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.

2021 Family Weekend boasts highest turnout in recent years

Family Weekend returned in 2021 with COVID-19 protocols and a new FirstVU initiative.
fall for the arts stage
Josh Rehders
Fall for the Arts on Wyatt Lawn, as photographed on Oct. 1, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)

From Oct. 1-3, the Office of Parents and Family Programs invited Vanderbilt families for an in-person Family Weekend. This annual event was canceled during the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Per Director of Parents and Family Programs Sandra Robinson, the university hosted all four of their signature “anchor events”: the Conversation with the Chancellor, Fall for the Arts, the Family Weekend Tailgate and the Farewell Breakfast. The university also offered other smaller-scale activities throughout the weekend, including a presentation from the Office of Financial Aid and an introductory session for first-generation families, which were both held for the first time. All events followed university COVID-19 protocols, causing some to be modified with additional safety measures.

“Even if it meant doing things in a different way, such as focusing on anchor events outdoors, we knew welcoming families to a full experience was essential,” Robinson said. “We missed having Family Weekend last year, and any challenges faced were worth it to see our parents, grandparents and other family members on-campus and in-person again.”

bar graph of family weekend attendance
Graph of Vanderbilt’s Family Weekend Attendance. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

Robinson said over 3,800 parents, students and family members signed up for Family Weekend, compared to 3,360 in Fall 2019, 3,780 in Fall 2018 and 3,650 in Fall 2017.

According to Robinson, the Conversation with the Chancellor was held on Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. CDT, and over 600 people attended. Due to COVID-19, the university moved the event outside. The talk was also recorded and made available on YouTube.

“The Chancellor’s talk was really good for my parents to get an update on what’s happening at the school,” junior William Cerulli said. “One of the concerns was dining, a pretty substantial topic this year. My parents heard the Chancellor talk about dining and what they have planned for the future to make it better.”

Fall for the Arts occurred on Oct.1 at 5 p.m. CDT on Wyatt Lawn and featured performances from organizations such as the University Concert Band Jazz Ensemble, Momentum Dance Company and Spectrum A Capella, as well as individual student acts. Per Ingram Commons Program Coordinator Emily Waddell, over 2,000 people attended this event.

“It didn’t even cross our minds not to come. It’s our kiddo, and we’re not used to not having her around, so any opportunity to see her, we take,” Emily Fine, parent of Spectrum A Capella performer and first-year Sophie Fine, said. “We were proud that she was involved in a group this early on in her freshman year.”

Cerulli stated that Family Weekend 2021 felt “pretty similar” to his Family Weekend 2019 experience before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of campus. However, his family chose not to attend the Family Weekend Tailgate, held on Oct. 2 at 4:30 p.m. CDT, due to COVID-19 concerns about large gatherings.

FirstVU faculty advisor Susan Sutton stated that the Office of Development and Alumni Relations provided $2,000 for FirstVU programming during Family Weekend. 

“I, too, am a first-generation, low-income student, and I would’ve been one of those students who felt lonely seeing all those happy families,” Sutton said. “The percentage of parents coming [to Family Weekend] is much lower for first-generation and low-income students.” 

This was the first year that FirstVU provided free Family Weekend tickets for families of FirstVU students and hosted activities for students whose families could not attend Family Weekend, such as a trip to the K&S International Market and brunch with Sutton.

“My family didn’t come since they live in Brazil. My friend, who is a member of FirstVU, invited me to participate in the programming to make friends and buy some snacks at K&S that reminded us of home,” first-year Augusto Lee said. “Everyone was super amicable and inviting.”

The Office of Parents and Family Programs will be releasing additional virtual Family Weekend programming throughout the week of Oct. 3-9 as an alternative to events that had to be canceled due to COVID-19. Robinson said the university hopes to offer more in-person activities and events connected to the city of Nashville during Family Weekend 2022.

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About the Contributors
Katherine Oung
Katherine Oung, Data Editor
Katherine Oung ('25) is majoring in political science and computer science and minoring in data science in the College of Arts and Science. They are from West Palm Beach, Fla., and were previously Deputy News Editor and Managing Editor. Katherine enjoys working on freelance journalism projects and making incredibly specific Spotify playlists. They can be reached at [email protected].
Josh Rehders
Josh Rehders, Former Photography Director
Josh Rehders ('24) is from Houston and is studying computer science in the School of Engineering. When he is not shooting for The Hustler, Vanderbilt Athletics or freelancing, he enjoys finding new music and good food. He can be reached at [email protected].
Emery Little
Emery Little, Former Social Media Director
Emery Little (‘22) is from Birmingham, AL. She majored in communication of science and technology and Spanish. In her free time, she loves to design graphics, follow tech news and run her photography business. She can be reached at [email protected].
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