The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

A look into the 2021 Commons experience

The 2021 Commons experience is planned to be similar to pre-COVID-19 years with a rebranded Anchor Dash and old favorites.
commons from on top of the commons center
Emily Gonçalves
Lower Commons Quad, as photographed May 16, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Emily Gonçalves)

First-year events such as the Founders Walk, a class photo and in-person Vanderbilt Visions groups are back for the Class of 2025 as part of the Commons experience. Other events, however, have changed to adapt to both COVID-19 restrictions and other university changes. 

Per Melissa Gresalfi, Dean of the Commons, events such as the class party, Family Weekend and Fall for the Arts are currently scheduled for the fall semester. 

“We have plans in the fall to do a lot of the big events we usually do,” Gresalfi said. 

Anchor Dash has been “modernized” and reimagined as “Welcome to Vandyville,” per Candice Lee, athletic director and vice chancellor of athletics and university affairs. The event will be on Sept. 4 at Vanderbilt’s first home football game. Lee said that Welcome to Vandyville will feature a pre-game tailgate and the opportunity for students to participate in the Star Walk, a Vanderbilt tradition in which football players and coaches walk from the locker rooms to Vanderbilt Stadium before a game. The Star Walk is typically lined with members of Vanderbilt Spirit Teams, the Spirit of Gold Marching Band and fans.

“[We] found that in past years, some students were not able to participate, and we wanted to address that,” Lee said in an email to The Hustler. “Although Anchor Dash will look a little bit different this year and students will not be running across the field, our goal is to make it more inclusive for all participants, and hopefully help everyone develop an even stronger connection to Vanderbilt Athletics.”

Events like the Commons Ball, which typically occurs on the first Saturday of February, are still uncertain.

 “I hope we are going to have it and [we are] currently planning to have it,” Gresalfi said.

In addition to the class photo, other traditional events, like the True Life Presentation and Discussion as well as Academic Night, are on the orientation schedule.   

“Everyone is invited to all Commons programming. We don’t exclude anyone from our programming,” Gresalfi said. “No one is at the door checking your ID to see if you’re in the right class.”

According to Gresalfi, unvaccinated students are able to attend all Commons events as long as they follow COVID-19 guidelines. She shared her excitement for this upcoming year, expressing how it was harder to connect with students while abiding by these guidelines.

“The thing I’m personally most excited about is the Dean’s Dinners. I absolutely love connecting with students in small groups,” Gresalfi said. “There’s something about sharing a meal together that makes everyone feel just a little bit more relaxed, and it’s definitely easier to get to know each other in those contexts.”

First-years and their families have already enjoyed a gamut of events as a part of their welcome to Vanderbilt. These festivities included a Family Welcome and Harambe March, a meet and greet with faculty heads of houses, a floor community-building dinner, Vanderbilt Visions introductions, the Community Creed and Founder’s Walk. Gresalfi said that a video of the in-person Founder’s Walk will be shared.

“Founders Walk has always been for students only, last year was the exception actually because we were not able to hold founder’s walk in-person, we held it virtually and we were able to broadcast it to parents and families,” Gresalfi said. “Because that was actually something that people loved, this year’s Founders Walk is in person, but we are also going to have cameras.” 

First-year Calla Reardon expressed anticipation for the CommonsVU Orientation and the beginning of her Vanderbilt experience.

“I’m mostly excited to meet everyone else going to school with me and get a feel for the campus!” Reardon said in a message to The Hustler.

When reflecting back on her CommonsVU orientation experience, Reardon said that it helped to make her comfortable at Vanderbilt. She said that some of her predictions about orientation programming were proven incorrect.

“I expected situations in which we met other students to be more organized and driven by faculty, but I really liked that we were able to drive most of our own interactions with other students,” Reardon said.

Many first-years have expressed their appreciation for Vanderbilt and the chance to participate in these events. First-year Edie Sackville-West said that the CommonVU programming has been well organized. 

“Even if you don’t know what you are doing, you are guided by people, it’s not like you are a nuisance, you are made to feel welcomed,” Sackville-West said.

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About the Contributor
Emily Gonçalves
Emily Gonçalves, Former Multimedia Director
Emily Gonçalves (‘20) was the Multimedia Director of the Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in Mathematics and Economics and minored in Latin American Studies. When she’s not taking photos, you can catch this Jersey girl making puns, singing, advocating for girls’ education and drinking lots of chocolate milk and espresso!
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