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Teaching Difference, and Power Symposium: Class Matters

Among the greatest challenges facing higher education is that of creating diverse and democratic campus cultures that seek to confront, rather than replicate, social inequalities. One of the most challenging inequalities to confront is that of social class, since it shapes all of our lives in profound and often uncomfortable ways. Class touches every aspect of campus life – its history, its social life, and especially its teaching and learning.

“Coming to Vanderbilt was a culture shock”
-Harry Lopez, ’12

“We had no idea what was waiting for us on the other end,”
-Shirley M. Collado, ’94, and member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust

“Nobody else in my family had attended college, much less studied astrophysics…. Now I study black holes for a living, and am so lucky and happy to finally be here, but I do also feel like an imposter.”
-Kelley Holley-Bockelmann, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy

This year, the Center for Teaching hosted a learning community of faculty and graduate students focused on social class, particularly the challenges faced by lower income and first generation students in the classroom, and class-conscious methods of teaching.

On April 25th, join the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching for an end-of-year symposium in which we’ll share the year’s work done at the CFT. We will also invite all members of the Vanderbilt community to discuss steps we can take together to develop a more inclusive, equitable, and critical environment for teaching and learning.

Date: Tuesday, April 25th
Time: 2:00pm-4:30pm
Location: The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons Multipurpose Room (237)

Register Here

Symposium Agenda

1:45-2:00 Check-In

2:00-2:35 Introduction & Context

Welcome & Introductions

Joe Bandy
Assistant Director, Vanderbilt Center for Teaching

Opening Remarks

Dr. Sharon Shields, Professor of the Practice in the Department of Human & Organizational Development, and Associate Dean for Professional Education, has nearly forty years of experience at Vanderbilt and has long been an astute observer of dynamics of social class on campus. Drawing on her extensive experience with undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty in a variety of roles, Dr. Shields will discuss lower income students’ feelings of invisibility and discrimination in the classroom, perceptions of student life, and ideas about what the university administration can do to support and empower lower income students at Vanderbilt.

2:35-3:20 Campus Conversations

Faculty, students, and staff across campus are engaged in a variety of discussions and activities exploring the intersections of teaching, difference, and power. During this panel discussion representatives from student groups and academic programs will share some of the ways they have been working to foster important conversations on difference and power at Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt Psychological & Counseling Center (PCC)

Catherine Fuchs
MD, Director of the PCC

Crucial Conversations

Richard Blissett
PhD student of Education Leadership & Policy Studies, Peabody College

Vanderbilt Dean of Students

Frank Dobson
Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center


Paul Kramer
Associate Professor of History

3:20-4:05 What’s Next?

Following the panel discussion, the CFT invites the campus community to discuss steps we can take together to develop a more inclusive, equitable, and critical environment for teaching and learning.

4:05-4:35 Reception

Additional resources on the topic


Teaching guides