Vanderbilt Law School graduate Darren Robbins has made a gift to the social justice program at the school, which will now carry the name of the late George Barrett. Barrett — pictured here with Rita Geier, with whom he worked for more than three decades on desegregating Tennessee's state universities — was a 1957 VU Law graduate who was a partner at Barrett Johnston until his death at 86 a year ago.
As a result of this gift, the Social Justice Program, which is co-directed by professors Terry Maroney and Daniel Sharfstein, will support students and graduates pursuing social justice careers. It will provide competitive one-year public interest fellowships to Vanderbilt Law School graduates each year, fund a number of students doing public interest legal work in the summer, and serve as the hub of social justice activities at the law school, including programming throughout the school year and an annual public lecture.
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Vanderbilt University has tapped John M. Sloop as associate provost for digital learning.
According to a release, Sloop (pictured) will oversee the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning and will focus on the development and implementation of school-based educational technology initiatives. In addition, he will provide oversight of campus partnerships and experimentation with Coursera and Blackboard, among other digital platforms.
Sloop joined the VU faculty in 1995 as assistant professor of communication studies and was later promoted to professor in 2000. He served during the 2014-15 academic year as the interim dean of the VU College of Arts and Science.
“We believe educational technologies are transforming how we teach, learn and conduct research and that innovation in this burgeoning area is critical to our continued evolution as a university,” said Cynthia Cyrus, vice provost for learning and residential affairs. “John’s proven leadership, honed during his years as senior associate dean and then interim dean of the College of Arts and Science, will be of great benefit to our efforts in this area, and I’m grateful for his willingness to take on this new role.”
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This is not a chicken-and-egg scenario.
Vanderbilt Chancellor Nick Zeppos believes the school needs a new football stadium, one with modern amenities and appeal. He also expects the football program, about to begin its second year under coach Derek Mason, to be better.
In this case, one definitely will come first.
“I tend to view things in kind of a sequential way to get the program and the facilities right,” Zeppos said in a lengthy appearance on 94.9 FM (The Game2) Wednesday morning. “And the first thing for me always is, ‘What is the fan experience on the field and in the stands?’
“So we’ve got to get right what is happening on that field.”
After three straight bowl appearances and back-to-back nine-win seasons under James Franklin, the Commodores slipped to 3-9 in 2014, Mason’s first season.
Presumably, therefore, whatever momentum there was for a new facility on West End has stalled somewhat. The idea of a new stadium remains very much alive, though, in the mind of the No. 1 man on campus.
“We’ve talked a lot about facilities, in particular the football facility, and I think that process continues,” Zeppos said. “I’d say it’s a very dynamic environment in terms of stadiums. When we start talking about, ‘What is the Vanderbilt football stadium of the future’ we really start thinking of the fan experience. I hate to say it, but a lot of kids want to watch six games when they’re at that game. And they want to be wired. They want to be able to experience a lot of different things.
“… It’s almost like a sports bar sort of environment that most of the fans want.”
To that end, he added that bigger is not necessarily the answer. Vanderbilt Stadium, with a capacity of 40,550, easily is the smallest in the SEC. The next smallest, at Ole Miss, can accommodate an additional 20,000-plus fans.
It’s more important, Zeppos contended, that the appeal of the place extends beyond the facility and into the surrounding area on campus and adjacent neighborhoods, all of which can be accomplished where the current stadium stands.
“I think it’s going to be more intimate, entertainment-driven and more multi-media that really focuses on the fan experience and then, particularly the way Nashville is going, building entertainment and excitement around that venue,” he said. “We just need a whole stadium-neighborhood buzz and vibrancy. That’s kind of how we’re conceiving it now.
“You can actually do some pretty exciting things on that footprint without disrupting things too much. There might be a year where we’d have to play somewhere else but I think that would be a low price to pay for a new facility.”
He did not offer any estimate of what it all might cost in actual dollars.
(Photo: Vanderbilt athletics)
One third of federal executives feel the U.S. government workforce lacks necessary skills and that underperforming employees can rarely be dismissed, according to a Vanderbilt University study.
Results of the survey, which asked executives a various questions about skills, training, recruitment, aspirational goals and future career plans, prompted VU researchers to call for changes in the government service career sector.
“It’s time to do civil service reform,” David E. Lewis (pictured), William R. Kenan Jr. professor of political science and lead researcher on the Survey on the Future of Government Service, said in a press release. “I worry that it will be done in piecemeal fashion in response to a crisis rather than the right way, which is to develop a modern-day human resources system for a modern government.”
Here are some of the survey’s key findings:
* Seventy percent of federal executives report that underperforming non-managers are rarely or never reassigned or dismissed, and 64 percent of federal executives report that underperforming managers are rarely or never reassigned or dismissed;
* Only 68 percent of federal executives and 45 percent of those who are political appointees believe they have received sufficient training and guidance on how to hire, promote, reward, discipline and dismiss employees in the career civil service;
* Thirty-nine percent of federal executives agree or strongly agree that an inadequately skilled workforce is a significant obstacle to their agency fulfilling its core mission. Forty-five percent disagree or strongly disagree;
* Fifty-one percent of federal executive said the skills of the workforce in their agency had gotten better or much better during their tenure, while 19 percent said skills had gotten worse or much worse. The rest said the skills were the same.
* Forty-two percent of federal executives agree or strongly agree that they are unable to recruit the best employees. Thirty-seven percent disagree or strongly disagree;
* Twenty-four percent of career executives and 35 percent of political executives say it is likely or very likely they will leave their agency in the next 12 months.
Lewis and Vanderbilt political science Ph.D. candidate Mark D. Richardson sent out 14,698 surveys to federal executives last year, after the executives received a letter from former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker endorsing the survey. Granted confidentiality, 3,551 federal executives (a response rate of 24 percent) responded.
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