What is Vanderbilt Visions?
Vanderbilt Visions is a key component of the educational program in The Ingram Commons. Visions encourages first-year undergraduates to be empowered and responsible members of the Vanderbilt University community.
It is a university core program that meets during the first semester, beginning with CommonVU orientation and meeting weekly until Thanksgiving break. All first-year students are assigned to one of 92 Visions groups, which connect students from all ten Houses of The Ingram Commons and all four undergraduate colleges. Teams of upperclass peer mentors and faculty members (Student and Faculty VUceptors) mentor these small groups as they explore the transition from high school to university life. A syllabus organizes hour-long meetings, but provides groups significant autonomy to chart their own course. Activities include a discussion of The Commons Reading (see below) and attendance at the author's lecture; participation in the Honor Code signing ceremony and discussion of the Honor Code; attendance at and group reflection following the student-created presentation “True Life,” which focuses on common issues, such as alcohol and substance abuse, mental health concerns, and identity formation, that students may face during their first year; explorations of goals, aspirations, and expectations; strategies to address the academic and social pressures and negotiate a balanced life; and countering stereotypes.
The three signature features of Vanderbilt Visions are student-faculty interaction, undergraduate peer mentorship supported by a student organization, and the intentional creation of academic and social networks bringing together students and faculty outside the classroom.
In their Visions groups, first-year students build academic and social relationships with professors from a wide range of disciplines and professional backgrounds. They become more comfortable seeking advice on academic, social and leadership issues from their Faculty VUceptor and other university faculty. The Visions experience also broadens faculty understanding of the challenges, concerns, and talents of their students.
Undergraduate Peer Mentorship and The Student Organization VUcept
Undergraduate peer mentors to new students at Vanderbilt are all members of the student organization VUcept. It is dedicated to the personal, social, and academic empowerment of first-year students. By fostering relationships among first-year students, upperclass students, and university faculty, Student VUceptors help new students explore and integrate themselves into their class, the living-learning communities of The Ingram Commons, and the greater Vanderbilt community. Student VUceptors reflect the diversity of thought and experience found at Vanderbilt. They are sources of reliable academic and personal advice. They model academic success and personal responsibility. They show how collaborative partnerships with professors are possible. Vanderbilt sophomores, juniors, and seniors from all four undergraduate schools who meet minimum application requirements and have a passion for mentoring first-year students are welcome to apply in January of each year.
Academic and Social Networks
Each Visions group is a unique social and academic network of 17–19 first-year students, mentored by a team of Faculty and Student VUceptors, that contributes to a successful first year at Vanderbilt. The semester-long format of Vanderbilt Visions provides time for students to feel more comfortable with and connected to each other, upperclass students, and faculty. Each individual student is therefore more likely to find friends and acquaintances, become more knowledgeable about the university, learn how to approach upperclass students and professors, and feel more confident in a new environment. The Visions group becomes a network of information, group support, personal friendship, and academic resources.
The Commons Reading
The Commons Reading offers a common intellectual experience to each entering class that stimulates discussion, critical thinking, and a sense of community among students, faculty and staff. The Commons Reading for the Class of 2017 is College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco, Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities and Director of American Studies at Columbia University. It is distributed to all incoming first-year students in June and serves as a topic for the Vanderbilt Visions semester in the fall.
For information on the past Commons Reading, click here. Information about the Commons Reading for the Class of 2017 will be posted over the summer.
Student VUceptor Recruitment
Applications for Fall 2013 Student VUceptor positions were collected throughout the month of January. Applicants were interviewed in February and announcements were made in March. Student VUceptor recruitment occurs beginning in January of each year.
Application Requirements for Student VUceptor Candidates
- A minimum GPA of 3.0 at the time of application and at the end of the spring semester. (Students with a slightly lower GPA due to extenuating circumstances may apply.)
- No disciplinary probations from the time of application through the end of the fall semester 2013.
- Returning applicants must go through the same application process as new applicants, and are not guaranteed an interview.
- Applicants and VUceptors who are spending the semester away from Vanderbilt as enrolled students (study abroad, internships, etc.) are eligible to apply. If chosen to be interviewed, Skype or phone interviews will be arranged.
Faculty VUceptor Recruitment
Faculty VUceptor recruitment for Fall 2013 positions began in December 2012 with a targeted completion date of January 31, 2013. (If you read this after January 31, 2013 and are interested in becoming a Faculty VUceptor, please do not hesitate to contact the Assistant Dean of The Ingram Commons.)
For detailed information about the role and expectations of Faculty VUceptors and the sign-up form, click here.
An article from the VUMC Reporter about Medical Center faculty involvement in Vanderbilt Visions and The Commons is available here.
Expectations of VUceptors for Fall 2013
- Participate in VUceptor Orientation (April 2nd, 4th, or 8th, 2013)
- Participate in VUceptor Training (During the week of August 12th, 2013)
- Participate in CommonVU activities with your Visions group
- Prepare Vanderbilt Visions meetings on a weekly basis and co-facilitate all sessions
- Complete The Commons Reading over the summer
The Benefits of Being a Faculty and Student VUceptor
Anonymous quotes from VUceptor surveys
“This was a tremendous learning experience for me in facilitating discussions and engaging the students on a social level. I look forward to working with another group next year.”
“Extremely rewarding as a Faculty VUceptor—in large part due to interaction with the students but also due to the feeling that I was serving a useful purpose in their lives.”
“We were very effective co-leaders, and we became close friends. Our mutual respect was apparent to our group and had a very positive effect. This was something I had not anticipated—a gift.”
“Being a Vuceptor was the absolute best thing I've done since I came to Vanderbilt.”
“I appreciate how co-facilitating Visions sessions has shown me my strengths and weaknesses in leading small group discussions.”
“My Faculty VUceptor was amazing… she invested so much of herself into making sure that Visions ran successfully.”
“I made personal connections with all of my first-year students, so that most of them will feel comfortable coming to me with personal or academic issues.”