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Why VU? The Path to Self Discovery


Posted by Carolyn Pippen on Friday, April 19, 2013

Every time a prospective student tells me what they hope to study in college or the career path they plan to pursue once they graduate, the catchphrase of the MTV show Diary runs through my head: “You think you know, but you have no idea.”

While many of you have clear educational and professional goals going into your college experience, it is important to keep in mind that these goals may change, and they may change drastically, as you begin to explore different academic areas at the college level.  At Vanderbilt, that’s okay – in fact, we encourage it!  A changed mind is an open mind, and the liberal arts foundation built into each of our four undergraduate schools allows for enough academic freedom to explore multiple different areas before you settle on a major field of study (or two).

The next installment of our “Why VU?” series comes from Chris Fink, a senior from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who is double majoring in Secondary Education (in the Peabody School of Education and Human Development) and History (in the College of Arts and Science).  The post below shows how Vanderbilt helped him pursue his many academic interests and provided enough freedom to shift courses in the middle of his college career.

You think you know, but you have no idea.  This is the diary of Chris Fink.

What were your deciding factors in choosing to enroll at Vanderbilt?

I knew that the resources at Vanderbilt were incredible. I initially thought I would use the Medical Center for research and shadowing opportunities while on the path to medical school, but my interests now lie elsewhere. Vanderbilt also has incredible educational resources and coursework that have only made me want to get into a classroom sooner! At the same time, the social side of Vanderbilt is unrivaled. We have amazing Division I sports, and in particular, a football coach in James Franklin who loves the Vanderbilt community equally as much as his team. We have more than 510 student organizations, so students will always feel connected to the community, whether you love service or the environment or hang gliding. Finally, we live in the best city known to man (which I will talk about later). So, whatever you’re looking for, Vanderbilt has it.

What surprised you about Vanderbilt?

Hands down the flexibility of the academics. Like I said, I came to Vanderbilt thinking I was going to be a doctor and remained on that track until first semester of my sophomore year. As it turns out, I wasn’t ready to give up interacting with kids, I loved history and government, and I wanted to do something with that after graduation. I transferred to Peabody, and have had zero problems fulfilling their requirements to become a teacher. The whole process was so easy, and goes to show how much Vanderbilt encourages its students to DISCOVER what they want to do and not to ASSUME what they want to do.

Tell us about one or two significant academic experiences you have had here at Vanderbilt.

Earlier this year, I was part of a group of students that had the chance to meet with Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who also served as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace in the Obama administration until 2011. We were able to ask the Senator questions about his career, motivations, choices, and opinions for about an hour. This was undoubtedly one of the most enlightening experiences both politically and personally, not to mention I got to see a national leader as a person, not just a figurehead.

Tell us about some opportunities you have taken advantage of outside of the classroom while at Vanderbilt.

I have had the opportunity to travel to Latin America twice during my time at Vanderbilt. In Guatemala we painted an orphanage and entertained the kids, and in Ecuador we painted a library and helped run their English programs. These countries also provided hot springs to swim in, boat rides to the Caribbean, humongous churches, and expansive local markets. While all the kids thought I looked like Harry Potter, I was able to learn so much about the culture, people, and language of two countries which I never would have visited had it not been for Vanderbilt’s vast number of student organizations.

What is your favorite thing about living in Nashville?

Not only is there so much to do here, but also there are so many different parts of the city to enjoy. There’s the downtown music scene, or the trendy Hillsboro Village coffee shops and dessert spots, or the famous restaurants and boutiques of East Nashville. Not to mention you see celebrities all the time. There is honestly always something going on for any interest. Last semester, I got the chance to attend the Grammy Nomination concert with Hunter Hayes, Luke Bryan, Fun., Maroon 5, and the team of Taylor Swift and LL Cool J who hosted. I think they filmed a Super Bowl commercial during it. No big deal…

If you could give one piece of advice to high school students making their college decision, what would it be?

Just chill! You’re not out of high school yet, and if you’re like me, you’ve already mentally moved on to college. Enjoy what your senior year has to offer (debatably the best semester of high school) and take in your friends, families, and hometowns before you head off to college. Also, hug your parents a lot…it will do WONDERS for you later in life.


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