Monthly Archives: August 2008

Proof of concept

My colleague and university Web pro Jim Parker is teaching a class this semester on virtual communities. His experience yesterday, described below, illustrated marvelously that yes, virtual communities are becoming integral to learning on campus and that students are interested in discussing and learning about these topics in non-virtual (formally known as real world) communities, too.

Yesterday was the 2nd day of class. When I came into the class one student informed me that she wanted to sit in the class to see if she wanted to take it or not. I said I had no problem with her doing so. Maybe 15 minutes in class she asked me if there was room in the class for even more people. I didn’t really understand but said yes. While class was going on, she went online and registered for the class.

Now for the cool part. Not only had she registered for the class but she had either IM’ed or text messaged a friend of hers and told them to sign up for the class. Before the class was over, the other student had registered and came to class. I was just amazed. Welcome to the world of web 2.0 or whatever.


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Remembering Pierre Colas

The university is shocked and saddened today by the tragic death last night of one of its young faculty members, Pierre Colas. We have created a blog,, where Pierre’s friends, colleagues and loved ones can leave their remembrances and thoughts. More information is also available here.

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Move-in touches Nashville columnist

Glowing review by Tennessean columnist Tim Chavez on his Political Salsa blog of move-in day, which he happened upon by accident last Saturday:

Within the borders of Vanderbilt, there was immunity to the virus sickening the rest of Nashville and Davidson County. The campus was open, friendly, optimistic, laughing, smiling and tolerant of all the differences of the people descending upon it. In fact, there was sense of welcoming, of actually wanting all these differences for a higher purpose that goes with learning, enlightenment and progress.

It took me 15 minutes to walk from my car parked in a space at least five blocks from Vanderbilt Medical Center. And I enjoyed every step. I was like a child in a toy store at Christmas. It seemed as if I had been transported to Beijing, or the United Nations in New York. The world was in my view and within my hearing. And it was marvelous to behold.

Read the whole post.

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I for one always dread moving, but these students, first-years, parents and our crack video and photography team sure make it look like fun. And yes, of course, it made me cry. That part where the mom gives her son the letter? Niagra Falls!

See for yourself in this fantastic new VUCast about the historic first Commons move-in:

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U.S. News best colleges rankings are out today and Vanderbilt is up one notch this year to No. 18 nationally, our highest ranking yet on this closely watched list. Vandy was also ranked No. 14 among national universities in the ‘Great Schools, Great Prices’ category marking it as a good value for its tuition costs. We’ve been in the Top 20 in the overall rankings since 2003.

See the Top 25 and our full story on the news on VUCast.

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Respect in the classroom starts with teachers

Vanderbilt professor Donna Ford speaks to Baltimore teachers. (Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum / August 20, 2008)

Vanderbilt professor Donna Ford speaks to Baltimore teachers. (Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum / August 20, 2008)

Vanderbilt Peabody’s Donna Ford was recruited by the Baltimore school system to share her wisdom about student achievement and motivation with all 7,000 of its teachers following attacks on teachers last year and continuing problems with disruptive students. Ford spoke for 2.5 hours yesterday to teachers at and will continue her presentations this week.
Getting a handle on classroom disruption must begin with respect and understanding by teachers of their students’ lives and motivations, Ford said. As reported by the Baltimore Sun:

“African-Americans have an attitude that says, ‘When you respect me, I will respect you,'” Ford said. When teachers seem detached or uninterested in their students, black students see that as a sign of disrespect, she said. Students who don’t feel the teacher likes or respects them are then more likely to talk back and be disruptive, leading to a classroom that can be more out of control.

It is up to teachers, she said, to get to know their students and the backgrounds they come from so that they do not fall back on preconceived notions of what it means to be poor or black. Baltimore schools are more than 90 percent African-American and have a high percentage of children who qualify for federally subsidized school meals.

“The less we know about each other, the more we make up,” said Ford, who added that a teacher’s race doesn’t guarantee understanding of low-income students.”

Read the full story.

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Standing up to cancer online

Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center has launched a special interactive Web site,, in support of the national Stand Up To Cancer event being held by the Entertainment Industry Foundation Sept. 5. That hour-long event, which will be aired simultaneously on CBS, NBC and ABC from 7 – 8 p.m. CDT will bring together myriad celebrity types to raise awareness, and most importantly, funds to accomplish this beautiful, simple goal: ending cancer once and for all.

Check out the new Vanderbilt Ingram site above to learn more about how to get involved locally — it aims to provide a forum for conversation and connection for individuals battling cancer, their loved ones, and anyone interested in picking a fight. With cancer, that is.

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