Alumni & Students Blog

Keep up with stories highlighting some of the professional, academic and fun adventures of our CDA Alumni and Current Students!

This blog will be updated with profiles of CDA alumni and current students, newsworthy updates about current students, and information about upcoming events. Whether you want to keep in touch with the program or just learn more about what real students and alumni are up to, we want this to be a more personal point of connection to the program.

All content here is written, edited, and published by current CDA students.  Questions? Contact Anna Warren at

And if you’re a prospective student, follow this link to apply to CDA today!


Meet an Alumnus: Erin McCauley

Erin McCauley, M.Ed. 2016 Ph.D student, Cornell University, College of Human Ecology  “I had never had the words for my orientation toward the world before discovering CDA.” Q: To begin, where are you from originally and what did you do before coming to Vanderbilt? I am originally from Mill Valley California, which is just outside...... KEEP READING

Posted by on September 22, 2017 in Alumni,


Meet an Alumnus: Keith Barnes

Keith Barnes, M.Ed. 2015 Director for Nutrition Advocacy, TN Justice Center  “To be truly effective in this kind of work, to be a change agent, to make the world a better place, you’ve got to be flexible, and that’s not how I experience a lot of other disciplines.”  Q: To begin, where are you from...... KEEP READING

Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Alumni,


2017 Theses

Of the 2017 CDA graduates, four completed theses for their final assessments. These intensive, independent research projects covered a wide range of scholarly interests that intend to contribute to the field of community development. This year’s completed master’s theses are described below. Shea Davis, M.Ed. 2017 Towards Equity in Communities: Barriers for Coalitions in Addressing Health...... KEEP READING

Posted by on August 25, 2017 in Final Projects and Theses,


2017 Final Projects

Of the most recent cohort of CDA graduates, six completed a project for their final assessments. These projects, designed and conducted within an organizational or community context, integrate core philosophy, coursework, and field experience of the Community Development & Action program. Accompanied by a final document and presentation, the final projects account for a minimum...... KEEP READING

Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Final Projects and Theses,


CDA Student Spotlight: Allison Plattsmier

Allison Plattsmier is currently a second year Community Development & Action (CDA) student who will be graduating in December of 2016.  She took a few moments to tell us about some of her experiences during her time within the CDA program and her future pursuits.   Where are you from? I’m from Nashville, TN (Yes,...... KEEP READING

Posted by on November 30, 2016 in Current Students


CDA Student Spotlight: Mike Thompson

Mike Thompson is a second year CDA student who will graduate in December of 2016.  Mike shared with us some of the journey that led him to the CDA program, some highlights of his time as a CDA student, and some ideas for the future.  Q. Where are you from? Minneapolis, MN   Q. What did...... KEEP READING

Posted by on November 4, 2016 in Current Students


Meet an Alumnus: Lauren Berny

CDA Alumna, Lauren Berny, shares some of her experiences during her time as a CDA student.  Lauren also shares how these experiences have helped her step into the field of Program Evaluation here in Nashville, TN.  Thank you, Lauren, for sharing some of your story with us! This photo was from the Society for Prevention Research conference in...... KEEP READING

Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Alumni


CDA Student Spotlight: Katie Goodman

Katie Goodman is a second year CDA student, graduating from CDA in December 2016. Thank you, Katie, for sharing some of your story with us! Q. Where are you from? A. New York City (by way of Toronto and Nairobi) Q. What did you do before CDA? A. Before CDA, I was working for an...... KEEP READING

Posted by on October 3, 2016 in Current Students


CDA Student Spotlight: Dawn Harris

Dawn is a second year CDA student. She will complete her CDA coursework in December 2016. We asked Dawn a few questions to get to know more about her passions, her work and her plans for the future. Thank you, Dawn, for sharing your story with us! Q. Where are you from? A. I’m a...... KEEP READING

Posted by on September 13, 2016 in Current Students


Final Project Examples 2016

7 CDA students completed final projects this year. Here are three examples of final projects completed by CDA 2016 graduates for their practicum organizations. Projects ranged from curriculum development to program evaluation to policy development and beyond. Developing Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum: A Charter School Case Study Brittany Johnk, M. Ed 2016 Students, even in early...... KEEP READING

Posted by on May 25, 2016 in Final Projects and Theses,

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2016 CDA Theses Abstracts

Congratulations to the following students who defended their thesis this past spring: Dessie Clark, Leah Samples, Erin McCauley, and Ryan Schooley. Below are abstracts of their work. Feel free to contact the authors with any questions you have about their research. Disabling Barriers to Community Participation from the Perspective of Visually Impaired Adults Leah Samples,...... KEEP READING

Posted by on May 19, 2016 in Final Projects and Theses,


CDA Student Spotlight: Marisa Flores

Marisa was born and raised in the great state of Texas.  She attended Texas Tech University, where she studied Human Development & Family Studies with a minor in Psychology before pursuing my EC-6 Elementary Education Post Bac at Lubbock Christian University.  After working at a local summer camp for several years, she took over as...... KEEP READING

Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Current Students,

joseph gutierrez

CDA Student Spotlight: Joseph Gutierrez

Meet Joseph, a current first-year CDA, originally from California. He double-majored in Literature and History at UCLA and graduated in 2009.  After graduating, he moved to South Korea to teach English.  He loved Korea so much that he ended up staying there for 4 years.  He ended up meeting his now fiancée there and followed her...... KEEP READING

Posted by on April 4, 2016 in Current Students,


Kimberly Palmer: CDA Project

2nd year CDA student Kimberly Palmer conducted her CDA practicum at Youth Encouragement Services (YES). We asked her to share a little more about her project. What is YES and how did you get involved? YES is a community-based organization providing after school support for kids from the Napier public houses at the center located...... KEEP READING

Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Current Students, Final Projects and Theses, ,

Jera Niewoehner

Meet an Alumnus: Jera Niewoehner

1. Just for starters– where are you from originally and what year did you graduate from HOCD/CDA? Any fun facts we should know? I grew up in Dickson, TN, which is 45 miles west of Nashville. However, I have lived in Virginia, Texas, Spain, and Mexico for college and work. Fun facts? My Mom was...... KEEP READING

Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Alumni,

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