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Why VU? Making the Most of Music City

Posted by on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 in Academic Life, Balance, Blair School of Music, College of Arts and Science, College Rankings, General Information, I've been admitted - now what?, Music, Nashville, Preparing for College, Student Life, Uncategorized.

Vanderbilt junior Seth Johnson

I would like to start this blog post with a quick lifestyle quiz, circa Cosmo 1998:

(1) Would you buy a ticket to a concert if you’ve never heard the band that’s playing?  (2) Would you move into a house without talking to the people who used to live in it?  (3) Would you pay to subscribe to Cosmo without reading an issue first?

If the answer to the above questions is “yes,” I commend you for your spontaneous and free-wheeling lifestyle.  I also think you might be a little bit crazy.

If the answer to these questions is “of course not,” you are what’s called a Cautious Decision Maker.  You understand that important life choices must be weighed and considered, and you value the testimonial of those who have made similar choices before.

For all of you Cautious Decision Makers out there, and for those of you who are tired of listening to someone old enough to have taken Cosmo lifestyle quizzes in the ‘90s, we give you the next installment in our “Why Vanderbilt?” series.  As with a previous post, which centered on our student bloggers, we will continue to share reflections from current Vanderbilt students that touch on the things that helped them choose Vanderbilt, the experiences they have, and the words of advice they would like to pass on.  We hope that reading these testimonials will help you navigate the important life decisions that you will be making in the very near future.

Our first installment comes from Seth Johnson, a junior from Apex, North Carolina, who is double majoring in Communication Studies and Vocal Performance.

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

I wanted to be in an environment that was made up of a vibrant student body that is passionate about making a difference in the world, intellectually and artistically. I liked the idea of having access to any of the three other undergraduate schools of study, in addition to the Blair School of Music. I came to Nashville and loved the music culture, coupled with the driven academic environment of Vanderbilt.

What surprised you about Vanderbilt?

I was surprised at how well executed the liberal arts and research mission is implemented. Many are skeptical about this partnership, often thinking that the two must be fundamentally separate – liberal arts colleges and research institutions. We really get the best of both worlds. You can take the liberal arts route in order to figure out what you want to do and at the same time, hone in on a specific path by using resources from the research aspect of the university.

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

My most significant academic experience came towards the end of 2nd semester junior year. I was up late working on a take-home test for a communication studies class, entitled “Rhetoric and Civic Life.” Initially, I was dreading this class, thinking it was going to be a drag. Amidst answering several prompts on the test, it hit me that this was some of the most fun I have had in a while, period. I got to articulate several points that I have been passionate about without having to conform to a structure or “right” answer. The test felt like a fun, open-ended political discussion. One of my favorite things about Vanderbilt is the plethora of professors who are alright with divergent thinking. Many leave assignment structures open for suggestions and creativity in order to get the academic juices flowing in students. One of my current professors has a philosophy on her assessments that indicates she doesn’t care if our claim seems “right,” she just wants it to be well supported and demonstrative of mastery of course material.

Seth Johnson with The Melodores

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

I sing in an all-male a capella group, the Melodores. In addition to gigs in venues across Nashville, we do a variety of shows for charity. I recall a fond memory of when we sang to residents of a low-income house for the elderly. After we sang, we also did a cooking demo and gave them information on how to eat healthfully within a budget. Several residents approached me after we finished and expressed how much they enjoyed the time we all had together. It was rewarding getting to brighten some folks’ days.

What is your favorite thing about living in Nashville?

Its dynamic presence in our nation–I love that there are substantial events – many featuring famous acts – going on every night of the week. I love how Nashville has a little big town feel to it; there are big city things to do if you want, but also places of quiet refuge when necessary.

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

Once you get to a certain point, many academic institutions seem to run together. Though our nation is so caught up in it, I think it’s pedantic trying to compare schools on arbitrary “rank” once you get into the top universities. I would say that your college experience is what you make it. A university could have the absolute best resources you could imagine, but if you aren’t utilizing them, they are of no use. Use your time to explore what you think you may like. Once you get to college, grab the wheel, steer, and if you like the path, put that pedal to the metal!

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