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Fourth annual Roads Scholars Tour takes Vanderbilt to Alabama

Aug. 8, 2005, 12:59 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – From the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and from the University of the South to Jack Daniel’s Distillery, the cultural, educational and economic engines of southeastern and Middle Tennessee and north and central Alabama will be showcased on the fourth annual Vanderbilt Roads Scholars Tour.

Led by Chancellor Gordon Gee, a bus filled with about 50 Vanderbilt faculty members, student leaders, senior administrators, staff and, for the first time, a Board of Trust member will once again take part in the event-filled tour of the region Aug. 17 and 18. This year’s tour is the second to reach beyond Tennessee’s borders, emphasizing the importance Vanderbilt places on creating and strengthening partnerships in the entire region it calls home. The 2005 edition of the tour will also include visits to Whitwell Middle School in Marion County, Tenn., Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, the Southeastern Conference headquarters in Birmingham and miles of scenic views along the way.

The Roads Scholars Tour was conceived in 2002 as a way to welcome new faculty and to familiarize them and others in the Vanderbilt community with Tennessee. The first tours took participants to East and West Tennessee, and last year it expanded to include parts of western and central Kentucky.

“The tour allows us to expose members of the Vanderbilt community to the larger community of which they are a part, and it increases regional awareness of the excellent teaching, research and service that Vanderbilt provides,” Gee said. “As in the previous three years, we’ll have the opportunity to visit friends and colleagues of some of our partners in education, service and health care and to forge new relationships as well.”

Following the 2002 Roads Scholars Tour to East Tennessee, Vanderbilt developed a working partnership with the Oneida Special School District. It includes teacher education through videoconferences with university experts and other K-12 schools. Stops at Rhodes College and the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital during the 2003 tour strengthened ongoing partnerships between Vanderbilt and these institutions. As a result of last year’s visit to Kentucky, Vanderbilt’s senior information technology leaders formed a consortium with their counterparts from the University of Kentucky, the University of Tennessee and other colleges and universities to keep abreast of issues specific to information technology and higher education.

A seat on the bus – its Vanderbilt Roads Scholars Tour logo emblazoned on the side – has become a hot ticket on campus. Gail Williams, associate director of community engagement in Vanderbilt’s Office of Community, Neighborhood and Government Relations and co-organizer of the tour, notes that newly hired and newly tenured faculty members are nominated by their deans for the trip. “The previous Roads Scholars Tours have been such a success that there is always a waiting list of faculty who want to come along as a ‘roadie,'” she said. Williams said the inclusion of Board of Trust member and 1968 alumna Joanne F. Hayes of Nashville will be an exciting addition to this year’s edition of the tour.

The bus will depart early the morning of Aug. 17 and make its first stop 90 minutes later at the University of the South in Sewanee. The two universities have a long history of collaboration, formalized last year in the Sewanee-Vanderbilt Partnership. That agreement strengthened the ties between the two universities, providing for additional sharing of resources and benefits to students and faculty in the areas of nursing, education, religion, engineering and student life.

The next stop is Whitwell Middle School, home to the Children’s Holocaust Memorial and Paper Clip Project. In 1998, the students of this rural school, who were largely unfamiliar with the genocide, undertook an initiative to build a memorial to Holocaust victims using paperclips they solicited from all over the world. The millions of paperclips, now permanently housed there in a German rail car, symbolize the students’ commitment to broaden their horizons and “Change the World One Class at a Time.”

The day’s activities conclude with visits to Erlanger Hospital and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Erlanger is a member of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Affiliate Network and, along with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, the Children’s Hospitals Alliance of Tennessee. Several Vanderbilt alumni and friends, including Board of Trust member William W. Featheringill and his wife Carolyn of Birmingham, will join the group for dinner that evening. Featheringill Hall, the School of Engineering‘s central teaching and research facility, bears the name of this 1964 alumnus.

The second day of the tour will commence with a visit to the offices of the Southeastern Conference, chosen to highlight Vanderbilt’s role as a national leader in academic reform in college athletics. The stop at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center will showcase the relationship between Vanderbilt engineering and science faculty and NASA and prompt both parties to explore possible ways to enhance that relationship, especially as the U.S. considers its future in space.

The 2005 tour concludes with a visit to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., always a favorite stop for anyone new to the area.

Media contact: Susanne Hicks, (615) 322-NEWS

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