues that also are among the most fundamental political, economic, and social that we as a nation and world face. We do not seek to underestimate the need for investment, but believe that making Vanderbilt an intellectual community where students and faculty are engaged on fundamental issues will be the basis for successful recruitment and retention of faculty members from all backgrounds, and that are necessary to meet our educational mission.


Science and scholarship are no longer a cottage industry. While certainly there are and always will be forms of scholarship that advance through the creativity and hard work of an individual working alone, more and more advances today are completed by teams of individuals working together—through the power of relationships. These teams can be described as having distributed expertise across a network. Individuals with differing expertise, knowledge bases, methodologies, and ways to conceptualize issues come together to form multidisciplinary teams to tackle a significant problem that has great meaning to them. And, often these problems are at the boundaries of disciplines or cut across several disciplines.

Vanderbilt is well positioned to excel and lead in this new arena because of the ease with which powerful relationships can be forged: Yet, we have not harnessed this strength. While there is greatness in individual faculty and in individual departments, this unique and exceedingly rare form of human capital that Vanderbilt possesses has not been fully tapped to create the intellectual excitement that results when passionate minds come together to tackle tough scientific or scholarly problems. Thus, we bemoan the lack of community and intellectual potency. Further, the various schools at Vanderbilt have acted more as a federation of schools rather than members of a greater community of scholars—a university. As Chancellor Gee comments, “Vanderbilt must be more than ten schools connected by a heating plant.” The culture of civility and collegiality has not been a source of leverage on issues of common scholarly interest and of community/societal concern. If anything, too many ideas and much of the knowledge created at Vanderbilt has been allowed to remain inert and locked only in the disciplines of individual schools and departments. They have not been transformed or applied to solve pressing needs. Put simply, Vanderbilt has not exploited its unique strengths to create an intellectually vibrant community, a community that would attract and retain the most talented faculty and students who would form powerful relationships.

Thus, we must change the culture and patterns of interaction at Vanderbilt, and in doing so build upon existing sources of strength. Towards these goals, we are creating and recommending for further consideration a set of interdisciplinary centers where talented faculty and students across disciplines and schools can come together in a resource rich environment to work collaboratively on meaningful problems. They will create a true meeting of minds. These centers, around which relationships are constructed like a hub of a wheel, would be built upon faculty passions and zeal as well as the complementary nature of their expertise in areas where these attributes are especially dense. Their approach to scholarship could be described as curiosity-driven but with a mission-oriented flavor. And, while the problems are interdisciplinary in nature, the approach is also to draw upon and build associated disciplinary strength. That is, we do not intend to primarily seek scholars who have been trained within an interdisciplinary field. Instead, we seek scholars and researchers who have been exquisitely trained in their core disciplines but can bring their expertise to bear on problems that are inherently interdisciplinary in nature. By strengthening disciplinarity and the relationships across disciplines in this manner, we will become uniquely equipped to solve today’s inherently interdisciplinary problems.

Because these interdisciplinary centers are constructed in intersecting areas of strength across Vanderbilt, we are by design creating areas of excellence in scholarship and education. Each niche would provide certain intellectual and research centers that create the potential for Vanderbilt to become the world leader. That is, these interdisciplinary centers are being created not only to transform the intellectual culture of Vanderbilt but to identify leading scholarly strengths and make them internationally renowned. As well, the intent is both to attract outstanding scholars who will visit, study, or stay permanently at Vanderbilt, and to strengthen graduate/professional education in disciplinary areas that become associated with the centers. Thus, an obligation that comes with this strategic initiative is that graduate/professional education must become aligned in some manner with the strengths in interdisciplinary scholarship and, thereby, receive a much needed boost. While strengthening disciplinary graduate education through other means is critical, the power to transform graduate education through these interdisciplinary centers cannot be left unrealized.

Similarly, the opportunity to become a member of a community that is engaged in meaningful scholarship at the cutting-edge is something that research universities are uniquely positioned to provide undergraduates. That advantage must be tapped and developed within the interdisciplinary centers so that our undergraduates can benefit from our investment and from the intellectual excitement created. And, of course, the opportunity for professional development and renewal of faculty will be facilitated through these centers.

Below are described the interdisciplinary centers whose span is varied and wide but at the same time comprise a coherent, relevant, and rigorous thematic strategic initiative that seek to explore, discover, and teach leaders in the most fundamental areas of human existence. This strategic initiative might be generally characterized as an investigation of Humanity, Mind, and Matter, since the ideas proposed focus broadly but intensely upon the full range of issues, challenges, and questions that are posed in key areas of exploration in science and the humanities. This strategic initiative, however, builds on our unique strengths, and insists on investigation at the microscopic level of the gene or the micron, and on the global level to the movements of millions of peoples across oceans and continents. This initiative is at once deeply materialistic, seeking to explore the genetic, chemical, and mechanical determinants and explanations for disease, sight, cognition, and movements of markets, but also explores the cultural and spiritual basis for faith, human consciousness, racial reconciliation and differences, and poverty. Finally, this initiative leaves unexamined no symbol, code, image, or word that springs from the human condition. It includes the literature of poetry and prose, the images of the brain in neuroscience and philosophy, and the meaning and mutability of our genetic code. We strongly believe that these proposed new centers for discovery, research, and teaching will give birth to a more powerful and invigorating Vanderbilt community — a collaborative, intellectual community where synergy is created by taking ideas and working them through the brains and arms of talented individuals who, because of their differing training, are able to approach issues with different perspectives and lenses and, thereby, bring about greater understanding and clarity to advance society and human kind. They will become places of intense talent development–our enduring mission—for our students and faculty.

Since World War II, Vanderbilt has had some of its greatest academic strength in the sciences tied to medicine. From those areas came its Nobel Prize winners. The interdisciplinary Medical School departments, particularly Pharmacology, have gained top rating in graduate work. Their strength has positive resonance across the campus. They have long cooperated with and added strength to Molecular Biology, Chemistry, and Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Science, and to Biomedical Engineering. Similarly, Peabody College, with a highly ranked graduate program in special education, has supported for forty years interdisciplinary work in developmental disabilities and has longstanding collaborations in neuroscience, genetics, cognitive science, and behavioral science. We believe that a serious strategic plan must build on these proud achievements and create a new generation of programs that draw on the strengths of disciplines from every school.

The SAPG received over thirty interdisciplinary proposals, most involving interschool cooperation. Most of these deserve support, at least for further planning. Some do not require any central funding but most assuredly do require support, encouragement, and visibility from the University’s top leadership. In this report we present some of the most promising proposals, a few of which already have received central investment either for continuing planning or for early development, others of which are continuing to be evaluated and debated in our ongoing academic planning process. The subcommittee that initially evaluated these proposals held three meetings to which a wide array of faculty were invited. These meetings helped screen the strongest proposals and develop a set of criteria for evaluating the proposals. The most important criterion was that a proposed program should have the potential to advance Vanderbilt to the front rank of American universities, at least in the field of the proposal. The subcommittee also favored interdisciplinary plans that involve a broad range of faculty, especially faculty members from more than one school; that have strong faculty support and leadership; that would strengthen the core disciplines and departments; and that are both distinctive and outstanding. It sought plans which are of such scope and significance as to require new investment, which promise benefits that justify such funding, and which are most likely to generate outside funding. It was particularly concerned that such programs significantly improve graduate education and enhance undergraduate learning.

In the discussion below we set forth some of the most promising and exciting trans-institutional initiatives to come out of this first phase of the planning process. Before describing these programs we emphasize four key points:

  1. Although trans-institutional and inter-disciplinary, these programs should and must lead to significant and measurable improvements in departments and core disciplines at Vanderbilt.
  2. These programs must bear relevance to basic questions that must be addressed in the humanities, social sciences, physical and biological sciences, technology, and medicine.
  3. While strengthening core disciplines and departments, Vanderbilt must also be a leader in the design of programs and centers of inquiry that will define, shape, and perhaps even reconstruct existing and future disciplines and departments.
  4. The planning process must be a dynamic and ongoing one. Going forward we deem it essential to create a full, open, and transparent process for the evaluation of and decision making on these proposals that currently remain in the evaluative process. Of particular importance is that Deans and faculty be fully apprised of the progress of all proposals and that decisions be promptly made and fully articulated.

A. Exploring Culture, Society, and Humanity

Vanderbilt’s reputation for greatness is derived from many accomplishments and areas of strength. Yet it is no overstatement to say that much of Vanderbilt’s current reputation is based upon its excellence in the humanities and social sciences. To this day, many associate Vanderbilt with the path breaking work of the “fugitives” in the English Department, and students continue to be drawn to Vanderbilt because of the richness and breadth of the liberal arts education, which at its core includes the humanities and the social sciences. Accordingly, we are of the view that Vanderbilt’s continued and future greatness must include significant progress and prospects for excellence in these areas.

This view is buttressed by certain strategic and intellectual principles vetted by the planning process. There can be no doubt that the forces of technology, engineering, and science have to some extent challenged the attention devoted to the humanities and social science. Yet an intellectual imbalance neglecting the humanities and social sciences would be a fundamental strategic error, and more importantly, could have deep negative consequences for not only Vanderbilt, but for humanity. For whatever might be the advances that can and should be made in science, medicine, and engineering, it is the humanities and social sciences that must be the foundation for a greater understanding of the human, social, ethical, and economic consequences of these technological, scientific, and medical advances. Accordingly, our plan reaffirms the importance of the humanities and social sciences, recommits Vanderbilt to its tradition of excellence in these fields, and calls for substantial investments to maintain and build on this tradition. We do so by calling for investments in areas of potential synergy and established accomplishment.

1. Center for the Study of the Culture of the Americas

The literature, history, religion, music, and art of the Americas constitute a new and rapidly growing area of intellectual inquiry, but no university offers a comprehensive program in this area. Vanderbilt has the resources to place itself at the forefront of the interdisciplinary study of the culture of all the Americas: North, Central, and South. The already existing framework of the American and Southern Studies Program and the strengths of the English, History, Spanish and Portuguese, Economics, and Anthropology departments, along with the Music History program in Blair, could be further leveraged through synergies with the Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies to exploit the growing convergence of integrative studies that include all areas of the Americas. This combined faculty would create a powerful community of scholars crossing departmental and school lines to create an interdisciplinary community that crosses the political and geographical boundaries of the Americas. The growing ties between the area studies programs and Owen (such as the joint MBA/MA program in Latin American Studies), are initial steps in connecting the professional schools and the humanities core in the College of Arts and Science. To these could be added the Graduate Department of Religion’s proposal for an initiative in Caribbean or Latin American religion and the Divinity School’s plan to add positions in the History of Christianity outside the North Atlantic. This initiative might, in time, strengthen and expand the work of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, though it is conceived as a complement to rather than a part of that center. The proposal seeks to strengthen graduate education in each of its participating units through greater collaboration.

2. Center for the Study of Religion and Culture

Vanderbilt currently has a strong competitive advantage in this important area. Our graduate department of religion is one of the best in the country, and few if any great universities can lay claim to a world class non-denominational Divinity School, that holds great promise for obvious linkages to several other strong schools at Vanderbilt. A Center for the Study of Religion and Culture will integrate the strengths of faculty and resources from the College of Arts and Science, the Divinity School, the Blair School of Music, the Medical School, the Law School, and other interested units of the University. The Center will help to unite the research interests of more than thirty-five faculty at present (including nine from five departments in the College of Arts and Science in addition to Religious Studies) and additional faculty later, using interdisciplinary methods to address contemporary and historical issues involving religion and culture.

The Center will focus its efforts on a broad but fundamental question: How are we to understand the role of religious beliefs, traditions, and institutions in shaping the modern world? It will recognize the importance—throughout history and in all societies—of the impact of religion on culture at large, including art, architecture, literature, music, group and personal identity, education, political structures and values, concepts of justice, and treatment of women, outsiders, and marginalized groups.

At the present time Vanderbilt University has only two graduate programs ranked in the top ten National Research Council’s ratings. The Graduate Department of Religion (GDR), which is ranked seventh in the country, is the only one outside of the Medical School. A Center for the Study of Religion and Culture will draw on existing excellence to create additional strengths throughout the University.

We recognize that there are structural challenges to the establishment of such a center. In particular, for this center to flourish, budgetary, governance, and intellectual bridges must first be built between the College of Arts and Science Department of Religion and the Divinity School. We are optimistic that progress is being made in this first step and that in turn investments in this Center for the Study of Religion and Culture should be made.

3. Center for Nashville Studies

Both in Vanderbilt’s history and in the history of other great academic institutions, research, discovery, and teaching have focused on the local community as a “laboratory for exploration.” We recommend that Vanderbilt consider establishing a Center for Nashville Studies. With appropriate and competitively administered funding, research projects could address enduring, important, and generalizable social, political, and economic issues which capitalize on Nashville’s natural evolution

into a social laboratory. The model of a research and teaching program nested in a local community has roots in path breaking medical research conducted at Vanderbilt, and can be found in the success of the fabled Chicago School of Sociology founded at the University of Chicago where the research breakthroughs made by studies focused on the local community shaped both the social science and political agenda of our nation for almost 40 years.

Nashville’s comparative advantage as a research and discovery site includes:

  • A rapidly increasing and unprecedented immigration from Africa, East Asia, and Latin America to the interior location of the United States
  • A growing “post-industrial” service economy, with a focus on health care, tourism, entertainment, higher education, organized religion, and government
  • Serving as a major hub of the civil rights movement with a continuing legacy of innovations in national models on race and ethnic relations
  • Increasing foreign investment in heavy industry
  • Internal migration from all regions of the United States
  • Mounting public health, mental health, and social service challenges among an increasingly heterogeneous population

Apart from the opportunity presented by a dynamic Nashville, there exist throughout Vanderbilt strengths in sociology, history, economics, education, medicine, law, public policy, and business that naturally would focus their research and teaching on the microcosm presented by Nashville. Thus, the combination of the University’s areas of strength, along with the opportunities presented by Nashville, make this a strategic niche that Vanderbilt could occupy in the social sciences.

We would also add that this Center for Nashville Studies would reaffirm Vanderbilt’s commitment to a broader role in the local and national community. By directing our attention and intellectual resources to our own neighborhood, Vanderbilt would clearly signal that its mission of research, teaching, and discovery has a broader goal — to contribute to understanding, exploring, and solving problems that our community faces. As a private university Vanderbilt has the freedom to chart its own mission and chart an educational path in the private realm. But being a private university does not free Vanderbilt from a broader public role. We are of the view that the Center for Nashville Studies will provide unique opportunities for Vanderbilt to fulfill this public role.

4. Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy

Vanderbilt is located in a city and region that is rich in cultural, artistic, and literary traditions. Layered over this culture is a complex array of private enterprises and individual leaders that produce, market, sell, and export to the world music, art, film, and literature, in traditional and electronic forms. These enterprises and individuals increasingly operate in a complex legal, business, and regulatory climate. For much of its recent history, however, Vanderbilt has not declared its mission to include study of, much less celebration of this cultural heritage and location. This is ironic, since much of Vanderbilt’s national recognition is tied to its region, most prominently exemplified by the close identification between Vanderbilt and the “fugitives.” The irony is further demonstrated by the fact that what we have often defined or characterized as regional or local culture, is increasingly better characterized as national and global culture. It is time for Vanderbilt to become a leader in the study of culture and cultural policy.

Vanderbilt has a rare opportunity to establish a Center for Arts, Enterprise, and Public Policy. A number of cultural policy programs in other universities have a narrow focus. For the most part they tend to focus on the policy making roles of government cultural agencies: In doing so, however, these other centers ignore the primary actors in American cultural production – a decentralized, diverse, and non-governmental system of for-profit enterprises, individuals, and not-for-profit organizations. In other words, arts policy in America includes only a minor direct role for the government.

Against this background, establishment of the Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt would be the first university-based policy program to address the full panoply of cultural policy makers. Drawing on the current strengths of Vanderbilt, the Center would explore four major areas of cultural policy in the United States:

  1. Corporate practices that shape and affect all forms of culture including music, film, books, and art
  2. The interests, influence, and objectives of private arts supporters
  3. The increased importance of intellectual property law as a dominant force in shaping cultural policy
  4. The role of treaties and international law in shaping cultural policy and the dominant role played by private actors in shaping international law

Vanderbilt is currently well positioned to establish a distinctive Center in the Arts, Enterprise, and Public Policy. First, we are situated in one of the cultural capitals of the world, with many of the dominant private actors in Nashville. Second, we have a range of faculty expertise that already exists that can be brought to bear on this initiative. Outstanding faculty currently exist in law, Owen, sociology, Blair, Fine Arts, English, and leadership exists to launch this Center.

B. Understanding the Human Mind

Never have we been so close to unlocking the mysteries of the human mind. The search is profoundly important, for it will allow us to diagnose and treat many diseases, conditions, and disabilities that limit the ability of people to see, learn, and enjoy life. But we believe that this inquiry is important for more than its instrumental goals — for our ability to understand the function, evolution, and chemistry of the mind will provide society with a deep understanding of what it means to be a human being. At Vanderbilt, there are a number of new and ongoing trans-institutional initiatives that will produce discoveries and knowledge that have and will continue to allow us to understand the human mind.

1. Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience

One of the most successful and provocative of Vanderbilt’s trans-institutional programs is the Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience (CICN). The new CICN will organize and facilitate interdisciplinary efforts of brain scientists, psychologists, clinicians, and engineers to discover how events in the brain produce perception, thought, memory, and emotion: in short, it will help explain and allow us to understand the most fundamental questions of science and philosophy – what is human

consciousness? But beyond this goal of understanding what it means to be a conscious human being, the CICN will also contribute significantly to the improvement of society. The research and knowledge generated by the CICN will contribute to the effective prevention and treatment of mental and neurological disorders. Ironically, while the knowledge generated by the CICN will allow Vanderbilt to be a leader in discovering the deeply spiritual questions of human consciousness, this research will also allow us to replicate that which is human for the betterment of society. The research and discoveries of those involved in the CICN will lead to the development of new engineering applications such as prosthetic devices that approach the touch, feel, and function of their natural counterparts and autonomous robots, that may be able to “think” or “react” without human intercession or direction.

This initiative builds on recognized strength in neuroscience research, training, and education in the College of Arts and Science, Peabody College, the School of Engineering, and the Medical Center as embodied by the Kennedy Center and the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center. The CICN will be organized around three areas of existing strength: (1) sensory science (vision, hearing, and touch); (2) development, learning, and memory (including brain plasticity and developmental disabilities); and (3) clinical neuroscience (dealing with the causes and cures of brain and mind disorders such as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease).

In addition, the CICN will begin to form relationships with the Divinity and Law Schools. At the core of Divinity’s exploration of human spiritualism is the profound and complex mind-brain problem. Is human consciousness and the ability to think, reason, and love simply the result of chemical reactions or some other force or evidence of some unique attribute of being a human being? How does our understanding of the mind affect the foundational principles of our legal system which in both civil and criminal areas are tied strongly to concepts of intent, consciousness, and human choice? Clearly, the CICN holds out substantial promise for discovery and understanding.

We should also add that our already existing progress in Neuroscience has produced significant benefits for our students, and is a major draw in recruiting outstanding high school students to Vanderbilt. Neuroscience is currently the second most popular major for undergraduates in the College of Arts and Science, and a pathway to important careers in medicine, science, and research. It is also one of our strongest emerging graduate departments, with faculty training academic and research leaders of the future.

2. Learning Sciences Institute

Neuroscience provides us fundamental insights into the workings of the human brain. In a society based on freedom, tolerance, and the production of knowledge, our understanding of the brain must also include fundamental questions about how people acquire and apply knowledge. In short, how the brain learns is a critical area of inquiry. Our nation faces the daunting but exciting challenge of preparing people for a world that is increasingly global, knowledge-based, fast-paced, and highly technological. Economic success and quality of life are becoming increasingly tied to people’s abilities to learn throughout their lifetimes. We must, therefore, build human capital by dramatically improving the capability of all citizens to become lifelong learners. In addition, due to the globalization of the economy and the need to tackle complex problems that require multiple perspectives, we must build social capital by helping people to increase their abilities to work collaboratively and globally.

Vanderbilt University has the opportunity to do something that no university has yet accomplished; namely, to assemble a group of interdisciplinary scholars capable of addressing basic and applied issues in the learning sciences. To take advantage of the current state of the field and meet the challenges faced by both public entities and in private markets, we propose to create a University-wide Learning Sciences Institute (LSI) that will draw upon, integrate, and focus the remarkable strengths in teaching, learning, and technology that currently exist across Vanderbilt, plus recruit new expertise in areas relevant to learning, teaching, and technology.

The core mission of the LSI will be to organize and conduct research on how people learn, with a special focus on how learning can be enhanced through new uses of technology and through innovative teaching practices. The LSI will focus on three major areas of research: (1) Learning (fundamental issues of learning and development as well as learning in the content areas); (2) Teaching (e.g., innovative teaching practices, innovative models of professional development, understanding people and how their unique backgrounds and experiences can be used to accelerate learning, preparing future teachers for the 21st century); and (3) Design (e.g., organizational design, technology and learning, curriculum design). In short, we propose to seize this opportunity to make Vanderbilt the premier university in the world for research on learning and teaching, and for state-of-the-art teaching practices that embody inquiry, experimentation, and reflection and that are, in some cases, facilitated by technology. The LSI will be the engine that propels us on that path.

C. Exploring, Understanding, and Engineering the Physical, Biological, and Mechanical World of the Unseen

In every realm of inquiry, discovery, and understanding we confront and seek to understand, explore, engineer or re-engineer and deploy the physical and biological world that is unseen. Much of medical research and treatment seeks to explore and manipulate the world at the level of the human gene. Clearly, the biggest challenges in science, medicine, and engineering cannot be met unless Vanderbilt is a leader in these areas which examine the world at its smallest and most fundamental levels.

1. Genetics

The discovery of DNA, along with recent efforts to decode the human genome, has made genetics research a matter of profound importance, promise, and controversy. Research in genetics offers tremendous potential for improving the human condition. The widespread belief that breakthroughs in genetics will lead to significant improvements in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of most diseases is at the very heart of the national effort to catalog the makeup of the human genome. As a field, genetics is both a major branch of biology and a dominant experimental method in the biological sciences. As a tool, genetics is unsurpassed in its ability to determine the underlying mechanisms of biological function. Advances in the ease with which this tool can be applied will continue to have a profound impact on scientific discovery, on the delivery of health care, on our legal system, and on many other facets of our culture. If Vanderbilt is to be at the forefront of research in the 21st century, then it must be a leader in genetics. The creation of a trans-institutional Initiative in Genetics that will combine efforts and expertise across the entire University provides the best opportunity for Vanderbilt to secure that position of leadership. Currently Vanderbilt has strength in basic genetics research, proteomics, and in the legal and ethical issues that have been and will continue to arise as the frontiers of research are expanded.

2. Institute in Nanometer-Scale Materials, Devices, and Systems

Investigation at the level of the gene, along with the design and construction of increasingly powerful and smaller levels of computing power, have demanded that engineers, researchers, and scientists develop a science and a discipline to understand, build, and manipulate all forms of matter at the microscopic level. This is a proposal to establish a new institute in the field of nano-scale science and engineering. Miniaturization, at the micron-length scale, is the driving force in contemporary technology. Scientists, medical researchers, and engineers understand the behavior of matter at this level and seek to create devices and systems that are ever smaller and operate in ever faster modes. It is broadly recognized that the next phase of miniaturization will be at the nanometer-length scale, which requires an entirely new level of understanding and control of matter. We propose an institute linking the College of Arts and Science, the School of Engineering, and the Medical School devoted to the synthesis, characterization, and applications of materials on the nanometer-to-few-micron scale. These dimensions correspond roughly to the size range from a small protein to a typical cell. An electron can move across a one nanometer-size structure in one trillionth of a second, making possible electronic circuitry operating at elements hundreds of times faster than present silicon devices. Nano-materials science and engineering, in turn, enable nanotechnology—the development of electronic, photonic, and biomedical devices that could make it possible to reduce dramatically the size and increase the speed of computing devices, revolutionize optical communications, and even allow for medical treatment focused on single cells.

There is a sound basis for this enthusiasm. Many futurists and science- engineering prognosticators believe that nanostructure research is the beginning of the next industrial-scientific revolution, defining research in electronics, photonics, and bionics and driving new industries and economic growth. The key elements in nano-scale science and engineering are the convergence of the “silicon revolution” and advances in our ability to control and manipulate aggregations of matter as small as a few atoms. This area is a critical one for Vanderbilt and one in which the University can achieve national leadership. Several faculty leaders, well known for research in this area, are committed to the project; many are already doing funded research in this area. Nano-scale science and engineering are broadly interdisciplinary and will unite and enhance ongoing efforts at Vanderbilt in bioscience, chemistry, engineering, materials science, medicine, physics, and perhaps mathematics. The Institute can be expected to drive a wholly new concept for graduate education in this area.

The essential components of this Institute include broad faculty participation; extensive and well- supported facilities for materials synthesis, manipulation, and characterization; strong post-doctoral and graduate student representation; opportunities for key undergraduate involvement; and a cultural climate that synthesizes the vision and research expertise of key faculty members throughout the University. It is not an exaggeration to say that Vanderbilt cannot move to the front rank in science and engineering— including biological science and engineering—without a major commitment to interdisciplinary research in nanometer-scale materials, devices, and systems. The timing is critical; the first, federally financed, nano-scale initiatives are currently receiving initial funding. At the same time, the appropriate research faculty has grown and is extremely active. Thus we are well positioned to be active participants in the scientific and engineering advances that will accompany this endeavor.

A timely, focused investment in nano-materials science and engineering will raise the level of recognition of our best science and engineering departments by enabling them to develop additional competence in this emerging field. At the same time, nano-materials science and engineering will provide absolutely indispensable, complementary expertise to the University’s trans-institutional initiative in biomedical science and engineering. The initiative thus raises the level of recognition and prominence in interdisciplinary scholarship and research, and lets graduate and undergraduate students know that Vanderbilt is the place for excellence in science and engineering.

3. Institute for Biophysical Sciences and Bio-engineering

The goal of this proposal is to found an institute to move Vanderbilt to a leadership role in basic research, technological development, and the delivery of advanced education in the biophysical sciences and bioengineering. The 1998 trans-institutional initiative in Biomedical Science and Technology for Vanderbilt University targeted three areas for development: neuroscience, genetics and development, and biophysical and bioengineering sciences. The proposed Institute would contribute to the implementation of the last area, which currently has ongoing programs in structural biology, molecular biophysics, bioengineering education technologies (an Engineering Research Center of the National Science Foundation), laser physics and medical research (through the W. M. Keck Free Electron Laser Center), and a proposed Biomathematics Institute. Targeted research areas of the proposed institute are cellular instrumentation and control, technology-guided therapy, biological applications of nano-systems, and cellular/tissue bioengineering and biotechnology. Research in the biological sciences is strong at Vanderbilt, and further international recognition and leadership are possible. The Institute will take advantage of existing widespread collaboration among many departments in the natural sciences, engineering, and medicine.

This interdisciplinary institute will have as its mission to strengthen and broaden Vanderbilt’s existing foundation of basic research in the biophysical sciences and bioengineering; develop enabling technologies that span these disciplines; provide close articulation of the biophysical sciences and bioengineering with our undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate educational programs; and foster programs of outreach to industry, government, and other educational institutions.

To accomplish this most effectively, the activities of the Institute will be directed primarily towards the support and enhancement of research and both graduate and post-graduate education. The Institute will serve as a focus for recruiting existing and new faculty to work on a targeted set of interdisciplinary projects that are good candidates for strong external funding. To support faculty in these new endeavors, one role of the Institute will be to create a high-profile post-doctoral training program directed towards physical scientists and engineers who wish to direct their careers towards the interface between biology, medicine, engineering, and the physical sciences. During the initial years of this endeavor, the combination of marshaling existing faculty strengths, recruiting new faculty, and creating a cadre of interdisciplinary postdoctoral and pre-doctoral fellows should allow Vanderbilt to strengthen and focus its research organization more quickly than might be accomplished were we to rely solely on the recruitment and training of graduate students. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of

the research that will be fostered by the Institute, the Institute will also be able to serve other efforts at Vanderbilt that emphasize biophysical sciences and bioengineering, for example by a regular program of external speakers, long-term visitors, and special seminars, as well as a vigorous program to involve undergraduates with the research efforts of Institute members.

4. Structural Biology Center

The emerging field of structural biology earns its name by applying a wide array of measurement techniques to the problem of identifying the physical structure of important, large-scale biological molecules. The importance of understanding the causal connections between physical structure and observed or measured properties has been demonstrated repeatedly in the progress of modern science. It can be no less true for biological macromolecules that function derives from structure, which means that Vanderbilt will need to become a leader in structural biology if it intends to remain at the forefront of research in the biological sciences. The new transinstitutional initiative in high-resolution structural

biology is being developed in a unique way at Vanderbilt, organized around a center concept including both a core group of faculty and an open-access resource. This center will provide a focal point for gathering together the theoretical, physical, and bio-related research communities. The faculty to be recruited will be asked to become part of a cohesive and collaborative group that looks upon nuclear magnetic resonance, x-ray crystallography, and computation as complementary tools, not as competing approaches. This comprehensive approach is the key feature that will make structural biology at Vanderbilt unique at the national and international levels and is expected to provide the University with the competitive edge for attracting extramural funding and for recruiting outstanding faculty and students.

D. Markets, Political, Economic, and Legal Institutions

As we begin a new century, no force has been as dominant or transcendent as the force of free markets. In every arena – expected and unexpected – market forces have challenged and often eclipsed traditional ways of thinking. Every profession from law, business, and medicine have been buffeted and forced to react to the forces of competition and the laws of supply and demand. Traditional areas, where markets have not been seen as solutions but perhaps problems, are now being rethought. For example, while a theory of public goods and analysis of externalities have often cast a skeptical eye on markets and pollution, more recent breakthroughs in economics and engineering allow for a revolution in the

ways we solve environmental problems. Vanderbilt has the areas of expertise and centers of excellence to be leaders in analyzing markets, professions, and market failures in the areas of law, business, and the environment.

1. Leaders in Law and Business: A Joint Program in Law and Owen

Vanderbilt is one of the few institutions that can claim highly ranked and internationally recognized programs in Law and Business. The Vanderbilt Law School has traditionally been one of the most highly ranked and visible schools at Vanderbilt. Though relatively young compared to other schools at Vanderbilt, the Owen School of Management has established itself as a top school of business. When we look at our competitor universities we see that this is a distinct advantage. Johns Hopkins has no law or business school. Dartmouth has a fine business school but no law school. Brown has neither, and while Washington University and Emory have both, we are of the view that they have no competitive advantage in quality or tradition. Moreover, it is highly unusual to find such highly regarded law and business schools within such close proximity. Plainly our geography and the excellence of these two schools present significant opportunities.

This joint effort is important for other reasons. There has been and is an increasingly strong linkage between the worlds of business and law. Almost every stage of the building of a business enterprise is nested in a regime of public regulatory and private contract law. Complex business transactions at any point in the “life cycle” of a firm are often managed, created, and executed by teams of professionals, often drawn from the worlds of law and business.

Driven by these modern realities and spurred by the leadership in Law and Owen and by this planning process, these two schools have developed a new and innovative program in Law and Business. The plan involves an interdisciplinary curriculum in Law and Business, key faculty appointments to add strength to the areas of interaction, joint research efforts, and new recruitment strategies for students. The two schools are deeply committed to this joint effort, and believe they can establish the strongest law-business program in the United States. Indeed, we believe that this process is well on its way. Already the Law School has hired two chaired professors to lead this program, and there is high student demand. Strategically, it is important to note that this is not a joint degree program, since that already exists, but a planned coordination of courses that will enable a graduate of either school to gain the most rigorous and innovative possible training — law students in business, business students in law. The program requires new faculty, a coordinated curriculum, and shared research efforts. The two schools will hold special conferences, establish a Center for Law and Business to focus research, and begin a new Journal of Law and Business.

2. The Vanderbilt Center for the Study of Law and Politics

Vanderbilt has a rare and unique opportunity to design a distinctive program in Law and Politics. Again, our campus geography and our constellation of schools provides Vanderbilt with a distinct advantage. The Law School and Political Science Department are within short walking distance, and over the past several years the Law School has increasingly adopted a strategy of developing the preeminent program in public law, public policy, and governmental institutions. Currently, the Law School is recognized as one of the preeminent institutions for the study of constitutional law, administrative law, legislation, and government. Significantly, these areas of distinction and strength are joined by a traditional leadership in international law and politics. In the past three years the Law School has hired two professors from top ranked political science departments, drawn to be part of the Law School’s emphasis on law and politics and more importantly, to be part of a University with a great Law School and a tradition of excellence in political science. The opportunities are not simply limited to the Law School and the Department of Political Science. The Departments of Economics, Sociology, Philosophy, and History, and the Vanderbilt Institute of Public Policy Studies already have strong linkages with the Law School. It would be natural for this Center to expand broadly beyond the Law School to include all social sciences and public policy.

We are also of the view that this program in Law and Politics could prove to be significant in advancing other goals articulated in this plan. First, this program would greatly enrich the educational experiences of undergraduates, who would have the opportunity to learn with faculty from Political Science and the Law School. We believe that this would be a significant advantage in the recruitment to Vanderbilt of undergraduate students who seek to become leaders. We also note that this initiative fits comfortably with our recommendation that Vanderbilt explore a six-year J.D.-B.A. in Law and Politics, and consider early admission of students to both the J.D. and B.A. programs. Second, the distinctive combination of Law and Politics and the opportunity to be a leader in this important field will be an advantage in recruitment of faculty. It bears noting that some of Vanderbilt’s top competitors for faculty and students either do not have a Law School, or do not have a Law School that has the distinction of Vanderbilt’s. Hence, top faculty in law, political science, and indeed other social sciences may be drawn to Vanderbilt by this potent combination. Third, a program in Law and Politics would provide an opportunity to recruit outstanding graduate students to Vanderbilt. It is increasingly the case that Ph.D. graduates are seeking to become academic leaders in their chosen field and in law as well. Indeed many of the outstanding law schools and departments of political science include faculty with Ph.D. and J.D. training. In our view, this trend is likely to continue and indeed accelerate, for the understanding of law and legal institutions is more than ever grounded in cross-disciplinary approaches. Fourth, this program in Law and Politics would provide enriching and exciting opportunities for undergraduates to engage in service learning, internships, and field research. Vanderbilt has a distinctive advantage of being in a state capital, where the very institutions studied – courts, administrative bureaus, a legislature, and interest groups – are literally in our own back yard. Moreover, important federal institutions have a significant presence in Nashville, with Vanderbilt graduates, faculty, and alumni often holding significant positions in local, state, and federal government. A strong academic program could well include opportunities for research, service learning, and internships for students and faculty.

In sum, we recommend that Vanderbilt become a leader in the study of Law and Politics. It is a strategy that leverages off of unique strengths, characteristics, and traditions in the University. Moreover, this program would provide significant educational experiences for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Of greatest significance, it would provide Vanderbilt an opportunity to become a leader in this important field, and train future leaders in law, the academy, and public policy.

3. Institute for Environmental Risk and Resources Management

The Institute is an example of a program which requires initial funding to realize its goal of serving to coordinate environmental research and educational programs in areas in which Vanderbilt has developed expertise, primarily in the School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Science, but also in the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies. It also would build on closely related strengths in other schools, including Owen, Peabody, Divinity, and Law, and the Medical Center. The initial focus would be in areas of broad interest and institutional strength, such as environmental issues associated with the Cold War legacy (i.e., nuclear and chemical weapons production) and environmental management. It can be a model exemplifying the benefits of interschool/interdisciplinary development and strengthening graduate programs through interdepartmental leveraging. Vanderbilt’s outreach and service presence also would be enhanced. The program would seek endowed funding for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, a visiting faculty program, and an endowed rotating chaired professorship. Institute goals will be to coordinate undergraduate and graduate education in environmental studies; aid in the recruitment of faculty, postgraduate scholars, and graduate students in environmental studies; offer University-wide seminars on environmental issues; offer graduate fellowships and undergraduate internships; seek grants for multidisciplinary training in environmental studies; seek funding and advisory ties with governmental and corporate agencies; and obtain cooperation with national and international research organizations and other universities.

We close by emphasizing the importance of these trans-institutional initiatives to Vanderbilt and its future. These initiatives recognize unique strength and assets of Vanderbilt, particularly in joint efforts with our great professional schools – Divinity, Law, Owen, and Medicine. They will allow us to transcend the boundaries of disciplines, schools, and departments. They will be a magnet for outstanding faculty, and the most intellectually talented and curious students of all kinds. Correspondingly, they will challenge these boundaries, perhaps eliminate them, and certainly demand that our business models, principles of faculty affiliation, and tolerance for budding new disciplines be tested and further rethought.


Vanderbilt’s reputation currently rests on two strong foundations. First, Vanderbilt has an outstanding reputation for undergraduate education. Vanderbilt’s emphasis on small classes, taught by tenured or tenure track faculty, along with a commitment to community and civility on a residential campus, gives it an enviable place among outstanding research universities. Part of the strategy laid out in our plan is to further build on this reputation for first-rate undergraduate education by recommending new undergraduate programs, admissions initiatives, and a residential college system. Second, Vanderbilt has a unique and exceptional collection of professional schools. The Divinity School, Medical School, Law School, and the Owen School of Management are consistently ranked among the finest in their respective categories. Again, part of our strategic plan seeks to leverage off of the strength of these professional schools in creating new trans-institutional programs that will offer new opportunities for learning, teaching, and discovery by students and faculty.

Yet there remains a third important foundation for greatness at Vanderbilt and that is graduate education. To be sure, Vanderbilt has established some outstanding Ph.D. programs in selected areas, and improvement in these areas and new ones continue as this planning process goes forward. However, for Vanderbilt to claim an even broader leadership role in higher education and society at large there must be dramatic improvements in graduate education at Vanderbilt. The reasons for this leadership role in graduate education are threefold. First, it is through strength and distinction in graduate education that a university truly lays claim to leadership and impact in higher education. After all, those who are trained through Ph.D. programs are the next generation of university teachers and scholars. It is these graduate students who will eventually train, teach, and mentor the college students of the future. We are strongly of the view that Vanderbilt must assert itself and lay claim to training the next generation of university faculty and leaders in their fields. Second, we diminish Vanderbilt’s leadership role by laying claim to a unique community of civil discourse as the mark of Vanderbilt but failing to seek to extend that culture to other universities. We are proud of and jealously guard this sense of community, civility, and intellectual engagement across disciplines. But it is not enough that this exists only at Vanderbilt. If indeed we are seeking a leadership role in higher education, we must more self- confidently assert our intent and goal to shape the culture, learning, and discourse of other universities by training the next generation of teachers and discoverers. Third, the leadership Vanderbilt seeks is not simply in higher education, but in the broader society. Graduates of Ph.D. programs often choose careers in business, industry, government, and scientific research outside of the university setting. We forsake our leadership role if we do not set a course that seeks to have graduates of Vanderbilt Ph.D. programs trained in programs that are outstanding. In short, Ph.D. graduates are those who often make the next scientific breakthrough, win a distinguished prize for a research discovery, cure a disease, or simply make a world of difference in the life of a young college student. Vanderbilt’s progress must include dramatic improvements in this key area. Below we set forth our strategy for doing so.

First, Vanderbilt and its leadership must recognize and reward the contribution made by great graduate teaching, and its obvious difference from undergraduate and professional teaching. Graduate teaching takes many different forms, and evaluating it often cannot be discerned from the typical student evaluations often used in undergraduate or professional schools. Graduate classes tend to be quite small, particularly when compared to introductory, large lecture courses. Graduate education is more peer to peer training, with the responsibility for learning and teaching diffused across a small but intense group of learners. Graduate education often occurs outside of the traditional confines of a classroom, and may involve mentoring, questioning, and criticism in one on one settings outside of class. Success in graduate education often takes different and sometimes more tangible form than found in undergraduate education. For example, a faculty member engaged in graduate training may co-author a research paper in a prominent journal with a student, or provide useful feedback on a dissertation that leads to publication as a book. It is rare to find analogous measures of success in undergraduate or professional training. For Vanderbilt to make strides in graduate education we must explicitly recognize the importance, value, and need for excellence in graduate education in hiring, promotion, and tenure of faculty.

Second, it is clear that great faculty draw the best graduate students. Given the small classes, close mentoring involved, and the frequent path to a career in academia, it is hardly surprising that graduate students focus overwhelmingly on faculty quality when applying to and selecting graduate programs. Thus, it is clear that drawing the best faculty will lead to significant improvements in graduate education. It is our strong belief that the strategies for hiring and retaining top faculty we have outlined will be successful in continuing to build an outstanding faculty that will draw the top graduate students. Apart from these strategies, we would emphasize that Vanderbilt must remain flexible and adaptive in recruiting and retaining top faculty who are outstanding undergraduate and graduate teachers, and great researchers. A “one size fits all” set of policies that limit the ability of Vanderbilt to recruit and retain top faculty across a variety of disciplines is likely to operate as a major impediment to our success. Indeed, we would emphasize that Vanderbilt is virtually unique in the array of schools it has on its geographically compact campus. For that reason, it is essential that the differences among disciplines and school cultures be recognized in recruiting of faculty members. A faculty member in the biological sciences, working on a major project that requires establishing a new laboratory in her first semester at Vanderbilt, must be treated differently from a faculty member who typically teaches in a discipline that might allow for different responsibilities during the first semester at Vanderbilt. Failure to acknowledge and recruit against this background of differences will limit the talented pool of faculty from which Vanderbilt recruits.

Third, Vanderbilt must recognize that it cannot invest widely but shallowly across graduate programs and expect to achieve distinction and greatness. The vast array of schools, programs, and departments found at Vanderbilt offers a richness of intellectual range. However, it is essential that Vanderbilt makes strategic choices among these departments and disciplines and invests wisely to build distinction in those areas where strength currently resides or where strategic opportunities present themselves. In some areas, investments and choices have already been made based on prior planning efforts or through choices made by leadership in and across schools, with great progress shown. For example, investments have allowed Vanderbilt to establish leadership in research and graduate training in key areas of neuroscience. Similar progress has already been made in a Law and Business program. In other areas, such as English, Vanderbilt has an acknowledged tradition and continued strength in graduate training.

In making these investment choices, five essential principles must govern. First, Vanderbilt must have the existing strength or potential for leadership in the field. There must be a substantive determination that the area chosen is one where Vanderbilt can establish leadership in graduate education. Second, there must be an open, fair, and deliberative process for making these choices for investment and leadership. Absent transparency, free debate, and full explanation, a sense of distrust and frustration will persist. It is essential that the faculty play a substantial role in this planning process. Third, regardless of the choices in key areas for investment to improve graduate education, all faculty must be part of the process of intellectual engagement, mentoring, and training that is the essence of outstanding graduate education. Thus, it is essential that all faculty have the opportunity to play a substantial role in graduate education. In this regard, we are optimistic that the trans-institutional programs outlined in our plan will be particularly critical. We expect that top graduate students will be recruited into outstanding Ph.D. programs – often grounded in existing departments – but that much of the teaching, mentoring, discovery, and intellectual engagement will be found in these trans-institutional programs. For example, it may well be that even if a department has no Ph.D. program, the faculty in that department play a key role in educating top graduate students whose intellectual home is both a department or a Center or Institute that is trans-institutional in nature. Fourth, new resources must be brought to invest in all aspects of graduate education. Not surprisingly, these resources must be invested primarily in faculty and students to be recruited into our outstanding graduate programs. Fifth, we recommend that the recruitment of graduate students become a major university priority, with a clear goal being the training of outstanding future leaders. No less than – or indeed even more so than in undergraduate education – financial aid and assistance are critical to recruiting top graduate students. These students are often married and supporting a family, in addition to attending school. We must make our financial offers more competitive, since our data tell us that we are not succeeding in recruiting into our programs the very best students. Also, the weakness of some of our programs, when combined with inadequate financial assistance, severely impacts both the size and quality of the pool of applicants for graduate programs at Vanderbilt. Additionally, we recommend that a critical eye be cast at any existing policies linking graduate student enrollment to the need for teaching assistants. Graduate education ought to be driven by that which drives all of student recruiting at Vanderbilt – creating a community of exceptional learners and discoverers. We think it clear that graduate student recruitment ought to be driven by the quality of the applicant pool and by Vanderbilt’s ability to train students in a first rank program.

Finally, we would note that a “one size fits all” approach to the training of graduate students might not be appropriate. Often times graduate education is viewed narrowly, with the training process geared toward producing future academicians who will seek positions exclusively or primarily in research I institutions. But in fact, historically and increasingly, Ph.D. graduates from humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences choose many different career paths. Some will indeed go on to become professors at research I institutions. But others will teach in small liberal arts colleges, others may go into industry, while still others may choose a career in public policy. And even those who seek to become professors at research I institutions may be headed first to post-doctoral training. We must take measures not to rigidify the curriculum, training, and teaching opportunities we present to our graduate students. Instead, we should assure that our Ph.D. programs allow students the widest array of training opportunities which match with their career objectives.

We close by emphasizing the need for commitment and inclusion in this process of improving graduate education. We would encourage the University leadership to endorse this strategic goal of having Vanderbilt assume a leadership role in graduate education. Additionally, we emphasize the need for the Chancellor, the Provost, and all Deans to be mindful of the need for open and transparent debate on and explanation of proposed choices in this strategic process that will determine where investments will be made. In particular, we believe that the decisions of the ongoing Strategic Academic Planning Group and the Integrated Financial Planning group should be widely disseminated, and that the process be made more transparent, and decisions made more expeditiously. Difficult choices must be made, and investment will be necessary from both new and reallocated existing resources. Hence a process that has widespread support must be adopted.


There can be no doubt that Vanderbilt is a well-managed institution. However, it has become increasingly apparent that over the years, some of our current practices have not been adapted to changing realities in both competitive education markets and the changing nature of institutional research. Indeed, this entire strategic planning process is testament to the need for adaptation. With each school at Vanderbilt largely retaining overall budget autonomy, the ability for overall institutional strategic planning was minimal. Provost Burish’s development of a process of departmental and school based external reviews and evaluation was an essential first step towards a coherent and meaningful planning process.

However, a planning process, particularly when tied to an ETOB budget system, may fail for lack of incentives and overall direction. While a planning process might identify areas of synergy, success would depend on discovery and design where such synergies were either net budget gains or budget neutral for the schools involved. Moreover, without incentives to create these synergies, it would prove quite difficult to ask schools to cohere around University-wide initiatives, since these would be neither widespread nor visible.

A. The Academic Venture Capital Fund

Faced with this challenge during the planning process, Chancellor Gee and the Board of Trust, on the recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor for Medical Affairs and the Provost, approved a new initiative — the Academic Venture Capital Fund (AVCF). The AVCF seeks to address the shortcomings of an ETOB budgeting system for producing interdisciplinary and inter-school initiatives that we believe will be an important basis for Vanderbilt’s future excellence.

The AVCF makes available funding for variable periods of time for inter-departmental or inter- school initiatives that meet certain criteria. In short, these criteria allow funding in an area where Vanderbilt has the potential to move to the front rank of discovery, research, and teaching. Some investments have already been made for fiscal 2001-02 from this ACVF and the success of this funding will be subject to both external and internal review to insure that there is progress towards the goal of academic excellence.

We believe that it is essential for the Chancellor, the Provost, and all University leadership to re- examine continually and carefully the underlying criteria employed in awarding AVCF funds. As currently articulated, these criteria require that proposals receiving AVCF funding become self- sustaining within a relatively short period of time. In other words, the AVCF funding is seed funding only. It is clear that this model of self-funding works best with the sciences and engineering, where available outside funding far exceeds that available for the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, against this background it is not surprising that the first round of funding went exclusively to the sciences and engineering. Generally speaking, there may be no need to alter the fundamental principle of self-funding. But the University needs to remain flexible and recognize differences in funding models across disciplines and departments. As we progress in the University’s Shape the Future Capital Campaign it is clearly necessary to align philanthropic efforts to support those areas that define the heart of a great university – humanities and social sciences. We would note that the trans-institutional initiatives outlined above that focus primarily on the social sciences and humanities have budgetary needs almost predominantly in the area of faculty chairs. Importantly, faculty chairs are a major priority in the capital campaign and therefore we are optimistic that through philanthropy and a careful assessment of the AVCF award criteria, excellence throughout the University will be assured. Also, we are confident that these areas drawing central investment will not only be supported by philanthropy but also be increasingly the focus on investments by individual schools whose strength is closely tied to these programs.

B. Forging of New and Different Partnerships

The higher education market is peculiar, with many different institutions serving different markets, but almost no partnering across institutions. While competitors in all markets seek to improve on each other’s performance, shrewd and visionary competitors look for synergistic partnerships to advance to the front rank. Interestingly but not surprisingly, higher education has produced few such joint ventures. We believe that success and progress lies in Vanderbilt exploring these partnerships. Two have already been undertaken.

1. Liberal Arts Colleges and Vanderbilt Linkages

In competing for undergraduate students, primary among Vanderbilt’s top competitors are Duke, Washington University, Emory, University of Virginia, and Northwestern. Less visible competitors can be found in the small liberal arts colleges in those regions where Vanderbilt is strongest. This is not surprising, for a student who chooses Rhodes, Denison, or Davidson over Vanderbilt has from the start pre-selected for a smaller school. Hence, while in somewhat overlapping markets, small liberal arts colleges in fact offer almost entirely different market choices for high school students.

Although these small liberal arts colleges have attributes which make them appeal to students, it is clear that by partnering with these schools Vanderbilt can provide strategic benefits to itself and to these colleges. We set some of these out below:

  • Students from these liberal arts colleges may be desirable candidates for early admission to Vanderbilt’s professional schools
  • Students from these liberal arts colleges may seek to enroll in “bridge” programs in business, nursing, and education in their junior year in college
  • Students from these liberal arts colleges may elect to enroll in Vanderbilt as a visiting student to participate in a research project
  • Students from these liberal arts colleges may be desirable candidates for early admission or for early identification for admission to Vanderbilt’s top graduate departments
  • Vanderbilt graduate students may be part of faculty exchange programs or faculty hiring programs at these fine liberal arts colleges

These and other benefits strongly argue for such partnerships. We are encouraged that Vanderbilt is already engaged in discussion with Rhodes College that will include some of the programs outlined above. We are optimistic that pilot programs will come out of these discussions. Moreover, as the Rhodes-Vanderbilt partnership is developed, we are optimistic that this sort of arrangement has the partnership to scale to apply to many of the fine liberal arts colleges in the region.

2. Technology, Distance Learning, and Other Partnerships

As the Internet boom accelerated, a wide range of universities, including many of our competitors, launched distance learning initiatives. At the same time, Vanderbilt and its various schools were exploring either self-standing distance education programs, or partnerships with other universities and business entities. Commentators and educators responded to this phenomenon with mixed reactions, with some viewing distance learning as a welcome movement toward democratization of knowledge and a new and plentiful source of revenue for institutions that might be able to alleviate pressures on tuition charges. Others, however, warned of technological, cultural, and pedagogical challenges to the development of quality distance education programs.

With the bursting of the Internet bubble, skepticism about distance education seems to have increased, and much of the capital that fueled these ventures in private markets has dried up. Yet we believe that it would be a mistake for Vanderbilt to stand on the sidelines, even in this period of quiescence. Because there are unanswered questions and opportunities here, it would be wise for Vanderbilt to continue to pursue partnerships and develop “home grown” products in the area of distance learning and other areas of technological innovation. Indeed, we believe that Vanderbilt can and should be a leader in developing and evaluating distance learning technologies. One of the core missions of our trans-institutional Learning Sciences Institute is the development and assessment of technological tools for learning. The LSI, with partnership drawing from the Associate Provost for Technology and the Assistant to the Chancellor for Information Technology, should serve as the drivers and incubators for the promise held by this new technology.

Increasingly we believe that the education market is changing dramatically. In brief, we see three major issues facing major universities:

  • Commodification of the education industry
  • Accountability
  • Leadership training (moving out of academia)

These three significant changes are in turn driven by deeper forces that will continue a rapid pace of change, including:

  • Networked environment—people work and learn in a networked environment
  • Learning— with a focus on learning outcomes
  • For-profit institutions
  • More consortium-like activities
  • Shifts in demographics
  • Globalization
  • Greater focus on a few areas of strength

How has the context specifically changed for Universities? Most importantly, we no longer have a monopoly. Moreover, while traditional universities depend upon philanthropy, grants, and tuition for funding, these new ventures have access to funds through capital markets. Clearly, we see a change in the providers of education. There are now multiple and alternative providers in teacher education, educational leadership preparation, and continuing professional development, such as for-profit providers including Phoenix, Sylvan, UNEXT (e-Cornell is a for-profit in higher education).

It is unlikely that universities like Vanderbilt will be successful with a competitive strategy often used in industries in transition or decline. We will not be able to control these developments by trying to be regulators of who enters this environment and market. Such strategies would provoke both serious legal issues as well as a host of political issues tied to the cost and accessibility of education. Moreover, the public image has already shifted about who should be the legitimate providers; now the public is open to alternative providers and is even wondering if they do a better job than traditional educational institutions.

Evidence of these changes is found in various markets and developments. Most visibly, K-12 has become receptive to alternative providers. There is confidence in the market-based system and increasingly people want choice and think it is good. Increasingly, people view themselves as consumers of educational services and want to be treated as discerning consumers. While certainly a development in K-12, undergraduate education has become a much more robust consumer market as well, with increasing demands for information and results from both parents and high school students. Similarly, while less of a focus in higher education, in the for-profit markets there is an increasing focus on accountability—how do you demonstrate outcomes? Higher education has not addressed this issue well. Professional schools, prompted by rankings and more savvy customers are increasingly focused on providing placement data. But apart from this rough measure of outcomes, little attention has been paid to outcomes in learning. Learning is no longer seat time or a degree or simply credentialing. People increasingly expect universities to show that people have learned and that we have provided value-added benefits.

Against this background, we believe that the K-16 components will continue to be under pressure from a for-profit sector that is emerging quickly. There are now over 675 degree granting for- profit institutions in the world and approximately 1000 virtual institutions. Moreover, partnerships are also forming, e.g., between for-profits and higher education. Sylvan, which has a niche in the education market, has seen annual revenues grow from $10 million (1991) to $561 million (1999). In addition to Sylvan, other entities – Thompson and Kaplan – with a toehold in education have invested in e-learning. We believe that we cannot lose sight of these challenges and opportunities, and indeed we must ourselves use our current strengths in Peabody, Engineering, and other parts of Vanderbilt to assess, innovate, and explore in this area of technology, distance learning, and educational markets that include but reach beyond our own.

We would also be remiss if we did not add that a core strategy must be to provide lifelong educational opportunities to our alumni and others. Vanderbilt alumni from all of the schools are leaders in business, law, engineering, industry, government, education, and the non-profit world. Our graduates – and their co-workers – daily are required to keep up with developments in their areas of expertise. Or they are forced to learn entirely new areas in a dynamic employment and information environment. How does a law graduate from 1983 learn about the intellectual property law governing on the Internet? How does a medical school graduate of 1985 learn about new fetal surgery techniques?

How does a Peabody graduate of 1990 learn of new teaching technologies for children with leaning disabilities? It would be a lost opportunity, and failure to leverage off of Vanderbilt’s reputation for excellence in teaching and learning, if we did not focus on this core group of life-long learners. Indeed, thousands of them live within hours of our campus, so it is not simply an opportunity for distance learning. It is an entirely different way of engaging alumni as students and potentially teachers.

In short, the key trends we have identified – an increasing knowledge-based economy, the changing needs of industry, technological advances, and the sheer volume of the market (worldwide–$3 trillion industry, US $640 billion, with $253 billion in post-secondary; $309 billion in K-12, and $78 billion in other) – should put us on alert to the changes in our market and the opportunities we have to be a leader, given our excellence and expertise. But we must not be idle or over-confident. We are being challenged. Competition is never gentle. It will become fierce and while our prestige will be an asset, we cannot assume that it will serve as a source of protection. We do not want to find ourselves like the great castle fortress builders who were trapped when faced with the invention of the cannon.

We are confident that several responses have already been taken and form the core of our existing strategies. To be successful in these markets, we must provide customized programs –i.e., menu driven, modules or “cafeteria style” choices. Leadership in Peabody through the LSI put us in an enviable strategic position, both in basic research and in the development of new learning technologies and products. The work of the LSI and other areas of strength at Vanderbilt tell us that we need to be open to new paradigms—especially in e-learning, where the promise of e-learning lies in access (with geography not being a factor), time, segmented and targeted information. In short, we need to come forward with new ways of learning and be able to work with new providers, new markets, changing markets, and changing expectations.

C. A Continuous and Dynamic Strategic Planning Process, Benchmarks, and Accountability

We emphasize that this draft strategic plan is only the first step in what must be an ongoing and dynamic strategic planning process. Indeed, we may well advise that this plan maintain the label “draft,” to guard against the mistaken impression that somehow the planning process has come to a satisfactory halt. We are supported in our conclusion by three key facts.

First, it is simply impossible to plan or know in advance where the new disciplines, breakthroughs or discoveries will be made. Many of the disciplines and departments we know of today, and which seem immanent and foundational, simply did not exist in the past. This tells us that if we fail to put in place a process by which we encourage innovation that calls for investment we are likely to be followers rather than leaders.

Second, a continual and dynamic planning process is necessary to prevent rigidity, path dependence, a sense of entitlement, or a feeling that there are winners and losers. While we must be confident in our investments in areas of strength, we cannot deny that areas not chosen for investment in one year will present significant strategic opportunities in another year. Accordingly, for intellectual reasons and to foster a feeling of dynamism, inclusion, and partnership, we believe it essential that there be an annual process of planning and opportunities for potential new investment.

We have already put in place the mechanisms for this process of dynamic and continual investment in strategic initiatives. The Academic Venture Capital Fund is an ongoing and continued source of support, funded through various university sources. The AVCF must be part of a transparent and simple strategic planning process, open to all to submit proposals. Across Vanderbilt – in all the schools and disciplines including medical and nursing – there are sitting Strategic Academic Planning Groups that will receive, analyze, and vet proposals. These in turn will be sent forward to an Integrated Financial Planning Group that will assess the academic and fiscal promise and needs of these proposals. These planning groups will give focus and provide incentives to participate regularly in a planning process.

Finally, through an open and robust debate and discussion, we need to develop goals, benchmarks, and ways to measure our progress and the wisdom and efficacy of investments we make. We are aware that Vanderbilt consists of different schools where research, discovery, and learning take many forms. It will not serve our mission well if we adopt goals and benchmarks that fail to recognize this richness in diversity. Moreover, our goals cannot simply be those imposed entirely by others’ perception of what is to be valued in education. Rather, we are strongly of the view that the elaboration of these goals and benchmarks must be tied to our mission.

We would offer our challenges in graduate education as an example. We have outlined our challenges and set forth several strategic actions. How will we measure our progress in graduate education? Is it simply by counting Ph.D.s granted, or should our goal be more directly tied to our mission – to train the next generation of leaders in the academy, research, and other areas? If so, the long term outcomes of our graduate education clearly become far more important, and accordingly might be the best measure of our success in meeting our mission.

We expect these goals and benchmarks to grow out of the debate, discussion, and implementation of our strategic plan. Engagement of all constituencies with strong interests in articulating how our goals and benchmarks are tied to our mission is essential. Clearly a plan that goes forward without broad support throughout the institution for those goals and benchmarks is unlikely to be the foundation for progress. We also recognize that for some cost-benefit analysis is sometimes a default metric against which to measure our investments and success. While not intending to suggest that costs and benefits of investments are irrelevant, we explicitly recognize that in meeting our mission “softer” benefits must be recognized. For example, one of the goals of a residential college system is to allow faculty and students to spend more time together outside of class, whether that time be on intellectual discussion, career advice, or simply building social community. Of course we have mechanisms to assess whether in fact that outcome is occurring in our first residential college.

However, we would resist any immediate impulse to attempt to ascribe or demand immediately a quantifiable financial benefit for this desired change in our intellectual and social atmosphere on campus that would offset the investment cost. In other words, while we strongly endorse the need to have measurable goals and benchmarks for our success, we recognize that it will not always be easy to translate our meeting these goals into a strict financial benefit for Vanderbilt.


We close by emphasizing several important points about our Draft Plan. First, our Draft Plan sets out an ambitious and bold future for Vanderbilt but is tied to the mission and unique qualities of our University. Throughout we have attempted to articulate strategies that are based upon what Vanderbilt seeks to achieve and the distinctive intellectual, academic, and social community that defines Vanderbilt. Second, we have made clear that our strategy must focus on investment in human capital. Our past, present, and future greatness will in large part be based upon the extraordinary students and faculty we bring to Vanderbilt. It is through their work on campus, and certainly their impact in the world as well, that will define whether or not Vanderbilt is marked as an institution that trains unusually talented, visionary, and accomplished leaders. Third, our implementation efforts must be tied to goals and benchmarks that measure our progress and the value of our investments. But at all stages of decision and implementation we must have an open, transparent, and rigorous process for debate and discussion. As noted at the outset, the success of our Plan will in all likelihood be based not simply on the qualities of the ideas set forth above and developed and modified as we go forward, but the willingness of the Vanderbilt community – especially the faculty – to work together in all stages of the important work ahead.

Summary – A & S



JUNE 2001

The Dean’s development of a strategic plan for the College of Arts and Science is guided and informed by the Chancellor’s decision to advance Vanderbilt University into the top rank of United States research universities while strengthening our historical commitment to excellence in teaching at all levels. As “the heart of the University” (Chancellor Gee), the College of Arts and Science recognizes and accepts its essential role in achieving this objective, a has shaped its vision accordingly. The summary below of the College’s plan rests upon recommendations brought forward by the Strategic Academic Planning task force of the College of Arts and Science (SAP-CAS), identifies initiatives likely to accelerate institutional ascent, and assumes appropriate funding for their implementation.

  1. Conversion of undergraduate housing to a residential college system. Categorically and by far the most effective means of transforming the campus into a principally intellectual community.
  2. Establishment of three “Centers”. The Americas; The Creative Arts; Religion and Culture
    1. Center for the Americas: Uniquely offering comparative, interdisciplinary, thematic, and cross-regional studies of all the Americas, drawing upon faculty expertise in at least four schools, certain to strengthen existing departments and programs, attract funding and students, and sharpen the international profile of the institution.
    2. Center for the Creative Arts: Focuses and appropriately, safely houses multiple artistic endeavors from ac the University; provides essential space for creative activity; contributes to the highly desirable intellectual and cultural diversification of the campus; aids recruitment and retention; at long last legitimizes the “Arts” in the “College of Arts and Science”; and incarnates declared institutional respect for “creative expression”.
    3. Center for the Study of Religion and Culture: Exploits the strengths and prestige of the graduate Department of Religion; involves four to five schools, at least six departments, and many faculty in interdisciplinary expansion of research fields and curriculum to include Islam, Jewish studies, and the religions o China and Southeast Asia; takes advantage of regional resources.
  3. Establishment of “Programs” in Law and Humanities (and Politics); Media Studies; B.A./ B.S. – M.A.T. in foreig languages; Continuing Studies and Part-Time Graduate Studies:
    1. Law and Humanities (and, ultimately Politics): Uniquely integrates professional school and College academic enterprises and offers the first research university program uniting these disciplines; transforms pre-professional education; defines an filed of study; enables cutting-edge research; and attracts front-line faculty, graduate and law students.
    2. Media Studies: synergistically converges strengths of five schools; leverages creative, artistic and entertainment riches of the community; potentially situates Vanderbilt as leader in film and multimedia production and digital research; provides focus for integration of campus creative activity.
    3. B.A./B.S. – M.A.T. in Foreign Languages: inexpensively addresses the serious shortage of secondary level language instructors; expedites the certification process.
    4. Continuing Studies and Part-Time Programs: generate revenue; improve community Outreach.
  4. Immediate and substantial investment in the graduate programs of the Departments of English, Spanish and Portuguese, and Anthropology:
    1. English: the recently transformed flagship humanities department, with effective leadership, strengths across the board, versatility and widespread programmatic involvement, and estimable and rising reputation, and an ambitious, cogent plan of development.
    2. Spanish and Portuguese: the premiere foreign language program, with good leadership, heavy enrollments, harmonious faculty, strengths in both Peninsular and Latin American studies, supportive associations with all related programs and with the Vanderbilt Press, and high demand of PhD’s in the field.
    3. Anthropology: A premiere department, internationally, in Mesoamerican anthropology; excellent discovery and research record; exceptional junior hires; exceptional placement record; a diverse population; significant programmatic involvement; developing secondary research field (Andean).
  5. Immediate and substantial upgrades and use of IT infrastructure, equipment, systems, and service: serious inadequacies and deficiencies in information technology leadership and systems for teaching research across University Central are patent and must be promptly, comprehensively, and generously addressed.
  6. Exploration of interdisciplinary and trans-institutional initiatives in the Natural Sciences: In lieu of attempting to move one or more existing Natural Science department into the top echelon: capitalize upon world-class Engineering and Medicine talents intersecting with CAS research programs. Exploits campus geography; builds upon models in Structural Biology and CICN; attracts cutting-edge faculty; upgrades graduate student quality. Candidates: Biomathematics; and Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
  7. Curtailment of graduate student and non-regular faculty instruction of advanced courses. Despite a national trend in the other direction, the College must honor the foundational premise that a research- active faculty involves itself in the maintenance of high-quality undergraduate instruction.
  8. Renovation or replacement of the Vanderbilt University Library: The College’s teaching and research missions and its scholarly reputation are seriously handicapped by its problematic library facilities. A comprehensive, long-term architectural and financial study and plan must be developed to correct this fettering circumstance.
  9. Addition of targeted endowed chairs: Essentially a new rank, endowed chairs are fundamental to the research reputation and scholarly competitiveness of the institution. Appointments should be made in areas – interdisciplinary or departmental – likely to benefit maximally in terms of momentum, reputation and visibility.
  10. Increased and diversified scholarship aid and improvement in recruitment strategies: To remain or become competitive for the best, but also to attract the different, scholarship and fellowship aid must be increased, varied in form and duration, and partially reserved of late-bloomers. High-schoolers might be admitted at the end of the Junior year; juniors in college might be admitted then to Vanderbilt graduate and professional schools, etc.
  11. Decentralization of responsibility and redistribution of accountability: Micro- management may be passé: department-based business planning, department-centered decision-making, department-based management of teaching, etc., may need to replace it in order to streamline options.
  12. Creation of a Standing Committee for Strategic Planning: The planning process begun here must continue: many received proposals are recommended for further development; new proposals will certainly arise. An agency for formal review and recommendation should be appointed.

The précis of this College’s academic plan minimally represents the sum of proposals, recommendations, endorsements, and suggestions developed by SAP-CAS over the past seven months. Details are recorded in the forthcoming report. a complete picture of the transformed institution there envisioned, the report should be read in full.

Vanderbilt University School of Engineering

Strategic Plan Summary

Mission of the School of Engineering

The mission of the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering is to provide a high quality engineering education in an environment energized by scholarship and research in the fields of biomedical, chemical, civil, environmental, mechanical, and electrical engineering, and in computer science and computer engineering. The School is committed to making a significant and positive impact on people’s lives.

Technology and its applications permeate and affect virtually every aspect of daily life. Technology is a major driver of the global economy, and success in the production of vital technologies is critical to our economic future and quality of life. Engineering provides the body of knowledge, theories, facts, skills and methods that produce effective technologies. Consequently, engineering and engineering research have become critical to the University and the nation. The School of Engineering is educating students to take leadership roles in our technological future and is engaging both students and faculty in world- class research that will lead to technological advancement.

To prepare our students, the School of Engineering offers the depth and breadth of education required to solve a multiplicity of real-world problems by creating and applying engineering solutions.

Traditionally a multi-disciplinary field, engineering incorporates knowledge from across the academic spectrum. The School of Engineering undergraduate and graduate programs balance highly specialized engineering education and research opportunities with broad learning opportunities from other fields, integrating and tailoring the student’s education to provide intellectual richness and flexibility.

To strengthen our national and international leadership role in engineering research and scholarship, the School of Engineering is committed to enhancing its partnerships and collaborations within Vanderbilt as well as within national and international arenas. Within the University, the School has developed strong research partnerships with colleagues in Peabody College, the Medical Center, and the Departments of Physics and Chemistry. Through ongoing programs funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and NASA, the School participates in multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional collaborations with several top-twenty-five universities and with several national laboratories. In the future, the School plans to contribute heavily to transinstitutional thrusts in nano-science and nano-engineering, biophysics and bioengineering, environmental issues, learning sciences, and cognitive neuroscience.


The leadership and faculty of the School of Engineering intend to broaden and strengthen the School’s reputation, impact and importance to the populations it serves, continuing to provide an excellent undergraduate engineering education and strengthening its graduate educational programs.

To better prepare students to meet career challenges and personal goals, the School seeks to increase the flexibility and diversity of the curricula, expanding cross-disciplinary educational and research opportunities and encouraging students to draw from the University’s strong liberal arts, mathematics, and sciences environment.

To advance knowledge and generate innovative solutions, the School aims to encourage new research initiatives of the faculty, to build on current research partnerships, and to develop new collaborative interdisciplinary projects within the University and with other institutions in the U.S. and abroad. The School will place emphasis on doctoral education. The School hopes to increase research productivity by 50 percent within five years.

To expand the School’s ability to make an impact on critical business and industry problems through collaboration and outreach, the School plans to seek wider recognition of its capabilities, expertise, and achievements in that community.


The School of Engineering should:

  1. Provide more need-based scholarships and increase student aid.
  2. Lower the student-faculty ratio in engineering classes.
  3. Raise the standard of undergraduate admission, seeking students with average SAT scores of 1400 or higher, and increase cultural and racial diversity.
  4. Establish additional endowed faculty chairs.
  5. Strengthen scholarly productivity and visibility of the faculty to levels competitive with the top 25 engineering schools in the nation.
  6. Attract more doctoral students and masters degree students who intend to advance to the doctoral program.
  7. Raise the standards of graduate student admission, targeting an average GRE score of 2000 and an average GPA of 3.5.
  8. Play a vital role in multidisciplinary initiatives throughout the university.
  9. Increase the flexibility and diversity of the undergraduate program to expand cross-disciplinary opportunities, such as combining engineering education with business training by offering a minor in management.
  10. Provide more interactive educational resources for students through intranet and World Wide Web.
  11. Institute a mandatory laptop program that fully integrates students into wired, wireless and modem networks and creates a seamless learning environment that combines the best of interactive teaching techniques with classroom experiences.
  12. Enhance opportunities for overseas study.
  13. Launch new initiatives and partnerships with industry in research and expand and enhance internship and career opportunities for students.
  14. Continue to improve facilities and acquire state-of-the-art equipment.
  15. Conduct coordinated communications activities to raise visibility of School faculty within the University, with colleagues in other institutions, with business and industry leaders, and with other key groups.
  16. Increase philanthropic support from alumni, industry, and foundations.
  17. Improve Engineering’s infrastructure to better position the School to compete for and conduct research funded by government agencies.

Vanderbilt University Law School

Strategic Plan Summary

May 2001

Mission of the School

The Vanderbilt University Law School has a three-fold mission: (1) To be a national leader in training students to be excellent and professional lawyers and leaders across their careers; (2) To develop understanding of law and its institutions through excellence in research; and (3) To assist in serving justice and the rule of law through teaching, research, and public service.


The Law School’s aspirations, consistent with its history, focus on its faculty and students. In order to continue to improve and to remain distinctive among the very best law schools, we aspire (1) to maintain and enhance a nationally prominent faculty whose scholarship, teaching, and service contribute importantly to resolving the most challenging current legal issues, and (2) to maintain and enhance a law school experience for students that is the most student-centered and rigorous among the best national law schools.

To achieve these aspirations requires careful attention to our students, faculty, and programs. We will maintain our relatively small student body size so as to assure personal, attentive, and rigorous education for every student. We will strive to preserve genuine rigor in the classroom at a time when such rigor is on the wane nationally. We will attract and retain the best faculty by providing competitive working conditions and a stimulating intellectual environment. We will seek to expand the faculty in targeted areas where Vanderbilt has strategic opportunities to improve relative to competitors. These areas include law and business and public law and politics.

These aspirations will be achieved, in part, through concrete steps over the next few years. Strategic planning in the Law School identified six key initiatives for emphasis: (1) A Student-Centered Building; (2) A Student-Centered Faculty and Administration; (3) Faculty Recruitment and Expansion; (4) Student Recruitment; (5) Program and Curricular Innovation (including a Law and Business Program, a graduate program for foreign lawyers; interdisciplinary programs with other units of Vanderbilt University; enhanced clinical and externship programs; and a teaching innovation and excellence fund); and (6) Excellence in Support Services (including career services, information services, alumni and development services, and events services).


The Law School will complete and fund its $22.5 million building renovation project, which should have outstanding spaces for students and faculty to learn and live in. [To be completed in March, 2002]

  1. The Law School will enhance an institutional culture in which faculty, staff, and students understand and embrace the school’s ethics in which it is a civil and supportive atmosphere outside class that enables extraordinary rigor inside the classroom. We seek to hire a new dean of students to enhance this culture, and to endow an annual award recognizing extraordinary service to students by faculty, staff, or administrators. [To be completed by December, 2002]
  2. The Law School will expand its faculty by five positions by 2005. New faculty should be recruited in targeted areas of strategic strength. New interdisciplinary appointments should emphasize ties to key departments and schools at Vanderbilt. We will seek funding for four new endowed chairs to assist with this effort.
  3. The Law School will seek to supplant one peer law school per year in the next five years in terms of the quality of its student body, measured in both qualitative and quantitative terms. Within five to ten years, the school must obtain at least $10 million new endowment for financial aid in order to achieve this goal.
  4. The Law School will inaugurate a new Law and Business Program and a new Graduate Program for Foreign Lawyers in 2001, and will seek substantial endowment for these programs over the following three years. The Law and Business Program will be the best in the United States. It will also be unique in the opportunities it affords faculty for research and team-teaching and students for obtaining the best of a business education while in law school and a legal education while in the Owen School. The Graduate program will bring up to 10 foreign lawyers a year to Vanderbilt for a year’s intense study under a Vanderbilt faculty advisor. Additional interdisciplinary programming, including in public law and politics, and in law and the humanities, will follow in subsequent years. The Law School will seek opportunities for enhanced clinical programs and externships. By 2002, the Law School will seek funding for a new domestic violence clinic and externship opportunities for students at courts and agencies around the nation and abroad.
  5. In support services, what the Law School does it will do well. This includes publications, events, career services, library and technology services, and alumni services. In everything we do, from our transcripts to our housekeeping to our staff support, we will emphasize excellence and high quality commensurate with our expensive tuition.

Investing in Learning: Meeting the Challenges of America’s New Century

A Strategic Plan for Peabody College (Executive Summary)

Humanity is passing through a cultural watershed, where the emphasis of our entire global enterprise is shifting to a new paradigm, one powered by knowledge, information, and intellectual production. In this new environment, knowledge is power, and the basic activities of learning and teaching are taking on far greater weight than at any time in history. For educational institutions, this is a time of both danger and opportunity. Because we are no longer a monopoly, we are faced with the necessity of becoming more entrepreneurial and adaptive, or being engulfed by the dynamic tide of change.

Peabody College of Education and Human Development is well positioned to seize the opportunities brought by this fundamental shift in priorities. It has steadily built a capacity for excellence and achieved international status as one of the preeminent institutions in its field. It has grown into a creative, working laboratory capitalizing on its principal strength, which is the symbiotic linkage of its two missions, theoretical research and practical application. Adaptation to a changing

environment is a tradition at Peabody. Now, in a time of extraordinary change that relates directly to the College’s specific missions as well as the University’s overall mission, our present challenge is to maintain the College’s distinction in the field of education and human development and to strengthen our leadership position within this dynamic environment. Fortunately, our specialties are essentially multifaceted and interdisciplinary in nature; and therein lies our best opportunity for growth. Accordingly, our primary adaptive response to this new challenge is to focus new energy and resources on the multifaceted, interdisciplinary nature of the fields of education and human development. Over the next five to ten years, using creative and efficient new combinations of the University’s complementary resources, the College can:

  • Exploit our competitive advantage in student instruction to the fullest;
  • Build a more powerful engine for intellectual research and development;
  • Harness to the fullest emerging technological advances; and
  • Achieve excellence in meeting the demands of a knowledge-based economy.

Staking out such a position of authority in the new intellectual marketplace will give Peabody a powerful ability to attract new sources of funding, and will ensure that we will be able to stay ahead of the rising tide of change and even help to shape its direction.

Specific Challenges and Strategies

We have identified five specific challenges, which drive our vision of Peabody’s future and allow us to set clear priorities for resource allocation. Analyzing the demands of these challenges, we have developed specific strategies for meeting critical needs, adapting to change, and making more efficient use of the University’s potential for collaboration.


  1. To enhance learning
  2. To optimize human development
  3. To build new visions of teacher
  4. To improve undergraduate education in America
  5. To render educational institutions more effective

Key Strategies

  • Create a University-wide Learning Science Institute to “unlock the mysteries of learning.”
  • Couple biomedical and behavioral research in a new Kennedy Institute to chart the scientific frontier and enable individuals with disabilities to lead better lives.
  • Partner with the Medical Center and the College of Arts and Science in the Kennedy Institute to strengthen developmental neuroscience.
  • Emphasize research and training in developmental psychology and developmental psychopathology to enable positive development, learning, and the pursuit of excellence.
  • Establish a Research Program on Preparing education Teachers for Academic Leadership as part of a University-wide Learning Sciences Institute.
  • Include a Research Program on Post-secondary Teaching in the proposed University-wide Learning Sciences Institute.
  • Couple Peabody’s strength in technology to undergraduate instruction through the Learning Sciences Institute.
  • Strengthen the research base of HOD by recruiting new faculty and creating new graduate programs.
  • Establish a Center for Linking Learning, Instructional Practice, and Policy in Educational Research (CLIPPER).
  • Conduct an international conference on out-of- school influences on learning to position CLIPPER to obtain foundation and governmental support.
  • Launch collaborative research programs that identify and explore value added practices in education.
  • Develop an educational leadership preparation program and professional development programs using a combination of on-line and on-campus instruction.

Maintaining Our Foundation

In addition, we have taken a hard look at the College’s foundation of prominence, the academic infrastructure that allows all our activities to maintain standards of excellence. The demands ahead will require that we not neglect these pillars of strength. Accordingly, we have developed specific strategies for strengthening Peabody’s overall ability to excel. These are:

  • Strengthen the quantitative methods research group.
  • Establish an ad hoc committee of faculty and administrators to identify possible systemic impediments to our recruitment and retention of minority faculty.
  • Recruit the most talented students to Peabody.
  • Develop a summer academy to attract talented students to education.
  • Create a Psychological Sciences structure including the University’s two psychology departments to increase scholarly capacity and achieve eminence.
  • Establish a Committee on the New Marketplace to position Peabody in the electronic age.
  • Modernize the Peabody Library to become a technology-based information portal and a place for intellectual discourse and thereby create a 21st-century learning environment and improve student life.

A Vision of Peabody College in 2010

If we are able to garner the resources needed to implement the strategies described in this document to build upon current capacity and strengths, the Peabody College of 2010 will be widely recognized as the place where collaborative, multidisciplinary research involving scholars throughout Vanderbilt University is producing the most exciting discoveries in the areas of how people learn and develop, how teaching at all levels can be made more effective, how education can capitalize to the fullest on emerging technologies, and how social context affects these activities. It also will be recognized as a leader in applying this knowledge to facilitate lifelong learning, optimize human development, prevent or ameliorate developmental disabilities, reform both teacher education and undergraduate education, and render the institutions of education more effective. As a result of Peabody’s contributions, Vanderbilt University will be well on the way to surpassing such institutions as Harvard and Stanford in being recognized as the university with the very best school of education (and human development) in America.

Revised September 19, 2000