Purpose and Development
Immersion Vanderbilt, an initiative of the Academic Strategic Plan, calls for each undergraduate student to participate in an intensive learning experience that takes place in and beyond the classroom, culminating in the creation of a tangible final project. Students can engage in one of four tracks: civic and professional, creative expression, international, or research. Immersion Vanderbilt will help students explore their passions, transform ideas into action, and make a difference in the world.
Vanderbilt students have an intense curiosity, substantial leadership skills, and the deep desire to leverage all opportunities available to them. Immersion Vanderbilt encourages students to capitalize on these traits by pursuing rigorous and compelling projects. The Immersion Vanderbilt initiative was developed during the 2013-14 Academic Strategic Planning process in the Undergraduate Residential Experience steering committee and then with the Executive committee. The Academic Strategic Plan sought to advance the living-learning environment by educating the whole person and cultivating lifelong learning. Immersion Vanderbilt helps to meet this critical goal.
The idea for Immersion Vanderbilt arose from the deliberative work of a series of faculty committees that started during the drafting of the Academic Strategic Plan in 2013-14. These faculty committees, which have been at work since 2013, have represented all corners of campus. During the 2016-2017 academic year, the four undergraduate colleges began formal consideration of Immersion Vanderbilt as a degree requirement with an eye toward launching the program in the Summer/Fall of 2018.
The Chancellor and the Provost have already made resources available to support Immersion Vanderbilt. More than 2.5 million dollars has been given directly to all the schools/colleges this year (FY18) and that initial level of support will continue on a yearly basis going forward. The amount per school/college varies, ranging from over $700,000 to about $100,000 (depending on the size of the school). Each school/college makes its own decisions on how to best deploy these funds in support of faculty & students engaged in Immersion. Examples of investments include student stipends, research supplies, travel grants, course buyouts and funds to support curricular development and faculty effort. This support demonstrates the commitment to ensuring faculty have support to make Immersion Vanderbilt a success.
The academic colleges have already received funds as part of their FY18 budgets to support Immersion Vanderbilt. It is also worth noting that these investments were made prior to the launch of the program in Summer/Fall of 2018. Further, more resources will be forthcoming once more is learned about additional costs associated with this program. The faculty and students must have the resources to make this program a success and should contact their Dean’s office for information on their school-specific funding plan.
The colleges and schools determine how these resources are and will be deployed. The Provost and Chancellor have provided the money. Each school/college now decides how to spend the money to meet their needs and unique cultures. Faculty should contact their Dean’s office for information on their funding plans.
The Office of Immersion Resources will open this academic year. This office, funded by the Provost, will be an administrative partner to the colleges/schools and campus offices in implementing Immersion Vanderbilt. It will ensure students have information about the program and its options. Please note that the faculty will remain the drivers of this initiative.
The Office of Immersion Resources will serve to advise undergraduates as they draft immersion plans; to inform students about immersion opportunities; to sponsor events for students presenting immersion projects; to record completion of non-course, non-credit immersion projects; and to provide other assistance designed to meet each individual school/college’s respective immersion requirements.
The Provost’s Office is serving in a coordinating and administrative role. It is not designing or proposing the Immersion Vanderbilt curriculum. This academic year, the Provost’s Office will be opening and staffing the Office of Immersion Resources. This office will serve to advise undergraduates as they draft immersion plans; to inform students about immersion opportunities; to sponsor events for students presenting immersion projects; to record completion of non-course, non-credit immersion projects; and to provide other assistance designed to meet each individual school/college’s respective immersion requirements.
In general, Immersion Vanderbilt is comprised of three phases:
- Pre-Immersion Work and Individualized Immersion Plan: The first phase of Immersion Vanderbilt may involve formal and informal preparatory work designed to allow students to explore interests, develop an understanding of necessary skills, and interact with faculty in particular relevant disciplines. The first phase involves the creation of a plan that identifies the experience, pathway to completion, and contribution to a student’s overall education. This plan will be assessed as determined by the student’s home school/college process, with the support of the OIR as requested.
- Immersion Experience: This phase involves students engaging in an international, creative, civic/professional, or research inquiry within and/or beyond the classroom to develop skills and knowledge, expand their worldviews, and/or prepare them for their next step in life. The workload for immersive experiences should be at least the equivalent of 9 credit hours’ worth of work. It can involve effort undertaken outside the classroom that doesn’t have credit hours associated with the work.
- Immersion Project: The final phase is the creation of a tangible final project such as a research presentation, art show, performance, or thesis. The projects will be presented in showcases that not only highlight the many accomplishments of our students, but provide examples for students still considering their own immersion plans.
Current Status and Oversight
As of fall 2018, all four undergraduate schools and colleges approved Immersion Vanderbilt as a degree requirement. The requirement will go into effect for first-year students entering in summer/fall 2018, sophomore transfer students starting in fall 2019, and junior transfer students starting in fall 2020.
As determined by the professional colleges/schools, undergraduate students can pursue their immersion experiences and projects with interested faculty. Each professional college and school is in the process of determining the best way to provide Immersion Vanderbilt opportunities and the Provost’s Office has provided resources to support those efforts.
Faculty in the four undergraduate schools and colleges will review whether or not to continue the Immersion Vanderbilt graduation requirement for their students. This review will take place during the 2023-2024 academic year.
Yes. The Office of Immersion Resources will work with the faculty, colleges, and schools, across the university to develop a network of resources for Immersion Vanderbilt. Students will have the option of engaging in Immersion Vanderbilt outside their home school/college including in the professional schools.
The short answer is no. The longer answer is developed below. Immersion Vanderbilt does not ask students do more work. Rather, it is asking some of them to work differently. For starters, approximately 75% of recent Vanderbilt graduates have had at least one potential immersion experience on their transcripts. Students have been doing this without the resources and support that Immersion Vanderbilt will provide. Through Immersion Vanderbilt, students will have access to a network of resources. The Office of Immersion Resources will put students in touch with immersion possibilities across and outside Vanderbilt. Further, this program will acknowledge the work of these students that now often goes unrecognized. Second, for those students who have not done anything immersive, they will now have the chance, with extensive support, to follow their passions and undertake a project that will define their time at Vanderbilt. This will not require additional effort, just a channeling of their skills into a project they find exciting.
Faculty in the colleges/schools/departments will oversee the types of immersion experiences that they want to provide. Some colleges and schools may want set immersion programs. Other colleges and schools may want immersion independent studies. Others may want a mixture. In addition, each undergraduate college/school will maintain a process for its students by which plans, experiences, and projects will be developed and approved. And as the program unfolds, the creativity of faculty and students will yield ideas that will be truly defining.
Immersion Vanderbilt will be launched for incoming first-year students starting in Summer/Fall 2018. It will be a graduation requirement for all undergraduate students. It is anticipated that the majority of those students will not complete their immersion experience until their junior (2020-2021) or senior year (2021-2022).
Transfer students will be able to complete Immersion Vanderbilt. Following the timeline for first-year students, Immersion Vanderbilt will be a graduation requirement for sophomore transfer students starting in fall 2019 and junior transfer students starting in fall 2020. Students who transfer into Vanderbilt as sophomores will be required to submit an individual immersion plan by the end of the sophomore year and follow the regular immersion timeline. Students who transfer to Vanderbilt as juniors will be required to submit the individual immersion plan by the end of the fall semester of their junior year. They will be required to complete their junior year check-in prior to Fall Break of the senior year. Transfer students will be allowed and encouraged to transfer in experiences that may count towards the completion of the Immersion Vanderbilt requirements. Students will not be able to transfer in their immersion project.
Students are not required to register for and complete nine additional credit hours in their plan of study to satisfy Immersion Vanderbilt requirements. The requirements of Immersion Vanderbilt are left intentionally flexible to allow students to complete them in and/or beyond the classroom. Requirements may also be completed outside of the academic year calendar.
- There will be multiple procedures in place to ensure students are making appropriate progress towards completion of their immersion experiences. For those students who enter Vanderbilt as first-year students, they will be required to submit an individual immersion plan by the end of their sophomore year. For the schools/colleges that have passed Immersion, students who do not submit an approved plan by the deadline will have a registration hold placed on their student accounts preventing them from registering for the next semester’s coursework.
- Students will also be required to complete a check-in with advisors in the Office of Immersion Resources during junior year, prior to the registration period for the first semester of senior year. For the schools/colleges that have passed Immersion, students will receive a registration hold until completing this requirement.
- Both the filing of the independent immersion plan and the junior year check will be added to the degree audit on YES so that students may know where they stand in regards to requirement completion. The Office of Immersion Resources and University Registrar Office will work closely to ensure up-to-date and accurate information regarding requirement completion in order to guarantee appropriate progress.
The Office of Immersion Resources will provide the necessary updates on the students’ progress to the University Registrar Office. Through the degree audit system, students will be able to check to see if they are on track to meet certain milestones (individualized learning plan, immersion experience, immersion final project). For the schools/colleges that have passed Immersion, if students have not met their milestones, registration holds will be put in place. The Office of Immersion Resources will coordinate with the schools and colleges to have information and identify potential issues to address.
Vanderbilt University is committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to complete an Immersion Vanderbilt experience. The Immersion Vanderbilt Committee and the Office of Immersion Resources has worked with campus partners to ensure students receive financial support when necessary to complete their Immersion Vanderbilt experiences. Some changes have already been made. For example, the Vanderbilt Undergraduate Summer Research Program (VUSRP) will become an Immersion Vanderbilt program, supporting students.
In addition, there has already been success in fundraising for Immersion Vanderbilt and more will come. With Opportunity Vanderbilt in place, this is an absolutely critical component to ensure the success of Immersion Vanderbilt.
No. Immersion is designed to allow students to pursue their passions, which may take them down a different and exciting path. That could be tied to their major or very much separate. You could imagine someone who majors in Philosophy, wanting to do an Immersion Vanderbilt project tied to their interest in Music or perhaps entrepreneurship.
The senior recital in the Blair School of Music, the Human and Organizational Development internship in the Peabody College of Education and Human Development, the senior design capstone in the School of Engineering, and honor theses in any of the undergraduate schools/colleges are examples. The Office of Immersion Resources will be responsible for maintaining a database of immersion experiences.
This will be designated by the home school/college process. But in the end, it requires faculty approval. Immersion projects could fall within the four pathways structure or could involve more than one pathway. Examples range from internships, lab research, study abroad, and artistic creation.
Projects will take multiple forms. Some examples include: digital storytelling, research presentations, theses, performances, and original music compositions.
There will be a variety of opportunities for students to share their Immersion Vanderbilt projects. These include showcase events and online forums. The showcase events will be designed to complement not replace existing project venues such as senior design day in the School of Engineering.