Zeppos Marks 10 Years as Chancellor at Vanderbilt

Nicholas S. Zappos, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University has marked the beginning of his 11th year as chancellor on March 1. Submitted photo

From Staff Reports

NASHVILLE, TN — Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos became the school’s’s eighth chancellor 10 years ago on March 1.

The day he started his 11th year was a normal working day for the chancellor, his staff reports. “There is not an event … tied to the anniversary,” reported Princine Lewis, director of strategic communications at Vanderbilt.

He still talks like he did when describing his 2008 goals by quoting Vanderbilt’s second chancellor, James H. Kirkland; “One never puts the finishing touches on a university, but simply lays new foundations.”

Zeppos has two pillars — opportunity and discovery — for improving Vanderbilt. He’s been growing a more diverse, inclusive campus, to expanding support of faculty research and restructuring the university’s financial relationship with the Medical Center.

Now, he seems to be adding a third mission: asserting Vanderbilt’s leadership in helping improve society.

“The American Dream runs down two streets: Main Street, and the point where it crosses University Avenue,” Zeppos says. “We need to find that common ground of what it means to be an American, of what we can become as human beings. As a campus, we have no excuse for failing to say—every day—that we are going to change the world.”

Changing Vanderbilt’s world includes his elevation of diversity and inclusion. Now top priorities, they’ve resulted in, this academic year, admission of the most diverse and talented class in the school’s history.

Zeppos has increased spending to create a welcoming and inclusive campus, including: a new vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion; starting a mental health program focusing on culturally sensitive mental health resources for all students; and a new Student Center for Social Justice and Identity.

For students, the university has launched: Opportunity Vanderbilt to support 9,000 students in 10 years with $260 million in endowed scholarships; and establishment of residential colleges to transform the undergraduate experience, and the landscape of West End Avenue.

Meanwhile, applications doubled from 16,944 in 2008 to 34,136 in 2018, and there’s a steady rise in Vanderbilt’s ranking by U.S. News & World Report to its highest ever; 14th in 2018. Increased quality is often associated with prosperity. Vanderbilt’s endowment grew from a market value of $3.49 billion to $4.14 billion, and Vanderbilt reached 8th in the amount of National Institutes of Health funding, all while restructuring Vanderbilt University Medical Center into an independent entity to put the university on its strongest ever financial footing.

The day after completing his 10th year at Vanderbilt, Zeppos was out of the office. It was a Friday.

Ryan Underwood contributed to this story.

Jelani Cobb, the Ira B. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University, and Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos talk about free speech, open inquiry on college campuses, and the historical narratives of race in America. Submitted photo
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