Humans of The Commons
“I moved here from Atlanta for a temp job. Mr. Seigenthaler, who was the founder, had his assistant quit and did not give any notice, so they asked me to come and work for him temporarily. We clicked, so I became his assistant for eleven years. ”
“The most rewarding part [of my experience] was getting to know him and work with him all these years. He was an amazing, very kind, and humble man who was very much a patriot and in touch with the nation and all that was going on.”
“When he died, I became the center administrator, and my passion is really continuing Mr. Seigenthaler’s legacy; he did so much for this city, this nation, for people in need, for the underdogs, and my passion is that his legacy continue and that people will know him and know what he did.”
The John Seigenthaler Center, while located on Vanderbilt’s campus, in an independent entity. This center, also known as the First Amendment Center, was meant to both celebrate and encourage understanding of the founding values of the United States and Seigenthaler’s work.
Sharonda Adams is a Law, History and Society & Human and Organizational Development double major from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Where do you find your happiness at Vanderbilt?
I love hanging out with my friends, going to concerts and attending campus events. There’s never a dull day on campus.
One of my favorite events this year was Commons Ball. It was amazing to see over 1000 people enjoying the Ball after all the hard work and planning that went into it.
I’d say that one of my biggest passions in life is music. I love all genres and can vibe to pretty much anything! My favorite concert of the year was a Delta Rae concert that I went to in September. It was special because it was the day between my birthday and my mom’s birthday. We were able to meet the band because my mom won a contest that Delta Rae has for teachers (see below).
What are you involved in on campus?
I’m involved in the Commons Leadership Council (CLC) as the Gillette House President.(See below for picture of Sharonda with VP Chip Dale) It has been a very fun and rewarding role. I’m also a producer for My Commons Life, the freshman blog that you’re reading. In addition to CLC and MLC, I am a big fan of the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) and Alternative Winter Break (AWB) programs. I’m excited to be on AWB board for the upcoming year because I love the service that alternative breaks do and how quickly you can bond with a small group of people in such a short amount of time. I’m also a bookseller at Barnes & Noble, so feel free to stop by and visit (we can talk about all of the bestsellers).
What do you love about yourself?
One thing that I love about myself is my ability to laugh at my own jokes. I’m pretty much a 40-year-old man stuck in a teenage girl’s body. I just love laughing and being able to find something to smile about.
What are your talents?
My only talent is appreciating other people’s talents. I hope that one day I’ll wake up and be a great singer or dancer but for now I’m just chilling. I like to live vicariously through the many talented people here on campus by attending showcases and performances.
What did you think of your freshman year?
I’m definitely sad that my freshman year is over and my favorite thing by far would be the new people that I met who come from so many different backgrounds.
What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?
One piece of advice that I’d give to freshmen who are coming to Vanderbilt is that the adjustment is hard, but make sure you don’t lose yourself when you’re trying to find your place on campus and make new friends. Stay genuine and eventually you’ll find where you’re supposed to be.
What are you looking forward to most for sophomore year?
I’m looking forward to living in McGill. I love their emphasis on acceptance and creativity and I’m excited about being able to meet new people on main campus.
Rue is an Ethiopian first-year who lives with her adopted family in Lawrence, Kansas when she’s not having fun and spending her time in Gillette. She enjoys meeting other people and hearing their stories because she believes everyone has a story to tell. Stay tuned as she talks about her favorite class, your favorite food and what a perfect day on campus is like for her!
What is your major?
I’m currently undecided, but I’m leaning towards Medicine, Health and Society with an emphasis on Global Health. I might be on the pre-PA or pre-Nursing track. I’ve always gravitated towards the medical profession, but I’ve done some reevaluating and don’t think medical school is for me. I want to stay in the medical profession because when I was younger when I liked taking care of my siblings when they were sick. I also worked as a CNA at a nursing home my senior year!
What’s your favorite class that you’ve taken?
One of my favorite classes thus far is my Intro to African American Diaspora Studies. It was incredible and it made me consider minoring in AADS (African American and Diaspora Studies). As someone in the diaspora, I really enjoyed learning different perspectives and how they might impact what I do in the future.
What’s your favorite food on campus, off campus and back home?
On campus, I love the orange chicken at Commons. Off campus, I love Mellow Mushroom, especially their Great White Pizza. From back home, when I cook I usually cook traditional Ethiopian foods. One of my favorite things to cook is just traditional sauce with pasta or eggs!
What does your perfect day on campus look like?
Ideally I would have all my work done the night before. I would sleep in until 10:30 AM, have an omelette for breakfast, hang out with my friends, sit on the lawn and read a book or two, go to the rec and go out that night!
What is your hidden talent?
I can turn my tongue to make a three-leaf clover! But besides that, I also love braiding hair so if you’re ever looking for someone to braid hair for free or occasionally charge a few bucks (because we’re all poor college kids), hit me up!
Karrie Raymond is a Haitian-American freshman. She is from South Florida, where the population is very diverse and rich with culture. She is extremely passionate about helping people and building a more inclusive community. Stick around and read more about Karrie!
What is your major?
I am on the pre-med track, double majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society and Child Development with a minor in Women and Gender Studies.
I chose these majors because I want to do pediatric research and I feel like MHS and Child Development will provide me with the scaffolding to really do those things. Also, you can’t have children without women. But overall, I would like to enrich my understanding and I’m a feminist so I believe it is necessary to be more inclusive when it comes to women, especially women of color.
What are you involved in on campus?
I am involved with Rand Dining, Vanderbilt Students Volunteer for Science (VSVS), Caribbean Student Association, and myself because self-love is important!
What is your favorite class so far?
My favorite course has been Existential Philosophy with Professor Sandy Skene. It’s about existence and it has taught me so much about myself and my identity. It has helped me come to terms with my self-esteem and identity issues. My professor allowed us to have discussions with the reading and provided an open space for us to say anything.
We talk about such a wide range of perspectives. Professor Skene was never biased. She showed us several different viewpoints and I was not expecting her to branch out and show us black existentialists but she showed us that, too. I appreciated that she had an entire section devoted to teaching students about them.
What are your goals for the future?
My number one goal is to be on the show Survivor. In the future, I am striving to have my own talk show. My talk show is going to have sass like Wendy, but class like Oprah. Also, I hope to travel with NGO’s to do research and help women and children around the globe.
Josh Bandopadhay (2021), Major: Neuroscience, Hometown: Dallas, Texas
“I’m fascinated by the brain. Never have I come across something as intricate and complicated as this most integral organ in our body, and I’m eager to increase my understanding of the brain and its functions over the course of my time at Vanderbilt. Because of my interest in the brain, I’m majoring in Neuroscience. In my down time, I enjoy reading literature of different sorts, listening to various kinds of music, and playing sports, especially soccer and tennis. I look forward to my time at Vanderbilt, and I’m most excited about the people I’ll meet and the friendships I’ll form.”
Linh Vu is a Vietnamese freshman. She comes from Hanoi, the second largest city in Vietnam, where the traffic jam is totally insane but has a variety of food. She is extremely passionate about media and how it can change and expand people’s perspectives. Let’s get to know more about her.
I know you are interested in Cinema and Media Arts, can you tell us why?
Growing up with my grandpa’s black and white films he made, I got engaged in movies since childhood. What impressed me was not the technology used back then, but the ability of movies to convey messages that still apply to the modern world. Movies have ignited my interest in working towards a strong, liberal society and in the way it alters people’s views on certain concepts and opinions in life.
I used to be oblivious about feminism and its importance for women; however, documentary films “India’s Daughter” challenged me to learn about the true experiences of women’s repression and pursuit of equality around the world. Exploring film at Vanderbilt by learning from talented film students and outstanding professors would allow me to deliver my own messages as a feminist, thereby challenging stereotypes and repressive social norms. I want to make my own documentary films to raise awareness about issues like sex trafficking in third world countries and the LGBT movement in Vietnam. I believe, by learning professional film-making, I could add a creative dimension to my intended career in broadcast media, finding new ways to shed light on injustice and promote equality across the globe.
What clubs are you involved on campus that concerns with your interests?
I’m involved in Vanderbilt Hustler, Vanderbilt Television News, My Commons Life and Vanderbilt University Theatre. I used to work as a photographer and a video editor. I’m currently working on a project interviewing professors to improve her photo-taking and video-editing skills. For this project, I ask professors at Vanderbilt about their academic interests, advices, hobbies and other aspects students wish to know about them. This project will be featured on My Commons Life soon!
Is there a very impressive event or class during last semester for you?
Professor Ben Tran’s first year writing seminar about The Vietnam War has huge impact on me. Born and raised in the Vietnam, I have always taken pride in my country’s legacy and my ancestors’ struggle to gain independence and freedom. For a long time, my knowledge was limited by ambiguous datas of years, historical figures and visual war images delivered by Vietnamese teachers. Those lessons denounced war crimes, displayed the hardships of Vietnamese during the Second Indochina War, and blamed United States for all problems. However, I underestimated impact of war on people from different races, cultures and beliefs. As I learn my country’s history in another country, I started to look at this period from a broader picture that the North and South Vietnam were actually divided and used as pawns in the chessboard played by two foreign superpowers—the United States and Soviet Union—or two binary ideologies—Capitalism and Communism.
What is your favorite place to study on campus?
I would say my top choices are the Baseball Lounge in Sarratt and Vanderbilt Law Library. The reasons are quite simple. The Baseball Lounge is the ideal location for me to get wonderful food at Local Java or Rand whenever I am hungry, while the Law Library is an extremely quiet place with a lot of serious graduate students focusing on their works, which too makes me feel concentrated on my study.
This is Alex Luckerman.
(image from the hustler)
“I came into college thinking that my passion was education but upon further thought I realize I didn’t want to teach and I didn’t really know what else to do with that, so I’m kind of at a point where I just want to explore, and that’s all I really feel like is certain at this point.
So right now I’m taking Neuroscience, ugh, a computer science class, a class called mind and brain which is about cognitive neuroscience–I did not really know that getting into it, but I thought it was cool so I stayed– the intro seminar for Peabody scholars which is on creativity and an English class on representative american writers… and intro French, because I took it in high school and I forgot everything despite having been in it for 5 years…”
His Plentiful Interests
Honestly I would take classes in pretty much everything we have here with the exception of maybe like, really theoretical math classes and anything in business, (it just) isn’t that interesting to me. But otherwise, all of the sciences, like chemistry, biology and physics were just so interesting to me in high school…I also really, want to take classes in philosophy, I took intro to ethics last semester, and it was easily my favorite class, with my class on justice just behind it. And neither of those pertain to anything I’m going to show up with on my diploma when I leave here, but they were just so, cool.
I like thinking about how different social structures work, and what it means to be human, and all these really deep questions that I feel like a lot of students here don’t really feel like they have the time to pause and think about, because they’re too busy trying to go down a specific path toward a career, or they’ve managed to isolate one thing that they’re really passionate about, that they can just pursue.
I’m really fortunate that as a cognitive studies major with a good number of AP credits transferring in that I have just a bunch of freedom that I can just explore. I understand that not everyone is going to be able to do the same sort of random class taking that I am lucky enough to be able to do, especially if they’re pre-med, and want to do a double major in whatever crazy stuff people are up to around here.
But, when they get the chance, I think it’s really mind-opening to just be able to take a class that you wouldn’t otherwise be studying and just give you a moment to take your mind away from the very specific path that you might have chosen… you’re, sort of forced to choose when you choose a major, and actually explore the broader intellectual world around you. There’s a unique opportunity to do that at college that you’re gonna struggle to find anywhere else, especially for the time to do.”
This is Gabrielle Blackburn.
Her response to hearing about the random events on campus most of us ignore?
“Oh that’s really cool, let me try that. Oh that really cool, let me do that. And so i have a
tendency to get veryinvolved very quickly...Tango club’s on my calendar. It doesn’t mean I go every week, because sometimes it’s not in the cards. But, because I wanted to learn how to dance tango, I do these things because it makes me happy.
The Google Calendar
“So you know how the background is white, and then the default things you add are blue? Its like 90% blue. Yea, the only white is between 11pm and 9am. But, I’m okay with that… it changes week to week… I’ve been trying to keep it all in my head but there’s like no way… so i actually started using (an agenda) and it changed my life.
I switched to google calendar so I can see everything… it’s all in my phone, so if someone like, when are you free?, I can say, Monday at 7… scheduling things, and being intentional about how you use your time. If being in all these things is what you want then you have to be willing to make sacrifices of things you consider less important.
Is it for you?
I don’t think you should try to cram yourself full or join 8 billion clubs just to join 8 billion clubs. I was talking about this with someone earlier and she said There’s no need to have a resume which can bench press the weight of all your hopes and dreams. There’s not reason to fill up your time if that’s not what you want you want to do and is going to make you satisfied.
I am not someone who watches Netflix, but some people like having an hour of just chill watching a show in their day. It has to do with what fulfills you; what you can reasonably do and still be a functioning human being, because that’s also really important
(Gabrielle then laughed)
Because sometimes I forget that too.
There’s no point in being in every club if you’re not present, its not meaningful to you… It’s better even just from a resume standpoint. It’s better to have something that you’re invested in rather than something to check another box, take up another line.
How to Juggle a full google calendar, friendships and self
Taking a moment
So I’m trying to be very intentional about it (self care). Today I stopped doing my work, took a long shower, did a face mask. It was like, okay, I feel better.
I feel like that’s my biggest form of self care, when like, I mess up, when i forget somethings, when I let someone down. I try not to beat myself up over it; I’m like, okay this is what i have to do next time to be successful… I’d say improvement is growth.
Life hack: schedule meals with people. ‘Cuz then you get to see friends you wouldn’t see otherwise and someone holds you responsible for making sure you don’t forget to eat. You have to eat anyway, so you may as well make it friendship time.
One of my friends has all her social media in her phone in a folder, its called time wasters and i love that…. Its not a replacement for real interaction with people. So if I’m gonna having fulfilling, full friendships its not going to be liking everyone’s Instagram post, its gonna be texting “hey when are you free for lunch this week”. So i have a running list of people in my phone of people I want to eat food with in the near future and I thought I was the only one… (she is not; I myself have one).
If a friendship is important, you’ll make time for it. And this is a side note, but I’m not going to put effort into spending time with people who don’t want to put an effort into spending time with me…. It’s okay to let something go if that friendship isn’t meaningful and the other person isn’t willing to meet in the middle. I’d rather focus on..those really good people that add things to my life. It’s the same thing as like having a resume that can… there’s no point in having a resume that is miles long but not deep. So I feel the same way about friendships as I do about that.
Its easy to fool yourself, like yea I’m doing fine, or lie to yourself and be like yea, 5 hours of sleep is plenty of sleep for me. So if you have something objective telling you (she showed me an app she uses), like, no you only slept this much last night, that was dumb. THAT’S helpful.
I am a person who needs more than average amount of sleep to function, like some people are good on 6 hours a night; I am not one of those people, but I’ve also recognized that, so sometimes I have to say no i cant go out tonight, like, rain check, next time I’ll go out, but tonight I need to take care of myself.
I try to journal because if I just go go go go go, I don’t have time to process all the things that are happening, and when its things that involve my relationships with other people, I want to work through everything in my head, and so physically writing it down forces me to actually think about it, because if I just do it mentally, its like, okay THAT’S done, even if I didn’t actually work on myself…
I found out in High school that if I wanted to keep doing all the things I was doing -(like not die of not sleeping)- if i wanted to keep that level of involvement, I had to maximize my efficiency. Its such a nerdy thing, it sounds so dumb, but choosing if I want to be able to be apart of this organization, if I want to work on this show, I need to not watch Netflix. I need to not be on my phone that dead time between classes; I need to be working on my stats homework instead of just sitting there on my phone until the professor shows up.
I’d like to think I’m pretty self aware… we’re in this time of transition, becoming real adults. (I’m) working on that process of being more responsible and taking care of myself.
I’m also optimistic to a fault, so sometimes I’m like yea, yea I can do 4 things in 1 evening, and I get to the first one, and I’m like I’m going to go home, and do my homework as soon as possible and go to sleep. This GBM for something isn’t… i can prioritize something else, I can prioritize my own health.
Her final message
“I believe in everybody. I believe in you you can do it.”