Get Connected: The Many Faces of Vanderbilt
Henry Bristol, ’19
School of Engineering
When I got to Vanderbilt my freshman year, I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I had set foot on campus just once before, and made the decision to come here because I couldn’t convince myself out of it. I was hesitant. I still vividly remember that first day getting to The Commons, being greeted by the shouting of a move crew way too happy for 8:00am on a Saturday morning, receding into my shell and making a point not to engage with anyone. I was that kid. Little did I know that one year later I would be on the other side – that overly enthusiastic Vandy student in a neon pink move-crew shirt waiting for the class of 2020 to arrive.
My time on campus has been an interesting one. Starting with the rocky struggles of getting used to a long distance relationship, finding my way in new classes, and beginning the search for a social life, I was pretty turned around. I never really found a home on commons. You might not either, and that’s OK. I look back, better off for it. I bounced around extracurriculars and social events, not sure where my place really was. I started attending Multicultural Leadership Council FreshIDEAS meetings once every other week, exploring ideas of culture in ways I hadn’t really thought about before. I followed my floor to the frats during rush before quickly realizing I had absolutely no idea of what was going on. I found my way to the interest meetings of a couple of engineering student orgs. I had no idea what I wanted to make of my time at Vanderbilt, because I still hadn’t found home.
I still remember the first domino to topple in the shaping of my Vanderbilt experience; Queen Stevenson, the editor-in-chief of the hustler, came to an MLC FreshIDEAS meeting. I remember her coming to me after the meeting: “It sounds like you have a lot of opinions – you should write for the hustler.”
“Me? A writer? No way, I’m an engineer for a reason,” I thought to myself.
On second thought, to hell with it, why not? I said sure. I set a due date for the March edition of The Hustler, with no idea of what I would write about.
It’s amazing what one can do fueled with 3am coffee and 8am deadlines. My article was something I was proud of, and something far greater than anything I could’ve expected to write. I fueled my application to the South Asian Cultural Exchange executive board for my sophomore year, through which I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with an incredible half of campus– people who have rich cultural experiences and brilliant minds, who are the pillars of thought-provoking discussions and tight-knit community of which I am thankful I am a part of. But that’s only part of my Vanderbilt experience.
In the second semester of my first year, I was encouraged by a good friend of mine to rush Theta Tau – a co-ed Engineering Fraternity. I still held some of my high-school prejudice against Greek Life, but I told myself this was different, this was nerdy, this was fine. But as I grew into the process, I found a community with the people in my pledge class and my brothers in my fraternity. I had a place to call home, people to call family.
My sophomore year, I decided I’d try again; I rushed and pledged a fraternity, finally ready to see what Greek life was like. I’d come a long way from being that sheltered kid out of high school.
Without realizing it, I put myself in a pretty unique position: involved with the MLC community, and a brother in both a professional and IFC fraternity. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to call multiple spaces on this campus a home, and to meet people with a variety of backgrounds, ideologies, beliefs, and majors, you name it.
There are multiple Vanderbilts; MLC vs IFC, Black Vandy vs White Vandy, VPAC vs Engineering. While so often it may seem like you have to pick and choose, to “play sides,” I challenge you to look not with a “vs” but with an “and”. Why not MLC and IFC? Black Vandy and White Vandy? VPAC and Engineering? I challenge you to go out of your comfort zone, to experience new things, develop new skills, and meet people you’d never have imagined yourself friends with. Instead of molding yourself to fit into one community, I challenge you to embrace your multifaceted passions, to make memories, and push yourself with the amazing opportunity you have at Vanderbilt. I challenge you to define your own Vanderbilt Experience.