Grad Group Spotlight: Vanderbilt

vanderbiltVanderbilt University

Nashville, TN

When did your group start?

Our group first came together about 2 years ago, in Oct 2014. Our first event was last fall (2015) and our second was this fall (2016).

How is the group organized? i.e. how many core people are typically involved, do you have officers, how do you fit within the collegiate section, where do you get your budget (if you have one)

Our group is primarily ad-hoc; it’s essentially built on friendships and friends of friends. Our core group is about 15 people and is structured with a coordinator and the rest of the group forming a planning committee. For logistical reasons (primarily maintaining compliance with Vanderbilt’s regulations for working with minors), we have partnered with existing organizations on campus. Originally, it was the Civil & Environmental Engineering Council and more recently, it was the Engineering Ambassadors Network. Our funds have been provided by different Vanderbilt entities. In 2015, our event was sponsored by the various chairs of the Engineering dept and in 2016, our funds came from the Vanderbilt Univ. School of Engineering, Vanderbilt’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity, and the Student Activities Fee.

What type of events do you host? How often do you host them? How many people tend to come to these events?

Our event is an “Engineering Day,” where middle school students (that represent the diversity we want to see in future engineers) get an introduction to the discipline as a whole and get to explore 3 of the engineering disciplines through interactive activities. We host our events annually. In 2015, our audience was the Girl Scouts of Middle TN and we had 39 girls attend. In 2016, our audience were 8th graders from Rose Park Middle School, and we had 90 students attend (half of the attendees were african american).

What is the one event or program of which you are most proud?

Engineering Day

What tips do you have for a newly-started grad group?

It’s important to draw upon the latest pedagogy to ensure that our outreach methods are truly inclusive – for example, we opted to have interactive, tactile sessions to stress the problem solving and critical thinking skills of engineers as opposed to just “a love of math and science.”

It’s also important to have open lines of communication within the group. We are all busy graduate students with research/teaching deadlines. We encountered many challenges (from administration to ice storms) and it really helped to have multiple viewpoints and brainstorming sessions to develop solutions.

How can someone contact your group if they’re interested in participating?

Contact the group coordinator at


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