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Opening of Vanderbilt’s Oliver C. Carmichael College completes 12-year West End Neighborhood construction

Posted by on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 in News.

On a warm July day in 2021, a 15-minute controlled implosion toppled Vanderbilt University’s 55-year-old Carmichael Towers East. Together with Carmichael Towers West, which was imploded in 2019, these two imposing structures at their peak welcomed 1,200 students for dormitory-style campus living.  

Today, the university is poised to open Carmichael Towers’ successor with a brand-new mission: The 160,000-square-foot Oliver C. Carmichael College will join E. Bronson Ingram, Nicholas S. Zeppos and Rothschild as the final residential college in the West End Neighborhood, concluding 12 years of construction.  

The transformation of the West End Neighborhood is part of FutureVU, a framework for campus planning that embodies the university’s core values and holistic approach to its mission of teaching, research and service, while prioritizing inclusivity and sustainability. This vision not only included the construction of these residential colleges, but also the beautification of the entire neighborhood, with pedestrian and bicycle-friendly pathways made possible by the removal of an alleyway and 24th and Kensington avenues. 

View more images of the transformation of the West End Neighborhood.

“The opening of Carmichael College represents the culmination of years of planning and dedication to the FutureVU vision,” said Eric Kopstain, vice chancellor for administration. “It is a tangible expression of our mission to enhance the student experience through innovative and sustainable campus development.” 

A model for success 

The vision and purpose behind the 2019 and 2021 implosions were clear: to carve a path for a world-class residential college.  

Four-year residential college systems exist at only a handful of American universities. Vanderbilt has long supported the residential college model, where each unit functions as a “campus within a campus.” All undergraduates live and learn alongside a faculty head of house for their first year; many students continue in this model for their sophomore, junior and senior years. Spaces for learning and collaboration are woven into the structures’ free-flowing design, encouraging a sense of community and belonging. 

Radical collaboration 

As with all of Vanderbilt’s residential colleges, the opening of Carmichael College represents the radical collaboration that is central to Vanderbilt culture. The robust collaboration across facilities, dining, student affairs and undergraduate education helped to envision, build and open Carmichael College. Ongoing collaboration involves faculty, staff and students working together to ensure the best experience for Vanderbilt students.  

Carmichael’s new lease on life 

The Carmichael Towers, which were the university’s tallest buildings, were named in memory of Oliver C. Carmichael, who was Vanderbilt’s third chancellor from 1937 to 1946. The new Carmichael College is also named for Chancellor Carmichael. This newest residential college at Vanderbilt will house 305 students and is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.  

“Carmichael College will be a remarkable place for students and faculty to engage with each other, discussing material they learn in their classes and how that shapes their understanding of their lived experience,” said Tiffiny Tung, vice provost for undergraduate education. “Our residential colleges offer an immersive environment that is transformative for students, fostering learning and personal growth beyond the classroom and creating a vibrant community where academic and real-world insights intersect.” 

Carmichael’s opening is an exciting step toward the university’s goal of providing living-learning opportunities on campus for all Vanderbilt students. Students who do not live in residential colleges have similar opportunities as those who do—the university is committed to providing every student with the full Vanderbilt experience through programs such as Immersion Vanderbilt, which gives students an opportunity for mentored learning with faculty members. Additionally, all undergraduate housing (not just residential colleges) integrates students across majors and interests and, beyond their first-year experience on The Ingram Commons, is a diverse mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors. 

Carmichael College will begin welcoming undergraduate students in the 2024–25 academic year under the leadership of faculty head Emily Pendergrass, associate professor of the practice of literacy and director of reading education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Peabody College.   

The Carmichael Café, located within the college, will feature an all-day café with handcrafted espresso beverages, pastries, sandwiches and more. With soaring ceilings and lounge-style seating, Carmichael Café will be less dining hall and more in the style of a grand European café for the campus community and visitors to enjoy.   

Learn more about Vanderbilt’s residential colleges and FutureVU. 

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