Vanderbilt University

02/21/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2020 14:39

Residential College Magic

For Vanderbilt alumni who graduated more than a decade ago, residential colleges may seem like a far cry from the drab, maximally efficient dormitories built on campus in the 1960s to accommodate a quickly expanding student body. In fact, before the Class of 2012 moved onto The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons in 2008, never had there been anything on campus like these intentionally designed communities where undergraduates with different backgrounds are paired together and live alongside faculty.

But as new as it is to Vanderbilt, the idea for such communities is itself an old one, dating back to the earliest days of England's Oxford and Cambridge universities. The tradition also has some notable long-standing examples here in the U.S., including at several Ivy League universities. Today Vanderbilt is among a select group of higher education institutions that offer such a thoughtfully designed undergraduate residential experience that can encompass all four years of a student's time on campus.

'Our modern version of residential colleges creates ties that nurture our community and strengthens one's sense of belonging-in a world where that is much needed. Residential colleges also enrich the learning experience in a way that is mutually beneficial to our undergraduate students and the faculty who live alongside them,' says Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente. 'The benefits come from being part of a diverse, stimulating environment, where connections between faculty and students, creative inquiry and greater cultural awareness are prioritized. And grounding it all is our deep commitment to the personal well-being of our students with the ultimate goal of enhancing their success on campus and beyond.'

Vanderbilt requires all first-year students to live in one of the 10 houses on The Ingram Commons, each led by a faculty head who lives on-site and oversees innovative programming that gives each house its distinct identity. Sophomores, juniors and seniors then have the option of continuing to live alongside faculty in one of three residential colleges: E. Bronson Ingram College, Moore College or Warren College.

'We try to create a tighter sense of community through our programming and events, and offer our students a refuge from the stresses of college life. In the case of the Magical Dinner, most of them grew up with the Harry Potter books, so there's lots of nostalgia wrapped up in it.' - Sarah Igo

'When I was a student at Vanderbilt in the '80s, there wasn't this sense of community and identity that we're trying to cultivate among the undergraduates now,' says Vanessa Beasley, BA'88, vice provost for academic affairs and dean of residential faculty. 'What we're offering them is a richer, fuller experience.'

Here we offer a look at life inside residential colleges, as seen through the eyes of two faculty heads - Rosevelt Noble, BS'97, PhD'03, senior lecturer of sociology and director of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, and Sarah Igo, the Andrew Jackson Professor of History and Director of American Studies, with affiliate appointments in law, political science, sociology and communication of science and technology. Noble is the head of Stambaugh House on The Ingram Commons, and Igo is the head of E. Bronson Ingram College.