To the class of 2023 and to all transfer students, welcome to Vanderbilt University. When you toured here in high school, you likely observed students working tirelessly in Central Library and faculty leading innovative classes in Buttrick Hall. At the same time, you probably watched friends soaking up sunny days together on Alumni Lawn and saw any number of other picture-perfect vignettes of college life. Vanderbilt touts statistics such as its position as the #14 National University according to the U.S. News and World Report, or its increasingly competitive admissions process that led to a regular decision acceptance rate of only 6.3% for your class. Reading these numbers and watching students who seem to have it all may lead you to feel the pressure to fit yourself into the Vanderbilt mold and live up to these daunting expectations.
To that, I respond by encouraging you to think beyond each of these narrow lenses of Vanderbilt and to embrace the unexpected joys of this school. This university offers hundreds of student-led organizations, immersive opportunities with respected faculty, and an unparalleled academic education. You are at a unique time and place in your life to be at Vanderbilt, and to shape the future of this institution. As a student at Vanderbilt, I advise you to embrace this opportunity to the fullest by building your own community and by generating positive social, political, and personal change.
I could not have predicted three years ago that my initial desire to study public health would transform into a passion for research on the lives of immigrants and refugees. I never guessed that I would spend my weeks volunteering in the greenhouses at Vanderbilt and working in political science labs, while also running a political publication on campus. Vanderbilt Political Review provided me my own platform for creating change and my own opportunity to share my voice on campus. From the thoughtful mentorship of my editor when I joined the organization, to my relationship with the tight-knit and endlessly dedicated board of this publication, VPR allowed me to develop my own ever-changing and essential community.
Vanderbilt is in a time of dynamic change. In the past week, Chancellor Emeritus Nicholas Zeppos retired from his position, and former Provost and Vice Chancellor Susan R. Wente took up the position of Interim Chancellor. In the past year, the university announced dramatic changes to residential housing for undergraduates, commitments to institutional sustainability, and other initiatives ranging in topic from student well-being to increased inclusivity. With all of these changes, you can and you should make your voice heard. Vanderbilt University is, above all else, built to benefit you. As you embark upon the first weeks of classes and settle into life in this new home, I ask you to be curious, creative, and critical about the community you joined.
Take on daunting challenges and push yourself with intellectual and personal curiosity. Creatively approach the questions your professors ask in the classroom, and the questions you devise on your own. Perhaps most importantly, be critical of the world around you and challenge yourself to make a Vanderbilt you would want for the future. In the coming weeks, I hope to see you apply to write for VPR, and I hope to see you sign petitions, host panels, attend lectures, lead protests, and share your voices on campus and within our greater community.
I wish you the best of luck this upcoming year, and I cannot wait to see how you shape this university and this world.
Grace Adcox, Editor in Chief