ON BEING VUCEPTORS
Elizabeth Covington, Senior Lecturer in English, College of Arts and Science, Faculty VUceptor
Working as a VUceptor is the most rewarding part of my job at Vanderbilt. When I first began, I didn’t have the first idea what to expect, and I was amazed and delighted to find myself in the heart of a close-knit community of brilliant young students, each eagerly creating his or her ideal college experience. Working with these students individually and as a group, I am reminded of why I became an academic: to foster students as they shape themselves into the productive, critically-minded, fun people they want to become.
We laugh a lot in my Visions groups, but we also do a lot of hard, thoughtful work about the kinds of people we want to be. The key element to producing this intellectually exciting atmosphere is always my VUcept partner. As a faculty member, I have learned that VUcept is a student-focused operation in the way that the university was meant to be. My student partner, Jacob for the past two years, takes the lead in conversations and activities, and I am only too happy to follow the amazing young people who have co-facilitated Visions groups with me over the years. Thanks to their example, I have become a better teacher and scholar as I import that student-centered focus into my classrooms and my writing. My VUcept partnerships have taught me that, although I have a great deal of education and experience, the soul of the university resides in the fresh and vigorous minds that arrive each year to seek and learn.
Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned as a VUceptor is that the university is remade every year, with every new group of students. The strength of the university rests in our ability to change and grow, and the Visions program is the most important element of that process.
Jacob Shpilberg, ’17, College of Arts and Science, Student VUceptor
Becoming a part of the VUcept community has proven to be one of the best opportunities of my Vanderbilt career. When I first became a VUceptor, I thought I was becoming a friend and mentor to first-year students—someone they could lean on, just as my VUceptor was for me. But this experience has given me so much more.
The growth I have witnessed among my 35 VUceptees over the past two years has been the most rewarding part of my journey as a VUceptor. I firmly believe that through a combination of our dynamic group discussions and countless conversations over lunch one-on-one, each of my VUceptees has discovered the ways in which they want to be active citizens of our community. I’ve enjoyed a front row seat as my VUceptees transform each semester and each year as they immerse themselves in those organizations and communities that are aligned with their passions. It’s been extremely rewarding to help those of them who have struggled to make the transition gain confidence, watching them find community in our Visions group and elsewhere on campus.
This is why I continue to be part of the VUcept family. Seeing growth in my peers and having the chance to foster it for a new group each year has only furthered my personal growth. I have learned to lead a group discussion, and to build group cohesion and meaningful relationships with my VUceptees. I have also learned a lot about the Vanderbilt community — especially, the diverse opinions, experiences, and backgrounds found in the student body, many of which differ from my own. This has helped me gain an understanding of the importance of each individual and each voice. Self-expression is one of the most amazing things that Visions allows first-year students to explore; something that translates well beyond the bounds of our weekly sessions.
Finally, through cooperation with my faculty partner, the spunky Elizabeth Covington, I have gained insight into the genuine concern Vanderbilt faculty have for students. Last year, we had a student who struggled to adjust to the change from her small town to Vanderbilt; Elizabeth took our VUceptee under her capable, caring wing, and I truly believe the student is still at Vanderbilt because of Elizabeth’s guidance. In my final year, I am excited to see watch my former VUceptees continue to flourish across campus, and I can’t wait to see what the Class of 2020 has in store for us!