College Halls | Blog

Warren and Moore Environmental Series Dinner

On April 10 Warren and Moore hosted a dinner for students, faculty, and staff on sustainable food at Alumni Hall, in cooperation with SPEAR and ORBIS. Concerns with animal treatment and the environmental consequences of industrial meat production led us to an all vegetarian menu, the specifics of which were developed by Vanderbilt Dining. As always, the food was delicious — you can find the menu below.

In addition to WaM students, who made up the large majority of diners, and SPEAR and ORBIS members, representatives of the Vanderbilt Initiative for Vegetarian Awareness and Vanderbilt Food Justice were also in attendance. Faculty and staff environmental advocates in attendance were professors Beth Conklin (Anthropology), Teresa Goddu (English, American Studies), Zdravka Tzankova (Sociology), and Linda Breggin (Law, Environmental Law Institute); Andrea George (Director) and Chelsea Hamilton (Outreach) of SustainVU; Anna Guengerich (Anthropology); and Suzanne Herron, Sustainability Coordinator for Campus Dining.

About 30 minutes into dinner, I thanked everyone present on behalf of Warren and Moore, made introductions, then invited up Director of Dining, Chef Camp Howard. Camp gave his presentation on food service at Vanderbilt through the lens of environmental sustainability.  As an aside, Camp’s powerpoint presentation might not have happened without a very competent Moore student who was working the Alumni information desk earlier in the afternoon — she pulled together and set up the needed resources in time, despite my miscommunication to Student Centers regarding the needed equipment.

Camp addressed many topics, including energy use in Dining’s operations, recycling and composting practices, sourcing local foods, and challenges resulting from the “to-go preference” among many students. Regrettably, I sometimes succumb to the illusory convenience of the to-go option too. Q&A followed the talk. One question, perhaps rhetorical, but in any case very thought provoking, was whether Vanderbilt, as an institution of higher education that is dedicated to the future of its students, simply not accommodate the “to-go preference” of many students, and faculty/staff too!  As at the Commons, why not eliminate the to-go option campus wide? Why not? Or perhaps allow the only to-go option to be an innovative program, which Camp told us about, of reusable to-go containers. Dining had developed this with SPEAR a while back. The program is not active now because the Vanderbilt community didn’t embrace it, but what if it were the only to-go option, for the truly hurried?

The sustainable food dinner was the third in the Warren and Moore Environmental Series. Each semester, since Spring 2015 — a real tradition now! — WaM plans and (co-)sponsors an environmentally-themed event. Last semester (Fall 2015), WaM cosponsored a visit by and dinner with novelist Nathaniel Rich, and in Spring 2015, WaM inaugurated the series with a panel on the California water crisis, featuring Vanderbilt grad student Christopher Wold, and alum Dr. Debra Perrone, who participated by video conferencing from Stanford University.

The most recent event in the series was conceived when a Vanderbilt student wrote WaM leadership about the excess of waste, notably faux glassware (aka plastic), at our big October celebration in 2015 — waste that apparently was not being recycled. We took it seriously, and indeed, had a similar, but unexpressed, concern. Next year, I hope that we plan differently. More generally, we want to spend our dining budget ethically, and want to engage with the Vanderbilt community on what the ethical considerations should be. The dinner was intended to highlight the best of dining (small ‘d’) practices, with the menu and the service by our very own, and much loved, campus Dining.

The Menu

  • Grilled Spring Asparagus (vegan) with Watercress Green Goddess Dip
  • Chilled Sliced Radishes, Sprouts & Local Bibb Lettuce with Sherry Wine Vinaigrette (vegan)
  • Herbal Garden Potatoes, Baby Spinach & Lemon (vegan)
  • Seared Tofu, Roasted Red & Yellow Peppers with Caramelized Onion Jam (vegan)
  • Kale & Farro Pilaf With Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms & Fresh Ramps
  • Chickpea Casserole with Chervil, Shallots, & Parmesan Crust
  • Dinner Rolls & Butter
  • Lemon Spongettes with Fresh Picked Strawberries
  • Apple Crisp (vegan)
  • Iced Tea
  • Unbottled Water
  • Basic Linen White China, Glassware, Silverware

Doug Fisher is Faculty Director of Warren College. The opinions expressed herein are Doug’s, and are not necessarily the opinions of Vanderbilt University.

Posted by on April 12, 2016 in News

Outdoor Recreation and WaM Hiking Club

Linda Rosenkranz, Director of Vanderbilt’s Outdoor Recreation Program, gave a presentation at WaM on March 30 about Outdoor Rec’s many activities and available resources. You can find her presentation slides, which are almost entirely trip pictures, in reduced-memory format, here. We are hoping to have her back at the start of Fall semester 2016, which is probably a more sensible time, and yearly after that.

Fig: a pic from one of Outdoor Rec’s many outings.

In high school I went backpacking frequently, and I went regularly while in college too. My favorite trips with friends in California, where I grew up, were San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks (more often than Yosemite), Mt Whitney, and later in college, the Appalachian trail. After coming to Vanderbilt, I went on a few trips in Tennessee with Outdoor Rec (and Linda R), Patricia joined us on a back packing trip too.

Camping on the trail doesn’t appeal to everyone, or even most, but many more enjoy a good morning or midday hike, without the overnight obligation. And there are lots of good day trips, to include the necessary driving, within range of Vanderbilt. On April 23, I am signed up for one such day trip with Outdoor Rec to Short Springs State Natural Area. I know at least one WaM student will be coming.

I talked with Grad Fellow Grace Chee, also an enthusiastic outdoors person, about a hiking club that would include occasional backpacking. For trips that involve significant logistics (i.e., arranging for driving, food shopping, etc) we thought that piggybacking on Vanderbilt’s Outdoor Rec program was best. Their programs are popular, but would probably often have space for a small group of interested WaMers to join (through normal signup), without undue inconvenience to others. We even talked about picking up some, or all, of the modest fees for Outdoor Rec’s short trips for WaMers in the case where its a club-endorsed trip and a student had a tough time covering it.

In addition to piggybacking on Outdoor Rec programs, the WaM hiking club would operate separately for short trips to Radner Lake, Percy and Edwin Warner parks, even Montgomery Bell State Park (with lunch or dinner at the lodge there!) and some other nearby places.

So, if you are interested in short day hikes, and an occasional backpack trip, with others at WaM and Vanderbilt, let me know — I am ready to pick up the mantle on this, and Patricia always loves a restful hike too. As with other ideas that take shape towards the end of the year, I’ll send out a reminder in late summer or early fall.

Doug Fisher is the Faculty Director of Warren College. The opinions expressed here are Doug’s and not necessarily the opinions of Vanderbilt University.

Posted by on April 10, 2016 in News

Warren Envoys receive support for programs they care about

The Warren Envoys program is intended to encourage Warren students to represent Warren in events across campus, typically events that the students would actively participate in anyways. The emphasis here is on “across campus” programs, as opposed to Warren-funded (or WAM-funded) within-Warren (or within WAM) programs. There are plenty of support opportunities already for this latter class of programs.

Warren Envoys will contribute funds and/or services to events that

  • are open to all campus residents,
  • by any of the multitude of campus organizations, or selected unaffiliated events, and
  • include one or more Warren residents as members of the organizational team.

By virtue of Warren’s contributions, Warren will ideally become a co-sponsor of any such event, whether it occurs in the WaM vicinity or not, and whether or not Warren residents are a majority presence in the organization of the event. Even if Warren residents are not initially involved overtly in organization, we hope that they would become so by bringing Warren support to an event.

Why a Warren Envoys program, particularly when Warren (and Moore) residents, and many outside WaM, approach WaM leadership for co-sponsorship opportunities already? And we grant such co-sponsorship and will continue to do so.

In part its about acknowledging, embracing, and leveraging the reality of student driven programming that is pervasive at Vanderbilt, as well as the wonderful fact that our students organize many of these activities! While numbers of participants at programs are not the whole story of evaluation by a long shot, it nonetheless appears to be the case that these “outside” programs draw more absolute numbers of Warren students than some within-Warren events.

We don’t want Warren to compete with these other Warren-student organized events, or to have the appearance of competing with them. Rather, we want Warren to contribute to their success. By establishing Warren Envoys as a formal program, we hope to message to every Warren resident, particularly those not already plugged into Warren leadership, that Warren appreciates and supports outside-Warren programming, as well as inside-Warren programming, particularly when Warren students are active in the former.

Ideally, Warren Envoys will help create a Warren identity among participants in what would have been non-Warren programs, and increase Warren participation in the program through social networking and increased promotion.

Early in WaM’s life, it is, perhaps, not surprising that we were hyper-focused on building community within Warren and within WaM. Much of this inward focus can, will, and should remain (e.g., Warren e³, Moore’s Coffee and Conversations, Warren Film Series, game nights), but as I have reconnected with my Faculty-member-in-residence roots (i.e., at McGill, old Kissam, “old” North), where a residential faculty member is an ambassador of the entire faculty to the entire residential life of campus (as I defined it anyways), I’m committing more of my time of late to attending events across campus. And guess what I have seen first hand, which I only knew abstractly and didn’t grok before? There are tons of Warren and WaM students doing an extraordinary amount of planning and implementing of programs across this campus, “outside” of WaM. And when I go to their events, I feel good about supporting them!

In addition to Warren resident participation of events I wrote of earlier, over 50 students attended Hidden Dores Miniweek on March 29, with a majority of the speakers being Warren residents, as well as the moderator/organizer; I counted about 10 Warren students (of about 100-150 attendees) at the Climate Connection on March 29, entitled Black Lives Matter and Saving the Planet; and I counted another 14 Warren residents and alums (of almost 100 students) at VSW on April 1.

As a computer scientist, I am inclined to want to understand the dynamics of residential life holistically and beyond the anecdotal. We want to capture both the outward-Warren facing programs by our residents, who view Warren as a place to reenergize, and inward-Warren facing programs that help build a community capable of reenergizing its residents. Some of our residents are, no doubt, primarily outward facing, some primarily inward facing, but all are to varying extents between these.

To help quantitatively characterize the outward-facing programming of Warren students, I’ll ask those who participate in Warren Envoys to give an exact (through swipes) or approximate (through head counting, as I do) number of Warren attendees at these programs — no names, just numbers! Eventually, if we really want to maximize the number of students who are served, we will want to know who participates in outward facing programs, who participates in inward facing programs, and who is falling through the cracks.

Because we are rapidly approaching the end of the year, and our available budget is dwindling, this is likely a program that we won’t start up formally until next year, though I can point to examples where it is already happening at WaM, albeit ad hoc by those who are plugged into WaM leadership. We can do it better. For example, in the past we have, as a matter of policy, not promulgated non-WaM events in our newsletters and over our list serves. I expect the policy to remain the same, but under Warren Envoys, so much more will open up as Warren programming!

Doug Fisher is Faculty Director of Warren College. This post reflects Doug’s opinions and not necessarily those of Vanderbilt University. Thanks to Nick Dressler and Grace Chee for discussing this with me and helping me to refine the ideas.

Posted by on April 2, 2016 in News

The Warren Student Showcase

Just after Spring break, Victoria Scott of Warren College gave a wonderful presentation on her internship and travel in Peru last summer (posted with permission). Her slideshow sparked uuhs and ahhs, and lots of Q&A at Warren 503. Campus Dining brought in snacks, which we all enjoyed.

Our evening on Peru was the first in a series of gatherings that highlight student expertise, experience, and expression (e³). These showcases can be on professional or leisure/travel topics, which Victoria’s presentation combined so well, or be academic and artistic in nature, to include performance art, practice conference talks, and formats I might not imagine yet. The common threads are the focus on individual student e³, perhaps with very occasional small groups, and the informal atmosphere that seems to come naturally in the cozy but open Warren College faculty apartment. The focus on individual students addresses a niche that I have not seen elsewhere, and I believe it complements existing programming formats around campus.

This series didn’t emerge from nowhere. There is the backdrop of ubiquitous student driven expression across campus, which professional staff, me included, have little to do with. Professor Lovensheimer’s Concerts at Kissam regularly features student talent. Moore Student Governance organized a panel on internships last year, composed exclusively of students with internship experience. The Warren RAs held a similar event this semester. Patricia and Riley, one of our RAs, imagined a student showcase series like this, again with an emphasis on featuring individual students, which Patricia shared with me.

I asked Victoria to do this inaugural showcase when I talked to her at the Warren RA internship event and saw some of her pics from her Peru trip. I talked to Grace and Nick about it, they loved the idea, and we set it up. And we will certainly ask others. But students who want to talk about their experience or to act on their talent at Warren 503 should talk to me or the graduate fellows about it. We’ll set it up, open the apartment, and promote it along with you.

Nick, Grace, and I have wondered about a name for this series (Warren Student Showcase? Warren e³?), and we are open to suggestions. Whatever the name turns out to be, thanks to Victoria for being our inaugural anchor.

Doug Fisher is the Faculty Director of Warren College. This post reflects Doug’s opinions and not necessarily those of Vanderbilt University.

Posted by on March 26, 2016 in News

Student-Driven Programming

Doug Fisher is the Faculty Director of Warren College. This post reflects Doug’s opinions and not necessarily those of Vanderbilt University.

On Friday night (2/19) I went to The Poets’ Choice Awards by Vanderbilt Spoken Word at the Sarratt Cinema. It was awesome. There were over 200 people in the audience, largely students, with some family and faculty/staff too. The program shows about 50 individual performers and support staff, to include the two special guest groups (Nach Vandy and Harmonic Notion). That is over 250  total participants! And I am not counting those who attended Saturday night’s encore performance, nor the distinct special guest groups (The Original Cast and Tongue N’ Cheek) appearing on Saturday’s bill. I am assuming that some people attended both nights (it was worth it). 500 individuals over both nights is probably a good estimate of the number of participants. And on Friday and Saturday nights! That is remarkable.

The Poets’ Choice Awards is student-driven programming in its purest and most successful form. It draws on students from across campus (e.g., 6 performers were from Warren College, one Warren/Vanderbilt alum, and one of my database students), and diverse in gender and race. The event  required a significant investment of time, brains, heart, and sweat for composition, planning, and execution. The pieces were so well written, addressing important issues of sexual assault, personal identity, mental health, to name a few. The audience was attentive and boisterous, creating a kind of dialog that was gratifying and fun. The event drew in faculty, staff, alums, and family, as well as students. Professor Lori Troxel, a WaM faculty associate, and her husband sat in front of me. This is the kind of program I dream about.

There are plenty of other student-driven programs on campus, like Diwali, Original Cast Fall and Spring shows, hackathons (e.g., Vandy Hacks and Hack Vandy), and so many more. The Meladores are a student organization with events that have gone viral and international.

There are some who might not label the activities above as “programs”, but they are (and ideal programs at that), particularly when Vanderbilt funds and other resources are used.  While many of these groups benefit from well-placed faculty/staff advice and support, the programs may hide in plain sight when we have our “programming glasses on” because they include little staff and faculty involvement beyond advice and signatures. As the saying goes, sometimes the most important thing one can do is to stay out of someone else’s way.

The most important thing that I do relative to student-driven programs is that I go to them.  As a former faculty member in residence at McGill, old Kissam, and North, I regarded my primary obligation to be “showing up” at student driven events like the McGill Hours and Coffee Houses, SPEAR meetings, NAACP panels, and student religious group gatherings and worship at St Augustine’s; as well as institutionally-sponsored events like those by the Women’s Center, Office of Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs, the Chaplain’s Office, Outdoor Recreation, and Residential Education. I’ve experienced that student-driven programming is pervasive at Vanderbilt for a long time, and I want to make a formal census of the many exemplars of student-driven programming and dig into their origins, which will give those of us that worry about programming a back drop against which to frame everything else we do.

Now that I am a Faculty Director, being an ambassador of the faculty to the after hours of Vanderbilt’s residential life — be it at The Ingram Commons, McGill, Moore College, Furman, Stevenson, or Sarratt — is only one of my obligations. My primary obligation is to be a community facilitator and lead at Warren and WaM, working with the Graduate Fellows, the Warren Council, Patricia, the Area Coordinator, and RAs. The latter role of facilitator, as I see it, is many fold.

First, our role to foster a safe and reenergizing residential community — a “home”, albeit different from the traditional home, with Fresh Baked Fridays being an example of a program intended to foster that.

Second, the FDs and GFs take on ventures that require considerable funds and/or a commitment to the long haul. Professor Lovensheimer’s Concerts at Kissam are a good example. While initial attendance in year one was often small, its been growing thanks to a Faculty Director’s commitment and patience that allows it to grow. The concerts are also considerably responsible for WaM getting more Blair students, despite the long distance to Blair. The WaM environmental series is another example, and we’ll exhibit long-term patience with that too, because we believe that WaM should always have environmental programming — sustainability should be in our bedrock.

Third, FD and GF programs introduce students to faculty and staff community members, including the Chancellor and Provost, who our students might not otherwise be able to meet and speak with. Dinners at the faculty apartments, Moore’s Coffee and Conversations, and Warren’s Fireside Chats are examples of these.

Fourth, while there is already awesome student-driven programming across Vanderbilt, we are exploring mechanisms for facilitating still more of it within Warren and WaM, albeit in ways that complement what is already pervasive across campus.

How do we facilitate still more student-driven programming without interfering with what is not broken? Again, our approach is “in house” and we hope to appeal to those students not previously involved in program planning, or have a break in other programming that they are involved with. We give the Warren Council a budget to use, and they tap into the mood of the students in defining and timing events. Student committees help plan programs like Hot Topics and The Warren Film Series with the Graduate Fellows. We are also creating new initiatives that invite Warren students to lead discussions at Warren 503. On March 17, we have our first student guest presenter, who will be doing a slide show on her experience in Peru on a summer internship at hospitals and traveling the countryside. We also are inviting students to host their invited guests in 503. This opportunity grew from suggestions at the Senior Alumni Hall dinner by a few seniors who wanted to host employees from The Market and The Kitchen, for dinner and to hear their stories.

In truth, all these mechanisms, and more, for facilitating student-driven programming at Warren and WaM exist now, and can be exercised by knocking on the Faculty Director doors and/or the Graduate Fellows doors. Some of what I have just described are ways of scaffolding this entry for students, but even those scaffolds often develop as the result of student ideas. Much of what emerges in the way of Warren and WaM student driven programming may be small compared to The Poet’s Choice Awards and other across campus student collective efforts, but that’s great, because the last thing that I want to do is to compete with larger student run programs. We hope to complement the larger efforts too, in opening opportunities for other students to lead and plan events with nuanced themes that appeal to smaller groups. All good.

Posted by on February 21, 2016 in News

Thoughts on Virginia Tech’s visit to WaM and Vanderbilt

Doug Fisher is the Faculty Director of Warren College. This post reflects Doug’s opinions and not necessarily those of Vanderbilt University.

During the first week of Spring semester, Warren and Moore hosted a group from Virginia Tech’s Honors Residential College (HRC). The Faculty Principal, akin to Faculty Directors at Warren and Moore and Heads of House at The Ingram Commons, led his crew of six students from HRC’s student council and their equivalent of our graduate fellow/coordinator. We had lively meetings, exchanging practices of and ideas about our two residential college systems. Matthew Sinclair gave a great overview of WaM’s Community Development Plan, and assessment processes were discussed between the HRC team, Graduate Fellows Brooke and Grace, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Assessment Laura Walaszek, and Associate Dean of Students Pat Helland. The HRC team also met with Dean Vanessa Beasley,  Asst Dean Nina Warnke, and Crawford Head of House Catherine McTamaney at The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons. Our time together was kicked off by a lovely reception at Professor Lovensheimer’s apartment, with many students, particularly council members, from both Warren and Moore. HRC gave a wonderful talk to a group of Vanderbilt faculty and students towards the end of the second day, with more details below. The full schedule was emailed and posted beforehand on our Facebook groups and the College Halls blog.

Of the many things that I so appreciated about what HRC is doing, one stood out well before HRC arrived, and in fact, within a few moments of reading the email proposing the visit from Professor Eric Kaufman, Faculty Principal — they are taking road trips to other residential colleges, and doing it cheaply. What better way to learn what other institutions of higher education are doing in residential life, and to bond as a team in the process, than to take your team on the road (literally) to talk to others! Last year HRC visited University of South Carolina’s Preston College. In general, they look for residential colleges within driving distance (e.g., on O’Hara’s Collegiate Way, a source that we’ve read for our residential college reading group), talk, and select among the options. The trip is made in a large VT-owned van, sleeping bags and air mattresses among the luggage, and the group is housed with residents — in our case, with student council and faculty hosts, as well as some rooms at WaM that were unoccupied at the time of the visit.

Warren and Moore weren’t open when HRC made their plans earlier, but we were on top of the list this year.  And we are thankful for that. The Warren College Council has expressed interest in starting a road-trip series, and I think its money worth spending.

There are important differences between HRC and WaM that would inform how we adapted (or not) their practices and ideas, and vice versa. HRC is about 5 years old, and WaM is in year two. Residents of HRC must first be in VT’s Honors’ program and must maintain that status to remain in residence, though appeals and exceptions are allowed, with a student remediation plan in hand (as I understand it). HRC is a home to students from all four years, with about 40% first year, 30% sophomores, 20% juniors, and 10% seniors (I need to clarify how first year students are admitted). A large majority percentage of VT students live off campus. As an aside, I think that Vanderbilt is a much more vibrant community because the vast majority of our students live on campus, than it would be otherwise. I wonder whether, in an environment dominated by off-campus living, those communities on campus would be even tighter, relative to the campus as a whole, than it would be otherwise?

In an excellent talk, Melanie, HRC Council Historian followed Dr K's opening, with a presentation on HRC aspirations

In their excellent talk, HRC showed us an image of the high turnout to open student council meetings, but they noted that this level of engagement had taken attention and time. At the start of HRC, RAs were largely responsible for programming, but the the HRC council and other students are now largely responsible for programming (with the blessings of all, RAs included, though each RA still runs a couple of programs a month). Some activities that were student initiated and are long running are weekly soup nights, where a student volunteer has stepped up each year for the past few to create and serve soup once a week, like clockwork. Sunday morning pancakes follow the same model — yum to both! Both these activities are cited in this wonderful testimonial to HRC that I found on the Web, or this one goes into a bit of detail about soup night (try Googling soup night at HRC Virginia Tech)

HRC Council President, Jordan, talks about their student council

Council VP Mitch talks about bringing students into the HRC community

All residents at HRC, first-year and upperclass, take a 1-credit hour seminar on HRC practices, policies, goals and visions, and traditions of their community. Indeed, the possibility of “College Halls seminars” noted in vision documents in WaM’s history are a generalization of this idea, as well as the first-year Commons seminars. That the HRC is running such seminars successfully, and for some time, is encouragement that we at WaM not forget about the possibility of (optional) upperclass 1-credit hour seminars. There are also “renegade seminars” at HRC, which are standalone events, initiated and led by both students and faculty. This reminded me of something that Patricia has suggested — that in addition to having our (Warren) dinners with faculty and staff guests as central “facilitators”, that we ask students to come in this role too. So that we might have one or more residents who just returned from study-abroad to come to dinner and talk about their experience; or a student who served in an internship; or a political campaign; and there are a slew of other experiences that would draw an interested few or a crowd — all good.

Sean, Director of Academic Enrichment, presenting on student leadership at HRC, with support from Dr. K

Gargie, HRC Council Secretary, describing ways that HRC leadership facilitates programs

At HRC, suites are few, and are allotted to students who agree to to be community mentors and to make the suite’s common space available to the entire HRC. Indeed, a suite’s common space is technically considered HRC common space. No one should worry that this will become WaM policy, but it reminds me of the notable example of the inaugural residents on one second floor suite at Warren who opened their door to the larger community. What a great thing that was.

HRC's Graduate Assistant, Andrew, talking about Apartment fellowship, and the model of suite common space being HRC common space

The HRC group was very intrigued by the possibility of an interactive portal between WaM and HRC. While we successfully piloted the interactive portal in the Kissam Center with University College, Melbourne, earlier this year (and of course, the Commons portal installation was a great experience — I went twice!), a regular and consistent connection between WaM and Melbourne has been hampered by our differing summer breaks (we are in different hemispheres), various academic leaves and sabbaticals, even more so than due to the time differences. But a portal to HRC would be equally cool, perhaps as a portfolio of portal destinations, and this Tech(ie) group is enthusiastic. I plan to remind Professor Kaufman of that enthusiasm in the not too distant future 🙂 That is, if he doesn’t bug me first!

The HRC’s founding faculty principals were historians, and no surprise that there is a Historian on the HRC student council. This position, together with the others, notably the secretary and communications, are responsible for preserving a history of HRC. What a great idea! To a large extent we have also understood the importance of creating and preserving a WaM history, which is acknowledged in our Web pages, our blog, our Facebook groups, and tweets (and perhaps one day, by a student created Instagram account). For my part, I will probably start posting, to the History Web pages, public summaries of reports that I prepare each month and at the end of the year. But the idea that students, historians and otherwise, have a primary responsibility for documenting our community’s history is significant — talk about an immersive experience!

Jamie, HRC Council Director of Communications talking about traditions in the making

Thanks to HRC for thinking about us, visiting us, and thanks to all — more than any of us might think — who helped make this visit such a great experience. Let’s plan a road trip.

Post-HRC-talk pic. From roughly left to right: Doug (VU), Mitch (VT), Shawn (VU), Gargie (VT), Jordan (VT), Jamie (VT), Sean (VT), Linzie (VU), Andrew (VT), Melanie (VT), Jasmine (VU), William (VU), Dr. L (VU), Chelsie (VU), Nick (VU), Dean (VU), Chukwukpee (VU), Siham (VU), Grace (VU), Dr. K (VT). Photo by Matthew Sinclair (VU).

Posted by on January 23, 2016 in News

Visitors from Virginia Tech’s Honors Residential College

Welcome back, everyone!

Visitors from Virginia Tech’s Honors Residential College (HRC) are visiting this week. They will be arriving late afternoon on Tuesday, January 12 and departing about Noon on Thursday, January 14. The visitors team includes the Faculty Principal (aka Faculty Director or Head of House) of HRC, a “Graduate Fellow”, and 6 members of the HRC student council (i.e., President, Vice President, Secretary, Historian, Director of Academic Enrichment, and Director of Communication). I am particularly struck that HRC has the position of Historian on their council!

The HRC Crest

We have arranged a full schedule of OPEN thematic meetings — that means anyone can attend, including you!

The full schedule is below.

Students might be particularly interested in the HRC overview at 4:00 pm on Wednesday and the students-only breakout at 5:30 on Wednesday. But you are also welcome to join our various meals — just look for a group of strangers, who are eating with a group of familiar faces.

The visitors will be staying throughout Warren and Moore, so say hello.

For more information, contact your faculty director, graduate fellows, the AC, an RA, or college council member. We want to give and get plenty of ideas from these visitors!



All sessions OPEN, unless otherwise noted

Tuesday, January 12th

4:00 pm – 5:30 pm       Arrival at Kissam Center

5:30 pm – 6:00 pm       Tour of WaM

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm    Take-out dinners at Kissam Kitchen (Mastercard and VISA accepted) and carry up to Moore Faculty Apartment

Wednesday, January 13th

7:30 am – 8:30 am Breakfast at Kissam Kitchen (Mastercard and VISA accepted)

8:30 am – 9:45 am WaM overview, including Community Development Plan (A105c)

9:45 am – 10:00 am break

10:00 am – 11:15 am Program Assessment (A105c)

11:15 am – 12:30 pm Tour of Vanderbilt Campus (meet at Kissam info desk)

12:30 pm – 1:15 pm Lunch at The Ingram Commons (cash, Mastercard, Visa accepted)

1:15 pm – 2:30 pm The first-year experience (Commons Center Conference Room)

2:30 pm – 3:00 pm Break

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm Application Processes, Study Abroad (A105c)

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm Overview of Honors Residential College (Kissam Classroom, C216)

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm Role-specific dinner and breakouts

  • Student-only breakouts (Student Councils of HRC, Warren, and Moore student councils and other interested students) (Kissam MPR)
  • Faculty and Professional Staff (open to all residential faculty and staff) (B503). TENTATIVE, depending on response – there is an important Chancellor Roundtable on Climate Change from 5:00 – 6:30 that some of us will attend, as well as faculty recruiting conflicts at Blair. PLEASE RSVP IF INTERESTED
  • Grad Fellows (HRC, WaM, other LLCs) (B106)

7:00 pm Free time, with possible trips off campus

Thursday, January 14th

7:30 am – 8:30 am Breakfast at Kissam Kitchen (Mastercard and VISA accepted)

8:30 am – 9:45 am TBD (e.g., application processes, academic/residential interactions, HRC/WaM joint projects)

10:00 am – 11:00 am Meet with Vice Provost Cynthia Cyrus, Dean of Students Mark Bandas, Randy Tarkington, Senior Director of Residential Education, and Traci Ray, Director of Residential Education (Closed) (A105c)

11:00 am – 12:00 pm Lunch at Rand (cash, Mastercard, Visa accepted)

12:00 pm Depart


Moore College Personnel:

Warren College Personnel:

Moore College Council:

Warren College Council

Dean of the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons:


Posted by on January 11, 2016 in News

Nathaniel Rich at the Warren and Moore Environmental Series Dinner: Addressing modern anxieties through fiction

This is a guest post by Alisha Newton. Alisha is a junior in Peabody College and the editor-in-chief of Orbis, a student-run publication on environmental issues.

Last month, I attended a dinner with author Nathaniel Rich to discuss his novel Odds Against Tomorrow, which has been hailed as the pioneering work of a new genre of literary fiction known as “climate fiction” (cli-fi for short). The dinner was hosted by Dr. Doug Fisher and his wife Patricia in Warren College, as part of the Warren & Moore Environmental Series (#enVU).

In writing Odds Against Tomorrow, Rich wanted to address the anxiety of the modern age in all of its forms. “Natural disasters, epidemics, terrorism, nuclear war, financial collapse — it’s all in there,” he says. It is the man-against-nature story of what happens to disaster-obsessed mathematician Mitchell Zukor when a Category-3 storm hits Manhattan.

We talked about the process of writing such a novel: “Research is how writers procrastinate,” joked Rich. In researching his novel, he read books about probability math and descriptions of natural disasters such as the Dust Bowl in the 30s. He read biographies of famous scientists and mathematicians to get inside their heads, and he studied flood scenarios of New York City.

At the dinner, we also discussed the role of fiction in the discourse on environmental change. “Ethical journalism is not allowed to be sensational, and yet many facts about the future are scary. People have this hunger to engage with their fears, and fiction is an outlet for that,” says Rich. During the Cold War, he says, people could read spy stories and other thrillers like 1984 by George Orwell, but in today’s world, people just go on the Internet and obsess over the seismic activity of the Yellowstone caldera.

It was an engaging discussion, but when you’re sitting in the well-furnished living room of a professor at a top-15 university, speaking to an acclaimed author over plates of vegan crab cakes and kale salad catered from Whole Foods, seltzer water in hand, it can be hard to grasp reality.

Reality is that in October 2012, “superstorm” Sandy ravaged the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to Maine, flooding New York City with a 13-foot storm surge and costing the United States $71.4 billion in damages. Reality is that this won’t be the last time a storm takes Sandy’s unusual path — the “left hook” directly into New Jersey — will be more common as mid-Atlantic ocean waters warm, according to some geoscientists.

In attendance at the dinner was Prof. Teresa Goddu of the English department. Goddu commented that in the novel, the storm incapacitates Wall Street, the symbol of our country’s economic strength. Yet as soon as the waters recede, the machine starts again, and the underlying issues are never resolved. There’s the sense that there will be another disaster, that this will happen again.

“How can we make peace with the uncertainty of the future?” asks Goddu. “To what extent do we freak out, and to what extent do we proceed with our lives?”

Personally, I believe neither route is the answer; it doesn’t help anyone to stay up nights fretting about the impacts of climate change, but on the other hand, we cannot proceed with business as usual. The problem of global climate change demands that we change our lifestyles and our national and international policies. Susceptible as they are to storm surges, the Manhattanites are on the right track: living smaller, living closer, and driving less, as part of overall increases in urban density, are key in reducing carbon emissions. Globally, we must take political action that looks out for the interests of vulnerable developing countries, especially those with large agricultural sectors. The future is highly uncertain, but like the protagonist in Rich’s acclaimed cli-fi novel, we can take action.

This post is a contribution by Alisha Newton, Class of 2017, and it does not necessarily represent the opinions of Vanderbilt University.

Posted by on October 27, 2015 in News

Open House and the Warren Faculty, Grad Fellow, and Study Suite

Welcome back! Don’t forget the Open House at the Warren College Faculty apartment (B503) from 9:30 am to Noon on Sunday, August 23 (students, family, and friends welcome).

And see the homemade tour of the Warren College Faculty Office suite, with the Warren College Faculty Director and the Warren Graduate Fellows. The tour features a special study room accessible to Warren students by card swipe, a video production studio available to students who go through training, and the faculty and grad fellow offices, which we encourage all Warren students to visit with ideas for activities!


Finally, the Kawai upright piano in the Warren Great Room is unlocked and ready to be played!

This is a guest post by Doug Fisher, Faculty Director of Warren College


Posted by on August 21, 2015 in News

Move in is around the corner!

Move in is less than two weeks away! Wow! Its been a great summer, but as with every summer of my 28 years at Vanderbilt, I’m looking forward to the return of students. For most of those years, its been computer science and engineering students I’ve welcomed back, then McGill students, and now Warren (and Moore) students.

  • August 12: Deadline for students to pay fall charges without a late payment fee
  • August 20: International student orientation
  • August 22: First-year and transfer student move-in day
  • August 23: Upperclass residence halls open at 9 a.m.
  • August 22-24: Orientation for transfer students
  • August 26: First day of class

Find the complete official schedule at

On Sunday, August 23, the door to Warren 503 will open at 8:00 am for breakfast for RAs, and will remain open at 9:30 am until about Noon (when the Welcome Wagon starts), so drop in, and visit with Patricia and I, other students, families, and friends in our big open common living space. We’ll have food and drink too, including some of my dynamite oat cakes!

See you soon!

This is a guest post by Doug Fisher, Faculty Director of Warren College.

Posted by on August 10, 2015 in News