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A Year Like No Other

How a Global Pandemic Led to Vanderbilt University's Proudest Moment

Foreword by Daniel Diermeier
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The University that was at the heart of the research to discover the vaccines for the pandemic pens the story of how it all happened.

In 2020, as COVID-19 threw U.S. higher education into turmoil, university administrators around the country debated whether it was prudent—or even possible—to teach students in person or conduct laboratory research amid a once-in-a-century pandemic. For the leadership at Vanderbilt University, the answer to the question was a resounding Yes. Viewing residential education and collaborative research as essential to its academic and societal mission, Vanderbilt was one of a small number of America’s top universities to put rigorous safety protocols in place to allow students, faculty, and research personnel back to campus in the fall.

Told with recollections and insights from Vanderbilt’s leaders, students, faculty, and staff, and moving at a pace matching the events it describes, A Year Like No Other takes readers from Vanderbilt’s near-shutdown in the spring through its reopening for the 2o20–2021 academic year, providing an inside look at how the university coped not only with COVID-19, but also with a tragic night of tornadoes and the urgent calls for racial justice following the killing of George Floyd. A Year Like No Other also highlights some of the vital contributions that faculty at Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt University Medical Center have made to the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, with research fueled in part by Dolly Parton, the beloved country music legend.

A Year Like No Other captures a singular moment in the university’s history while delivering a concise portrait of successful crisis management playing out amid the fast-changing circumstances of global health threats and a barrage of local hardships.

Ryan Underwood is the Director of Donor and Alumni Communications Strategy at Vanderbilt University and editor of Vanderbilt Magazine. Prior to that role, he served as Director of Content Strategy for Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, where he oversaw global communications and social media for the school. Before joining Vanderbilt, Underwood worked as politics editor for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. He was staff writer for Fast Company magazine in Boston and New York, where he covered branding, technology, and executive leadership. He is also a former contributing writer for Inc. magazine, covering the intersection of innovation and global entrepreneurship. A native of Nashville, Underwood holds a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and completed graduate work in international relations at Boston University.

  • Publisher: Forefront Books (August 3, 2021)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781637630044