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ASP-Inspired Major Campus Initiatives    Enhancing The Undergraduate Experience    Powering Trans-Institutional Learning and Creative Works




launched fall 2014




In 2014, Vanderbilt University moved into the action phase of the Academic Strategic Plan. The following outlines some of the major accomplishments realized to date and what is on the horizon. 


WenteSince Fall 2014, we have driven progress across all four pillars of the plan and strengthened the ‘One Vanderbilt’ culture for the benefit of our students, faculty, staff and humanity at large. By design, the plan allowed us to go even further to take advantage of new strategic opportunities. Each year we have assessed progress and launched new faculty-driven, Academic Strategic Plan-inspired initiatives. The plan still drives Vanderbilt today and is based on the voices and ideas of the Vanderbilt community.”
– Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente



Much like the process undertaken to craft the Academic Strategic Plan, each of these initiatives involved extensive campus input, committee recommendations and action plans. Together, these factors led to the creation of new programs, initiatives, administrative processes and structures. As these efforts continue to roll out, they impart a cumulative and lasting impact on our community of students, faculty, staff and far beyond. 
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*Years indicate when the initiative was first launched.

  • Library 2014/15
  • Equity, Diversity & Inclusion 2015/16
  • Mental Health 2016/17
  • International Strategy 2016/17
  • Humanities 2016/17
  • Shared Governance 2017/18
  • Data Science 2017/18
  • Women’s Initiative 2018/19



As laid out in the Academic Strategic Plan, we aspire to offer students an intellectually rich, diverse and dynamic education. To realize this vision over the past five years, we have innovated daringly, by drawing on Vanderbilt’s many distinctions, including our residential college experience, our physical proximity together on one campus and our global approach to research and discovery. By expanding our dynamic living-learning environments, we continue to further harness the strengths of our faculty and help all of our graduates grow, as scholars and as global citizens. Ultimately, our goal is to create and deploy the ideas, knowledge and leaders that drive positive change in the world. 



Immersion Vanderbilt enables undergraduate students to pursue their passions and cultivate intellectual interests through experiential learning. Featuring four pathways from which students can choose—civic and professional, creative expression, international studies and research—and culminating in a final project, Immersion Vanderbilt widens the parameters of where and how learning can occur.

Recent Strides

  • In fall 2018, the university welcomed the first cohort of undergraduates who will experience Immersion Vanderbilt as a degree requirement. 
  • With input from all schools and colleges, faculty developed an innovative governance model that has been vetted and approved by all four undergraduate schools.
  • An infrastructure has been created to support the program—including the Office of Immersion Resources, an ImmersionHub for tracking experiences and an opportunities database to help connect faculty and students.
  • All schools—including the professional and graduate schools—have mobilized resources and developed models for faculty engagement in the program. 
  • Students have honed and developed new skills by working more closely with faculty, while faculty have been able to move research and projects forward with the help of undergraduates.  
  • Expanding opportunities on The Ingram Commons, through which first-year students can begin exploring ideas
  • Bringing resources to upper-class students in the residential colleges
  • Developing evaluation and assessment standards for Immersion Vanderbilt with the Immersion Faculty Steering Committee 


Our on-campus residential colleges bring the academic experience into residential life—extending a sense of community, learning, discourse and discovery beyond the classroom and among Vanderbilt’s increasingly diverse student body. 


  • 2002 Academic Strategic Plan: “We recommend… a system of residential colleges where students and faculty from across the university live together in social, academic and co-curricular communities.”
  • 2014 Academic Strategic Plan: “We must enrich the educational experience by completing and extending the residential college system and developing new infrastructure to foster further interconnections between discovery and learning.”

In addition to the physical buildout of new residential colleges, much work has gone into refining and enhancing the experience for undergraduate students and faculty:

  • A committee developed a programmatic vision for residential colleges, identifying five key areas for growth enhancing a student’s overall learning experience: intellect, community, personal well-being, self-discovery and cultural awareness.
  • To achieve these goals, residential colleges have been DESIGNED to build community, engage faculty and connect students to campus resources.
  • Expanded staff support to minimize administrative burden has resulted in increased recruitment of research-active faculty as faculty directors and heads of house.
  • Applying principles beyond the residential colleges
  • Developing a global fellows program to bring distinguished guests to campus
  • Engaging graduate and professional students
  • Creating new signature events for community building


The University Courses program, launched in fall 2016, enables faculty members from different schools and colleges to work together in offering innovative, cross-disciplinary classes. The program is the perfect encapsulation of Vanderbilt’s dedication to collaboration and the harnessing of natural synergies to expand and intensify learning.


University Courses launched (or approved to launch) to date involving 36 faculty members 


students enrolled in UCs through spring 2019 


guest lecturers throughout the program


courses were defined as multicultural courses, designed specifically to advance Vanderbilt's initiatives in equity, diversity and inclusion while engaging students in exploring new avenues of investigation about the human condition


University Courses

  • Historic Black Nashville      
  • The Nation's Health: From Policy to Practice   
  • Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration      
  • Design Thinking, Design Doing   
  • The History and Science of Brewing   
  • Tackling Big Questions with Mobile Cloud Computing
  • Data Science Methods for Smart City Applications 
  • Rhythm of Change: African Music and African Politics 
  • Race, Place and Power 
  • Social Entrepreneurship    
  • Virtual Reality for Interdisciplinary Applications
  • The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI)   
  • Planetary Health, Policy and Social Justice
  • From Academic Insight to Entrepreneurial Impact
  • The Causes and Consequences of LGBTQ Public Policies   
  • Cultural Heritage in Context: The Future of the Past   
  • Fall 2019, the Center for Teaching will manage the program, leveraging synergies and expanding the resources they provide to faculty to develop new courses.
  • Courses are supported through this program for three offerings, after which faculty will work with their schools and colleges to start the process of incorporating the courses into regular curriculum. 


Located in the Innovation Pavilion adjacent to the newly LEED-certified Engineering and Science Building, the Wond’ry is Vanderbilt’s center for innovation, creative collaboration, design and entrepreneurship. Through hosting Innovation Garages, launching social ventures and fostering campus support, the Wond’ry is a primary point of connection for many members of the Vanderbilt community—from engineers and scientists to entrepreneurs and artists. In 2018, the Wond’ry was named an Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center at the annual Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers conference.

David Owens, professor of the practice of management and innovation, will lead the next phase of this nationally recognized innovation center as the Evans Family Executive Director. 



“We aspire to generate new insights and discoveries, while training future leaders and scholars, by leveraging Vanderbilt’s distinctive resources and expertise from across the entire campus. Vanderbilt will take the lead in defining, addressing and solving important problems and questions facing society. To realize this vision, Vanderbilt must focus on critical challenges at the local, national and global levels, connect our diverse disciplinary strengths, foster increased collaboration and integration, enable and instill critical qualities in our students and provide an enriched environment that transcends disciplinary boundaries.” – 2014 Academic Strategic Plan 


Vanderbilt’s Trans-Institutional Programs seek to interweave perspectives, features, methods and information from across our campus, ultimately creating new knowledge, collaborations and opportunities for discovery.

These programs—which span from established flagship centers and institutes to groundbreaking efforts still in development—share the common goals of addressing important challenges facing society and positioning Vanderbilt as a world leader in key academic areas.  

  • Through this program, $50 million was allocated to be awarded over five years to new and existing trans-institutional initiatives, centers and institutes.
  • As of spring 2019, $38 million had been awarded to 59 projects, allowing the initiative to be extended for another year.
  • During the past five years, more than 500 faculty from all schools and colleges have been involved in TIPs-funded projects and more than 700 undergraduate students have been engaged.
  • TIPs awards have resulted in more than $80 million in external funding for various Vanderbilt initiatives.


Two Categories of Support


Vanderbilt Initiative Awards (VIAs)seed grants that serve as incubators for exciting new ideas.


Vanderbilt Re-investment Award (VRA)provides renewed funding at a larger level.



Funding from TIPs Has Contributed to Numerous Successful Programs

Data Science, which began as multiple VIA projects, merged the projects together and became the Data Science Institute with 177 affiliated faculty. The institute has developed and marketed a new data science master’s degree program with 30 students committed for fall 2019 enrollment.
Data Science, which began as multiple VIA projects, merged the projects and became the Data Science Institute with 177 affiliated faculty. The institute has developed and marketed a new data science master’s degree program with 30 students committed for fall 2019 enrollment.

The Initiative for Autism, Innovation and the Workforce, a VIA project, secured a $10 million gift in external funding to become the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation.
The Initiative for Autism, Innovation and the Workforce, a VIA project, secured a $10 million gift in external funding to become the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation.

Vanderbilt LGBT Policy Lab has submitted five external grant applications and hosted highly-engaged community events
Vanderbilt LGBT Policy Lab has submitted five external grant applications and hosted highly engaged community events.

  • Planning is underway to develop 5- , 10- and 20-year strategies for our academic buildings and green spaces to ensure they foster trans-institutional collaborations and faculty-student engagement.
  • A task force will assess the impact of the past six years of TIPs funding and will propose new ideas for investing in and supporting cross-campus collaborations.

Trans-institutional Health & Medicine Collaborations

“We aspire to be the world’s leader in developing and pursuing effective solutions to pressing health and health care problems through creative discoveries and pioneering educational initiatives.” – 2014 Academic Strategic Plan

United by our “One Vanderbilt” philosophy, faculty from across our schools and colleges work together to develop innovative solutions in health and medicine. Trans-institutional discoveries and initiatives from the past five years include:

  • The Vanderbilt Brain Institute launched new projects in the area of mental health with VRA funding.
  • Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE) opened a 7,000-square-foot mock operating theater in Medical Center North.
  • The Medical Innovators Development Program trains engineers and applied scientists to attain their M.D’s. so they can solve clinical problems through imaging, informatics and medical devices.
  • Establishing the university as a leader in optical imaging technologies, the Biophotonics Center has built a Lattice Light Sheet microscope, a Scanned Oblique Plane Illumination microscope and a Multimodal Advanced Nonlinear and Thermal Imaging System, making Vanderbilt the only institution to house all three. 


The Chancellor Faculty Fellows program recognizes academic leaders early in their careers and provides a lasting foundation for their scholarly work. Such fellowship funding is a commitment to our faculty and their dedication to the discovery and pursuit of knowledge that drives Vanderbilt forward every day. Awarded on a competitive basis, the program funding provides recently tenured faculty with extra capacity at critical time in their careers—boosting their ability to innovate, explore new paths of research or creativity and make the largest possible impact. 



faculty awarded a combined $5 million over five years through the program.


annually to fellows for two years to advance their work



We have elevated the standing of our graduate education, graduate training and research programs through our dual focus on recruiting the brightest students and retaining and recruiting exceptional faculty.

In 2016, Vanderbilt committed a $300 million endowment to support graduate education and research.

  • Created the new Russell G. Hamilton Ph.D. scholarships 
  • Established the Russell G. Hamilton Leadership Institute for graduate students
  • Matched donor gifts for new endowed chairs and faculty fellowships

In addition to TIPs, the university has  developed new funding mechanisms and research  to support research and teaching in every college and school and importantly at the intersection of disciplines.

  • Created the Leveraged Proposal Organization and Development (L-POD) services to help obtain large, strategic, multi-faculty awards from external agencies and foundations
  • Launched Ancora Innovation, a funding program supported by Deerfield Management to seed drug discovery
  • Created a partnership with Army Futures Command to connect innovative soldiers with experts across campus to bring new technology or other solutions to fruition

In 2019-20, the university will break ground on a new graduate and professional student housing village designed to enhance the residential experience for these students. The development will give students access to housing in close proximity to the Vanderbilt campus at below-market rates that will build community and foster interdisciplinary connections among graduate and professional students.

Global Research & Engagement

In response to a report created by the faculty-led International Working Group, Vanderbilt released an action plan for advancing global research and engagement in 2018. To date, the university has launched multiple efforts to facilitate scholarly collaborations and advance Vanderbilt’s reputation around the world:

  • The Global Research and Engagement Micro-Grant fund was created to help faculty seize opportunities as they arise.
  • Vanderbilt established the Chancellor’s Public Voices Fellowship to provide select faculty members with training and media outreach support to further the global reach and impact of their work.
  • GlobalVU, a web portal designed to elevate Vanderbilt’s profile and impact on an international scale, launched in February.
  • In 2019, Vanderbilt announced a broader initiative with GlobalVU and TIPs to lay the groundwork for a global institute that will advance international research and engagement. In its first year, the initiative will organize three workshops on topics ranging from health and violence in Africa to Western classical music’s global reach.
  • The GlobalVU Initiative will launch a Global Fellows program to recruit distinguished visitors and also help campus groups bring special guests to campus. A signature part of the program will be visitors’ option to stay in Vanderbilt’s 20-story tower—part of the now-under-construction residential college on West End Avenue—during their time on campus. 

Arts & Humanities 

Given Vanderbilt’s commitment to a broad-based liberal education, the arts and humanities are an increasingly vital part of our curriculum and community. Announced in 2018, the provost’s action plan to advance the arts and humanities at Vanderbilt continues to evolve and produce results that positively impact the university community. Efforts to date include:

  • The establishment of the Arts and Humanities Rapid Response Micro-Grant Fund, which provides faculty with the ability to seize opportunities and carry out new collaborations, ventures, projects or outreach.
  • A review of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities in addition to the recruitment of new faculty leadership for the center.
  • The launch of the university’s online portal for the arts and humanities.
  • The Library Collections Initiative whereby $750,000 was dedicated.
  • Named a partner in the Tennessee Triennial for Contemporary Art, the university’s Fine Arts Gallery will host one of the state’s exhibitions in 2021 of works by participating artists, many of whom will be responding to political discord in the United States.
  • A newly established Arts Council will advocate for all of the arts at Vanderbilt including related scholarship, performing arts, visual arts and literary arts. The council will also provide strategic direction for the university’s Educational Art Collections.
  • The Center for Digital Humanities will move into newly renovated space adjacent to a new Digital Commons.

Innovations in Education Technologies

New education technologies foster innovation, strengthen faculty-student interactions, enable more personalized educational approaches and provide new tools for research and scholarship. By enhancing online and distance learning, these technologies also expand Vanderbilt’s reach across the globe, granting opportunities for learning and discovery to even more students, alumni and a wide community of scholars. Progress to date includes:

  • The creation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), in collaboration with Coursera, at each of Vanderbilt’s schools and colleges—covering topics ranging from criminal justice to Android app development to innovation for managers
  • The launch of Brightspace, the university’s new course management system with improved online functionality
  • The establishment of the Center for Digital Humanities, a hub for digital tools optimized for scholarly projects
  • The new Emerging Technologies Lab at the Wond’ry, created to help the Vanderbilt community learn new skills in virtual reality, blockchain and artificial intelligence
  • Implementation of a new library system featuring updated user interface, sophisticated searching capacity and easily interpreted results
  • The 2017 launch of Top Hat, Vanderbilt’s first campus-wide classroom response system, which supports both multiple-choice and free-response polling questions
  • Coding bootcamps, the result of a partnership between the Owen Graduate School of Management, the School of Engineering and external partner Trilogy
  • A partnership between 2U and Vanderbilt Peabody College, resulting in two successful online degree programs—a master of education and a doctor of education
  • New online programs at the School of Engineering, including a master of science in computer science and a master of engineering in engineering management
  • The Divinity School and the School of Medicine, Basic Sciences, are developing online courses and programs.
  • Vanderbilt is developing additional online platforms and interfaces to launch new online content including degree and non-degree programs.
  • Committees are developing recommendations on how to enhance digital project support, services and online education resources.
  • A new Digital Commons will open with the goal of further uniting experts and offices that specialize in digital scholarship from across campus.


View previous reports on the Academic Strategic Plan »