Immersion Vanderbilt no longer a graduation requirement for Class of 2022

Juniors are “highly recommended but not required” to complete their projects; submission deadline delayed to November 2020.

Student+Life+Center

Alex Venero

The Vanderbilt Student Life Center houses the Office of Active Citizenship and Service, Office of Immersion Resources, Global Education Office and Career Center. (Hustler Multimedia/Alex Venero)

Madeline King

According to the Office of Immersion Resources (OIR)Immersion Vanderbilt is now highly recommended but not required for the undergraduate Class of 2022 due to conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The modified change affects only undergraduate students in the Class of 2022. Those who are members of the Classes of 2023 and 2024 will still be required to submit a project proposal by April 1 of 2021 and 2022, respectively.

This past March, the deadline for Immersion plan proposals was delayed until Sept. 7. According to the myVU website, the Immersion Faculty Steering Committee later proposed complete flexibility due to the impact of the pandemic, especially in regards to students’ ability to participate in their planned experiential learning opportunities. The proposal was accepted by all four of Vanderbilt’s undergraduate schools.

Many students have expressed feelings of relief at this update, regardless of where they stand in the Immersion process. For junior Grace Schillewaert, a transfer student new to Vanderbilt’s College of Arts & Science this year, the project had been a major stressor before the update.

“I was very concerned about my ability to complete the requirement,” Schillewaert said in an email to The Hustler. “I had just gotten here and was trying to balance a new academic rigor, plan classes to graduate on time and learn the campus. So Immersion was just one more thing on my plate. When I heard that it was no longer a requirement, I was filled with a great sense of relief.”

Junior Jiayu Li, a math major in the College of Arts & Science, had a similar perspective.

“I was so relieved because I had at the back of my mind that we were going to have a proposal due on Sept. 7, and I was really struggling,” Li said in a message to The Hustler.

Junior Daniel Chu, a double major in the School of Engineering who transferred to Vanderbilt last year, had mixed feelings about proceeding.

“I was relieved because after this year there were so many things going on with COVID that this one just one more thing to figure out,” Chu said in an email to The Hustler. “To be honest, it felt a little rushed for transfer students to figure out the idea of Immersion and then also get acquainted with a new college.”

However, the updated requirements don’t mean the end of the road for students’ projects. 

“We will advise students in all four classes and encourage students who do have this option to complete an Immersion project because of the value it adds to their education,” the OIR stated in an email to the Hustler.

While many students are unlikely to proceed with their Immersion proposals, some students, including Chu, will be continuing with their projects to fulfill other graduation requirements such as the senior design project in the School of Engineering.

“Yes [I will still complete my project] because [the School of Engineering] requires it as a graduation requirement, but now I can do it without the additive paperwork and steps of Immersion,” Chu said. “It was stressful with COVID. A lot of people like the idea of Immersion but didn’t really want to have to go through the administrative process of writing a proposal.”

Some students, like Schillewaert, may continue to explore it as a possibility without the added stress of the additional degree requirement.

“I’m still going to try to explore the possibility of Immersion and do independent studies, but it’s nice to know it’s not going to be a barrier to success here,” Schillewaert said.

The Class of 2022 would have been the first undergraduate class with Immersion Vanderbilt as a degree requirement. For students who still wish to complete their projects, the project proposal deadline of Sept. 7 no longer applies. However, the OIR stated that those who submitted a proposal may still complete or modify their project. The submission deadline has been updated to November 2020, when participating juniors will only have to declare an intention to complete an Immersion project.

The OIR stated on their website that they are still committed to offering multiple events and resources for support. In the coming weeks, they will be hosting several webinars, discussions and workshops and will continue working with partners across campus to ensure advisers are able to assist students.