April 3, 2013

Chancellor: Four ideas will define Vanderbilt’s destiny

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced four foundational ideas that will guide Vanderbilt as it defines itself in a new century during a speech April 3 at Spring Faculty Assembly.

Four foundational ideas guide Vanderbilt University as it defines itself in a new century, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said during Spring Faculty Assembly.

“This past year our faculty have been engaged in discussions about new big ideas and the truly big problems we can solve,” Zeppos said April 3 in the Martha Ingram Center for the Performing Arts at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. “We fix our sights on how to excel, redefine our goals and mission and make a global impact.

“I have heard and seen an eagerness to define and reinvent the research university of the 21st century. Throughout the year as I have listened and learned, four ideas have emerged. They go to the heart of our mission and our future strategy.”

The four ideas Zeppos announced were launching new trans-institutional programs that strengthen research, graduate and undergraduate programs; defining the residential research-based undergraduate liberal arts education for the 21st century; leading technology development for teaching and discovery; and developing a comprehensive set of solutions for health care.

Trans-institutional programs

Investments in cross-disciplinary programs such as the Center for Medicine, Health and Society have already paid dividends, Zeppos said.

“Now is the time to forge new connections across campus and declare that in these new areas, we at Vanderbilt will cooperate and discover and achieve in ways that only a collegial community of scholars working together can accomplish,” Zeppos said.

“The impact of these new connections will be defining. They will pave the way for new undergraduate curriculum, enrich and make better our graduate programs, guide our faculty and capital investments, and allow Vanderbilt to ask and answer questions in new and better ways.”

Residential education

New technologies will always inform teaching and learning at Vanderbilt, Zeppos acknowledged.

“However, we are one of a very small number of universities that can create an undergraduate experience that is residential, that focuses on faculty-student interaction in and out of the classroom, that is research-based and that focuses on educating the whole person,” Zeppos said.

In forging this experience, Vanderbilt must decide what qualities it wishes these students to carry with them for the rest of their lives, the chancellor said, and then create an environment that delivers those values.

New technologies

“New learning technologies and social media should be the source of creativity and innovation for students, faculty and staff on our campus,” Zeppos said.

Noting that the research university setting provides a unique place to develop and test new ideas side by side with “the smartest students in the world,” Zeppos urged innovation on this front because of “the potential for reaching millions around the world who thirst for access to knowledge and free thought.”

Health care

Vanderbilt must be a leader in solving the nation’s health care problems, Zeppos said.

“No other university is as uniquely positioned as we are to take on this bold challenge,” he said. “We have physicians, scientists and nurses who are dedicated to a new and different way of caring for all people. What is distinctive, however, is the eagerness of our medical staff and scientists to partner with engineers, humanists, sociologists, economists, anthropologists and every other field to care for the whole person and address the environment in which care must occur.”

Going forward

The chancellor said he would appoint strategic planning groups to discuss and recommend future areas for focus and investment.

“Additionally, over the next year we will undertake a campus-wide conversation on our priorities and strategies and test the outcome of this discussion with key supporters and our Board of Trust.”

Zeppos also recognized five faculty members with awards at the assembly, which included welcoming remarks from Faculty Senate chair Salvatore T. March and a presentation by Dr. William Schaffner, “Vanderbilt and the Tennessee Department of Health: A Successful Collaboration.”

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos speaks April 3 during Spring Faculty Assembly