April 3, 2014

Chancellor: University strikes bold path for the future

New construction and the start of a new substantial academic venture capital fund were among the topics brought up by Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos during his address at Spring Faculty Assembly.

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos speaks April 3 during Faculty Assembly in Langford Auditorium (Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt)

A large addition to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, the launch of a substantial new academic venture capital fund and longer-range plans for new centers and programs are in the wind at Vanderbilt, revealed Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos during Spring Faculty Assembly.

“My friends and colleagues have discussed ideas concerning a center for British studies, a new program in languages and world literature and a new center in demography to reach across the social sciences and medicine,” Zeppos said April 3 in Langford Auditorium.

“These are all exciting and important ideas,” he said. “They reflect your commitment to thinking boldly, thinking big and taking a stake in the future of the university and the path ahead.”

Zeppos said the Board of Trust would be presented this month with a proposal for a new building on the corner of 25th and Highland Avenues “to further our trans-institutional programs in science, engineering and medicine, and in innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The addition to the hospital will also be presented to the Board of Trust this month, he said.

“We are distinctive in the role we play in making discoveries for children’s health and in our ability to provide world-class care that grows out of our academic mission,” Zeppos said.

The chancellor paused during his address to informally salute Carolyn Dever, dean of the College of Arts and Science, and Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty. Dever is leaving for the position of provost at Dartmouth, and McCarty is stepping down in June and returning to the faculty after a leave of absence.

“We are awaiting the arrival of a new provost, which I expect soon, and he or she will have much to do,” Zeppos said. “The first task will be to announce a new $50 million academic venture capital fund to support these new ideas. … The fund will be generous in size and broad in scope, and I ask you all to consider: What are the best new ways to teach and discover at the research university of the 21st century?”

Zeppos praised the works of faculty members John Geer and Susan Wente in leading the university’s strategic planning process, during which hundreds of strategic planning meetings and three town hall events have been held to refine the university’s strategy in four areas laid out by the chancellor: the undergraduate residential experience, trans-institutional programs, health care solutions, and educational technologies.

“Our process continues – any plan at such a dynamic place must be written for a while in pencil and not in ink as a final draft,” Zeppos said. “But the shape of your collective effort is taking form, and it is time to invest in these ideas, the people, as well as the places.”

The chancellor also noted the efforts of the medical center leadership and staff during trying financial times.

“Tremendously affirming … and meriting our strongest commendation are the dedication and hard work of our physicians, nurses and thousands of incredible staff in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center,” Zeppos said. “Despite … cuts and reduced reimbursements, we are continuing to keep our eye on what really matters, the quality of our care and compassion for patients and their families.”

In addition to the remarks by Zeppos, the program included the presentation of teaching awards to faculty and a presentation by Dan Sharfstein, “Thunder in the Mountains: A Story of America after Reconstruction.”