When Peabody Bridges vice president Bridgette Brown first arrived on Vanderbilt’s campus as a student in the Peabody College, she quickly felt as if she were out of place in her classes.
“Vanderbilt University is a predominantly white institution, and it houses many wealthy students,” Brown said. “It can be very hard to thrive in an environment that is not representative of yourself. I remember in my freshmen year being one of the only black women in my Peabody classes. I did not feel represented at all in my classes, and it made me feel uncomfortable especially during topics on race.”
According to Peabody Bridges president Katelyn Harris, underrepresented minority students, international students, first-generation college goers and low-income students are often left out of the test banks, study sessions and workforce opportunities that are available to those in organizations like Greek life. In an effort to help other students avoid the sense of isolation she felt, Harris partnered with Brown to launch Peabody Bridges, a student organization dedicated to supporting students who are otherwise excluded from various support opportunities.
“This is really designed to support Peabody students specifically because I felt like there weren’t other opportunities on campus that did that,” Harris said.
Peabody Bridges hopes to give underrepresented Peabody students access to review sessions with TAs and major-specific advising. Groups such as the National Society of Black Engineers and free tutoring in the College of Arts and Sciences are already in place at Vanderbilt, but there haven’t been any Peabody-specific opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds.
“One of our goals is to provide review sessions for Peabody classes,” Brown said. “We want to focus on major tests in HOD and education classes. I know that when I was taking Peabody Statistics or Math 140 I wished that there was a large review session to help study.”
The organization is still in the process of filling out the executive board and will have its inaugural mixer in October. They are hoping to have Associate Dean for Students and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Monique Robinson-Nichols and other guests speak, and have already found support from Vanderbilt Student Government President Ariana Fowler. Both Harris and Brown are ready to begin making an impact on Peabody students this year.
“I am most excited about starting the organization and making an impact in our target audience,” Brown said. “I am excited about reaching out to the freshman because the first semester is always the toughest. I am ready to begin and hopefully positively affect their first year.”