The Commons Experience: Anything But Ordinary

Since 2008, when the first class moved into The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons at Vanderbilt, students have found that life on The Ingram Commons is anything but ordinary. The Ingram Commons is a community of first-year students, residential faculty, undergraduate peer mentors, and professionals who live and learn together.  With a focus on bolstering intellect, building community, developing skills for personal well-being, pursuing self-discovery, and celebrating our cultural differences, all members of The Ingram Commons participate in a mutual exchange of ideas and experiences.

Through events such as the annual Commons Ball, dinner with a distinguished lecturer, a concert with Blair music students in the Dean’s Residence, an impromptu chat with a faculty head of house over lunch in The Commons Center, or a student-organized weekend movie night, The Ingram Commons provides first-year students opportunities to engage with each other and the rest of campus.

Anything But Ordinary

Our Philosophy

On The Ingram Commons, we believe that intentional and mutually beneficial educational networks among students, faculty, and staff create a residential collegiate experience that rests on discovery, creative inquiry, and engaged citizenship. Living here you can explore ideas, have fun, and grow as a person and a citizen.

Students are encouraged to meet one another and make friends, and they are invited to pursue opportunities specific to their individual interests. On The Ingram Commons, the intellectual and the social intertwine to make this residential experience one of the most innovative projects in higher education today. By joining our community, we believe that you will:

  • Acquire an appreciation for intellectual discovery and creativity outside the bounds of the formal academic curriculum, which will contribute to your academic engagement and success
  • Engage actively in building healthy communities on your floor, in your house, in your Vanderbilt Visions group, on The Ingram Commons, and within the university
  • Understand and learn to utilize the skills necessary for physical, psychological, and sexual well-being
  • Clarify your personal ethical, spiritual, and civic values through self-discovery
  • Explore, live, and celebrate the diverse community of The Ingram Commons

 All you have to do is participate! 

The Commons Center

The Commons Center

The Commons Center is the community crossroads of The Ingram Commons. It includes a 580-seat dining hall and food gallery, a market and cafe, community space with TVs and pool tables, meeting rooms, an academic support center, group study space, the College of Arts and Science pre-major advising center, an exercise and recreation room, a post office, and on the third floor, the Department of Political Science. From the layout to the lights, The Commons Center was designed to be eco-friendly and efficient, earning it gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. 


The Commons Reading

This year’s Commons Reading is Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss. The book traces the personal history of Perry Wallace, a Nashville native who enrolled at Vanderbilt University in 1966 and became the first African American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference.

Strong Inside will be an integral part of your first weeks on campus and will continue to be used throughout the year. You will engage in conversations with your peers, faculty heads of house, student and faculty VUceptors, and others on the topics raised by the book.

Such discussions will allow us all to learn more about Vanderbilt’s and Nashville’s history and imagine the type of campus community we’d like to create together.

Expect to receive the book in June to read over the summer. (If you have an international mailing address, you will receive the book upon your arrival.) 

Commons-Wide Programs

Events on The Ingram Commons that have become campus traditions include our arts and performance festival Fall for the Arts on Family Weekend, the winter Commons Ball, the annual Commons Cup competition among the houses, and the End-of-Year Commons Celebration. You can also participate in special lectures, community service projects, programs in recognition of MLK Day, and career-oriented events with Vanderbilt alumni.

As a metropolitan campus, Vanderbilt offers easy access to restaurants, concerts, shows, venues for ice skating and rock climbing, and professional sports arenas—all of which you may have the opportunity to explore with your classmates during your first year on campus. 

The Dean of The Ingram Commons

Vanessa BeasleyDean Vanessa Beasley was once in your shoes: Her experience as a Vanderbilt undergraduate in the 1980s is still fresh in her mind. Along with her colleagues on The Ingram Commons, she’s proud of how far Vanderbilt University has come since then, and she’s also dedicated to making sure that every incoming Vanderbilt student feels welcomed, connected, and challenged here. Her scholarly expertise is the history and function of presidential rhetoric in the United States, and she teaches classes on mass media and politics, and the history of U.S. political oratory. She lives in the Dean’s Residence with her husband Trey, also a member of A&S class of 1988, their younger son, Charlie, 13, and Bonita, their friendly cocker spaniel. Their older son, Adam, 18, will be a first-year university student elsewhere. 

The Dean’s Residence

The dean hosts events throughout the year. Early in the fall semester, you will be invited to a dessert reception for your house. Then you will start to receive invitations to Dean’s Dinners, designed to offer you unique opportunities to enjoy meals and conversations with special guests. Some of these guests will be university leaders and members of our distinguished faculty, others will be national and international leaders in their fields. Last year, our special guests included civil rights heroes James Lawson and Diane Nash as well as top representatives from the World Health Organization. There may also be invitations to attend a Shabbat dinner, an informal concert by the Blair uartet, and the Dean’s Book Club. You never know who you’ll be invited to meet at the Dean’s Residence, but you will know that as a first-year student, you will be one of the guests of honor, too. 

The Houses and Their Faculty Heads

You can also expect nights of conversation and camaraderie in the ten houses on The Ingram Commons. Each house is led by a faculty head of house, who opens his or her apartment for students to converse with visiting guests, discuss hot topics on campus, explore professional interests, relax at a Friday game night, or explore the challenging ideas found at a great university. Just as often, you may find the faculty head of house will be present in the House with family or co-workers. It is these spontaneous encounters that truly make The Ingram Commons an exceptional experience.

Crawford House

Catherine McTamaneyFaculty Head of House Catherine McTamaney is an award-winning teacher, senior lecturer, and director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Teaching and Learning. Professor McTamaney’s work focuses on the social and political context of public education and the integration of education and the arts. A three-time graduate of Peabody College, McTamaney is a nationally recognized speaker and teacher-educator as well as the author of two books on Montessori education and compassionate teaching, The Tao of Montessori and A Delicate Task. Her third book, Pollock in the Preschool, will be released in January of 2017. Crawford is host to the annual Crawford Lecture, celebrating the contributions of women in leadership. Professor McTamaney is joined in Crawford by her two children, Che and Timberlake, and their dogs, Meg and Squeak. 

East House

Daniel GervaisIncoming Faculty Head of House Daniel Gervais is professor of law and professor of French, director of the Vanderbilt Intellectual Property Program and faculty director of the LL.M. Program at Vanderbilt Law School. He focuses on international intellectual property law, having spent 10 years addressing policy issues on behalf of the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization. His recent research focuses on the regulation of new technology (from Spotify to Uber to environmental technologies) and the protection of geographical indications—words like Champagne, Vidalia (onions) or Napa Valley (wines). He also works pro bono for songwriters and music creators to improve copyright and other laws. Professor Gervais is looking forward to nurturing a respectful, fun, and intellectually stimulating house culture that includes celebrating other cultures and languages. 

Gillette House

Frank DobsonFaculty Head of House Frank Dobson studies race, gender, and class; he is currently working on a study of such black film pioneers as James Edwards and Woody Strode. Professor Dobson, whose imagination ranges beyond academic specialization, is a published playwright, novelist, and poet who still manages to fulfill his roles as associate dean of students and director of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center. Gillette residents get together for discussion and socializing at Gillette Gelatos, faculty apartment dinners, and G-House Book Club discussions. 

Hank Ingram House

Edwin WilliamsonIncoming Faculty Head of House Dr. Edwin Williamson is an assistant professor of psychiatry who specializes in child and family psychiatry. He has a particular interest in helping young adults navigate transitions. Dr. Williamson has trained and practiced at Duke, UCSF, and Yale and has worked for concentrated periods in China and in Sub-Saharan Africa. His passions, which he looks forward to sharing with his fellow Hank residents, include biking, film, and music. Dr. Williamson is married to native Nashvillian the Rev. Lissa Smith, and they have three boys who will join him in making Hank the perfect place to set off on the adventure that is your first year at Vanderbilt. 

Memorial House

Kevin LeanderFaculty Head of House Kevin Leander is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Peabody College who brings his research on new literacies, social media, youth identities, and new geographies of learning to The Ingram Commons. Memorial has a distinctive small community feel that blends real relationships and fun with serious inquiry and scholarship. Events focus on internal community building and external community learning and service in Nashville. Professor Leander lives in Memorial with his wife, Professor Ana Christina Da Silva, who also teaches at Peabody and whose scholarship focuses on creating equitable learning opportunities for immigrants, and his son Mitchell, who loves video games, Scouts, playing drums, and talking just about everything. 

Murray House

Alyssa HastyNew Faculty Head of House Alyssa Hasty is a professor and the director of graduate studies in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. Professor Hasty earned her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University and completed postgraduate training at Tokyo University. Her research is focused on understanding how immune cells contribute to the obesity-associated risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Joining her at Murray will be her husband Alan and their dachshunds, Kata and Kana. Their daughter and son-in-law Alyson and Chase—both of whom are Vanderbilt athletes/graduates—and their granddaughter Ava will visit occasionally. Professor Hasty looks forward to continuing and expanding on current Murray House traditions and is excited about mentoring residents and helping them realize their full potential. 

North House

Gregory Melchor-BarzFaculty Head of
 House Gregory Melchor-Barz is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in the study
 of music, healing, and medicine in Sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Melchor-Barz teaches at
 Blair with joint appointments in anthropology and the Divinity School.
 He recently produced a documentary film on the role of music in post-
genocide Rwanda and released a recording Singing for Life: Songs
 of Hope, Healing, and HIV/AIDS in Uganda that earned a
 Grammy nomination. He is author or editor of eight books, including The Culture of AIDS in Africa. As part of our signature event, “Northern Exposure,” residents take a break from their studies to share food, fun, and fellowship. Professor Melchor-Barz lives in North with his husband, Wil, daughter, Lucy, son, Simon and dog, Anchor.

Stambaugh House

Alice RandallFaculty Head of House and Vanderbilt Writer-in-Residence Alice Randall is a New York Times bestselling novelist, award-winning country songwriter, and food justice advocate who recently published a cookbook memoir, Soul Food Love, (co-authored with her daughter Caroline and largely written while Randall lived in Stambaugh). Stambaugh residents should expect a faculty apartment hung with important paintings, interesting guests from on and off campus, and exciting healthy food. Randall relishes translating her experience examining non-traditional texts—song lyrics, cookbooks, children’s pageant scripts—as literature to the lived Commons experience. Her husband, David Ewing (Vanderbilt Law School, '92), a ninth generation Nashvillian lives with her in Stambaugh where he enjoys sharing his love and knowledge of Nashville history.

Sutherland House

Chalene HelmuthFaculty Head of House Chalene Helmuth is a senior lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. She researches, teaches, and writes about Latin American narrative and identity, tourism and sustainability, and the development of cultural competencies. She also leads service-learning programs to Central America, where she grew up. Professor Helmuth enjoys the myriad opportunities life on The Ingram Commons provides for significant and serendipitous interactions with students. Sutherland’s signature event is the Cafecito with good food, friends, special guests, and stimulating conversation around Professor Helmuth’s table. Sutherland residents help create a genuine sense of community and work together to make life in the house a powerful point of departure for their Vanderbilt experience. Professor Helmuth lives in Sutherland with her partner, Dr. Christy Halbert, their daughter Ella, and their dog, Chita. 

West House

Christoph ZellerNew Faculty Head of House Christoph Zeller is an award-winning teacher and scholar of German and European studies. His research focuses on literature, media, and culture and centers around philosophical concepts and their impact on society, including fiction and nonfiction, art and architecture, politics and people. His two current projects explore the nature of values and delve into the future of collecting in the digital age. At West House, students will be able to build relationships during fun activities, enjoy international food, and attend regular dinners, featuring faculty from across campus who will discuss contemporary issues and the role of academia. Professor Zeller, his wife Amy, who is a speech-language pathologist, their daughters Marlo and Eva, and their cat are excited to call West their new home.

Student Engagement on The Ingram Commons

Student input and collaboration in house and Commons programming is a key feature of The Ingram Commons experience. 

Each house elects a House Advisory Council whose members also serve in Vanderbilt Student Government. The HAC is made up of a president, vice president, and public relations chair, all of whom are elected, as well as an appointed house service commissioner and floor representatives. The HAC meets regularly with the faculty head of house and head resident adviser to discuss programming and other aspects of house life. The house service commissioner coordinates service opportunities in the neighboring Edgehill community and throughout Nashville in support of The Ingram Commons’ commitment to service.

Members of the HAC are also part of the CommonDores Leadership Council, which works with student government and professional staff on the expenditure of a budget supplied by The Ingram Commons for inter-house, Commons-wide, and campus-wide living-and-learning initiatives.

In addition to these formal structures, all students are encouraged to bring their own ideas and initiatives to their faculty heads, house staff, or members of the Offce of the Dean of The Ingram Commons. 

Peer Mentorship in The Ingram Commons

In the Houses

In addition to faculty and professional staff resources for students, upperclass undergraduate mentors play active roles in your life as a first-year student. Resident advisers or head resident advisers of all houses are paraprofessional staff members who build community within the house and provide supervision and support to ensure that all first-year students develop intellectually and socially in a stimulating living environment.

Beyond the Houses

You will also be assigned to a Vanderbilt Visions group that is jointly mentored by an upperclass peer mentor and a faculty mentor (VUceptors) who help to navigate campus life and provide support as you grow in your first year.

Vanderbilt Visions

Vanderbilt Visions is a key component of the educational program on The Ingram Commons that encourages students to
 be empowered and responsible members of the Vanderbilt University community.

"Visions" is a fall-semester, university-core program that places small groups of first-year students with an experienced faculty member and an undergraduate peer mentor, known as faculty and student VUceptors. Visions groups meet weekly until Thanksgiving break for hourlong discussions and activities that explore the transitions students are experiencing in their first semester. You will meet your Visions group for the first time on Sunday, August 21, the day after move-in. 

Your Vanderbilt Visions Assignment in YES

In mid-July, your class schedule in YES will list your assigned Vanderbilt Visions group.

Under certain circumstances, you can request a change of groups. For more information, see YES.

Vanderbilt Visions will help you to

  • Create peer networks and friends that span all ten houses and all four undergraduate schools
  • Build the habits that support academic and intellectual engagement at Vanderbilt
  • Increase your knowledge of university norms and resources
  • Strengthen connections outside the classroom to faculty members and their diverse perspectives


VUcept, a student organization supported by the Office of the Dean of The Ingram Commons, provides upperclass peer mentorship during CommonVU and Vanderbilt Visions.

Look for a letter in early August from your student VUceptor! Check out the VUceptor blog over the summer at Read posts from current VUceptors about the transition to Vanderbilt and what life will be like on The Ingram Commons. VUcept also curates a collection of online essays written by current students and faculty to help you prepare for your Vanderbilt journey. These essays along with profiles of your VUceptors are available at

Make sure you have your VUceptor’s name and contact information, your group number, and the place and time of your first meeting handy when you arrive on campus. 


Commons Seminars

Commons Seminars are optional, one-credit, spring-semester seminars open to first-year students from any of the four undergraduate colleges and schools. The seminars offer the opportunity to be in class with first-year students from other schools and with faculty you might not otherwise encounter. 

Vanderbilt Community Creed

The Community Creed is a student-initiated statement of the values to which the Vanderbilt community aspires. For years Vanderbilt has attracted students who are not only drawn to the academic rigors of the university but to a community that honors seven core principles found in the Community Creed. By fostering the creed’s principles, we preserve the university’s enduring tradition of excellence, united by a common set of values.

One component of the creed is “Celebration,” which is exemplified during
 your first days on campus as each house celebrates and investigates how the creed unites us. In addition to signing the Community Creed book, you may create a communal project that celebrates the creed or engage in discussions of the creed values and how they apply to an academic community like Vanderbilt. 

The Creed’s Principles

We pledge to foster the values set forth in the Vanderbilt Community Creed and confront behaviors that threaten the spirit of our community.

First-Year Student Meal Plan

The First-Year Meal Plan can be used for dining in The Commons Center and 22 other locations across campus. All first-year students are automatically enrolled in the First-Year Meal Plan, which includes the following:


You may choose three of the following meal periods (one meal per period):

Period 1
Midnight–7:00 a.m.
Period 2
7:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Period 3
11:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Period 4
4:30 p.m.–Midnight

A meal is a combination of items from the menu, which may differ from one on-campus dining location to another, depending on the menu and type of service offered. At each location, signs will define the items that compose a meal at that particular venue. 

Flex Meals

Use Flex Meals any time and any place on campus where Vanderbilt Meal Plans are accepted. Flex Meals can be used to get a meal for yourself or to treat a friend, guest, or family member.

Meal Money

Meal Money funds reside in your Commodore Card account and can be spent at all on-campus dining locations, including vending machines and campus markets. Meal Money can also be used off campus at participating Taste of Nashville locations. 

Taste of Nashville

This program allows you to use your Commodore Card at local partner restaurants, just as you would a debit/credit card. Purchases at Taste of Nashville locations are debited from your Meal Money. Meals and Flex Meals cannot be used o campus. Visit for the list of participating restaurants. 

Specific Dietary Needs

Vanderbilt Campus Dining is equipped to serve students with food allergies and special diets. Several resources are available, including a registered staff dietitian, our online nutrition calculator, a certified executive chef, and more. Attend the Special Dietary Accommodations Meeting on August 19 at 4:00 p.m. (location TBD) if you have specific needs. Visit for more details. 

Housing and Residential Education

The residential experience has been an integral part of Vanderbilt undergraduate education for more than fifty years. This commitment to residential education is clearly expressed in the university’s residential requirement:

“All unmarried undergraduate students must live in residence halls on campus during the academic year, May session, and summer sessions. Authorization to live elsewhere is granted at the discretion of the Director of Housing Assignments in special situations or when space is unavailable on campus.”

Student Handbook

The mission of OHARE is to provide safe, accessible, and healthy housing for our students. Educational programming builds residential communities in which your needs for belonging, friendship, recognition, respect, and dignity are met. These communities are intended to foster learning, personal development, academic achievement, and successful transitions for new students and graduates.

The residential staff of OHARE consists of upperclass undergraduate and graduate students who serve as resident advisers and head residents. Live-in area coordinators and associate directors supervise RAs and HRs. In addition, an assistant director, director and senior director in residential education all work closely with The Ingram Commons. 

Area coordinators are responsible for all the residence halls in their assigned areas. They are full-time professional staff members who hold post-baccalaureate degrees. The ACs live on campus. An area coordinator, assistant director, director, or senior director are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In addition to supervising the resident advisers in each building, ACs are also available to: 

Working with the director, the assistant director of residential education for The Ingram Commons is responsible for supervising the student and professional staff, and for working with the dean of The Ingram Commons, faculty heads of house, and staff to support the mission of The Ingram Commons. 

All first-year houses are designated as substance-free areas. The consumption of tobacco products and the possession or consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited, even by students who are 21 or older. This policy and its rationale will be carefully explained to all first-year students in programs conducted at the beginning of the fall semester.

The programs will focus on health issues due to the use and abuse of alcohol
 and other drugs; issues related to dating and human sexuality, including sexual coercion, acquaintance rape, and sexually transmitted diseases; and the value of diversity in a residential community. The purpose of these programs is to increase your awareness of the issues discussed and to encourage you to reflect critically on your own attitudes and behaviors.

OHARE also takes seriously its mission to provide a safe residential environment. A video surveillance system throughout the residence hall system covers all entrances, stairways, elevators, and most communal areas. Camera views are not live monitored, but all images are recorded for review when required. Vanderbilt University Police Department regularly patrols around residence halls and responds to emergencies. From 8 p.m. until 8 a.m., anyone entering a residence hall must present a Vanderbilt identification card to AlliedBarton security. 

For more, see Campus Safety.

Floor Meeting



First-year students are not allowed to have cars on campus. Long-term vehicle parking spaces are available in limited numbers to sophomores. Juniors and seniors are allowed to purchase parking permits and bring a vehicle to campus. 

Car-Sharing Programs

Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare are membership-based car-sharing programs that allow Vanderbilt students 24/7 access to a fleet of cars located on campus. For information, visit Alternative Transportation.


Bike racks are located outside all residence halls as well as many academic buildings. It is recommended that you bring a U-lock, as cable locks can be easily cut. For additional precaution, you may register your bike on the Vanderbilt University Police Department’s bicycle registration form.

You can either bring your own bicycle or rent one from VanderBIKES, a student-run business established in 2011. VanderBIKES offers rentals and maintenance. Bicycles ordered by August 14 will be ready for pick-up on Move-In Day. For details, visit VanderBIKES.

Nashville B-cycle allows you to purchase 24-hour passes and memberships, select your bike, and return it to any B-station location, including one within walking distance of The Ingram Commons at the corner of Wedgewood and 21st Ave. Visit for more locations and information.

A student cycles to class.

Vandy Vans

Vandy Vans provide free rides to designated stops on campus each day from 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. The vans follow three routes on campus with stops chosen based on location, the accessibility of a secure waiting area, and student input. Additional information about the routes can be found at

Walking Escorts

VUPD also provides walking escorts 24 hours a day to students, faculty, staff, and guests traveling to and from any location on campus. Call (615) 421-8888 (off campus) or 1-8888 (on campus) to request assistance. 

Public Transportation

Students can use their Commodore Cards to ride the MTA buses for free. Find routes, schedules, and trip planning info at

Taxi Cabs

Students may use their Commodore Cards for cab fares as long as the cab has the CommodoreCabs logo on its door and/or is a cab from one of the following participating companies: Allied, Diamond, and Nashville Cabs. Fares may be split by two students.