OACS changes structure to increase faculty engagement

Now placed with Residential Colleges under Provost Beasley, Vanderbilt students can look forward to more immersive civic experiences


Emily Gonçalves

The Office of Active Citizenship and Service, located in Suite 109 of the Student Life Center, has coordinated volunteer opportunities with state and national nonprofits for students to volunteer.

Hoon Kim

In a move to increase faculty involvement in student service projects, OACS is now supervised by the Residential Colleges office under Associate Provost Vanessa Beasley as of July 1. Previously, OACS fell under the Dean of Students Office. Additionally, the office moved from its previous space in upstairs Rand to Suite 109 in the Student Life Center.

With this new organizational structure, OACS is under the supervision of the Residential College System. The Assistant Director of OACS Meagen Smith believes it positions the two offices well for future collaboration. 

This organizational change is one of many OACS has adopted within the past few years. Some of the bigger changes that have influenced OACS within the past two years are the addition of the Nashville-centric DIVE (Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience) program and the Immersion Vanderbilt program. 

DIVE began in the fall of 2017, and Immersion became a graduation requirement the following year in the fall of 2018. Although close in timeframe and aim, the two programs are not interdependent and came about in different ways. 

Immersion Vanderbilt is a new graduation requirement for every incoming class starting with the class of 2022. It requires students to participate in experiential activities, not necessarily related to their major. Students can choose between different Immersion paths including: Civic & Professional, Creative Expression, International and Research. 

DIVE is now one of the most important programs that OACS supervises, and while it can serve as a part of a student’s Immersion program, that is not the main purpose. After an application process, students join small groups with as few as four students and partner with Nashville-based nonprofits to come up with solutions to problems using what Smith called “human centered design.” 

“Students in small cohorts partner with local nonprofits,” Assistant Director of OACS Meagan Smith said. “We’re focused on ethical, sustainable solutions.”

Immersive experiences like these thrust Vanderbilt students into the center of discussion on topics such as refugee resettlement and affordable housing, according to Smith. 

OACS leadership plans on having more faculty engagement coming to organizations they supervise, such as Alternative Spring Break, in part because of the new Immersion requirement. Smith looks forward to a brighter future for OACS and the Vanderbilt student body with the new initiatives.