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Founder's Medal

Founder's medal winner Debra Perrone

The Graduate School's Founder's Medal recognizes both individual scholarly accomplishment and the importance of the Ph.D. degree as Vanderbilt's most advanced graduate degree. Therefore, it is expected that the Graduate School's Founder's Medal will be awarded to a recipient of the Ph.D. degree. 


Celebrate the 2020 recipient, Thea J. Autry, here.


Award Cycle

The Graduate School will award one Founder's Medal per year on a repeating four-year cycle among four broad subject sectors. That is, one Graduate School Founder's Medal will be awarded each year to a Ph.D. student in one of these four sectors: Biological and Biomedical Science; Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science; Humanities; and Social Science and Education. Therefore, one Graduate School Founder's Medal will be awarded to a Ph.D. student in each of the four sectors once every four years. 

May 2020 Founder's Medal: Humanities;
May 2021 Founder's Medal: Social Science and Education;
May 2022 Founder's Medal: Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science;
May 2023 Founder's Medal: Biological and Biomedical Science.

This order will remain the same in subsequent years. 


Programs Included Within the Four Sectors

Biological and Biomedical Sciences: 
Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Informatics, Cancer Biology, Cell & Developmental Biology, Chemical & Physical Biology, Epidemiology, Hearing & Speech; Human Genetics; Microbiology & Immunology, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, Neuroscience, Nursing Science, Cellular & Molecular Pathology, Pharmacology, and Psychology (A&S).

English, French, German, History, Philosophy, Religion, Spanish, Spanish-Portuguese.

Social Sciences and Education: 
Anthropology, Community Research & Actions, Economics, Law & Economics, Leadership & Policy Studies, Learning Teaching & Diversity, Psychology & Human Development (Peabody), Management, Political Science, Sociology, Special Education

Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science: 
Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Materials Science, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, and Physics.


Selection Process & Eligibility

Each year, the Associate Deans for Graduate Study (or equivalent) in the schools/colleges that support programs in the designated subject sector will convene a Founder's Medal Committee to carry out the competition for that year's Medal. The Committee members will number no more than six and will include those associate deans, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from the Graduate School, and one or more members of the Graduate Faculty, as appropriate. The Committee's tasks include soliciting nominations from the faculty, ensuring that each nominee meets the Graduate School's eligibility criteria (below), and recommending to the Dean of the Graduate School the top-three finalists (rank-ordered), from which the Dean will select that year's Founder's Medal recipient.

Nominees for the Graduate School's Founder's Medal must satisfy at least these criteria:

  1. It must be clear that each nominee will complete the requirements necessary to receive the Ph.D. degree during the academic year in question. For example, to be eligible for the May 2020 Founder's Medal, a graduate student must complete the requirements for the Ph.D. degree during the 2019-2020 academic year, in time to qualify for the August 2019, December 2019 or May 2020 graduation dates.
  2. Each nominee must have demonstrated exceptional accomplishment in research or scholarship, as evidenced by appropriate documentation, consistent with Vanderbilt University's highest standards.
  3. The nominee must agree to attend the University's May commencement ceremony to receive the award in person.

With the prior approval of the Dean of the Graduate School, the Founder's Medal Committee may announce additional criteria, as appropriate, at the time nominations are solicited from the faculty. When submitting its recommendations to the Dean, the Committee should include copies of each student's transcript, current CV, and any additional materials the Committee used to develop its recommendations.