School recognizes its student athletes at special reception

L-R – Ken Frampton, associate professor of the practice and director of undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering; Kane Jennings, professor and chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Joseph Hoffman, civil engineering junior, football; Dane Stubbs, chemical engineering sophomore, football; Marie Casares Rosa, civil engineering junior, tennis; and Hannah Martin, biomedical engineering sophomore, swimming.

Among engineering students involved in non-academic campus activities, a significant number are involved in university sports. This year 28 engineering students are Vanderbilt varsity athletes.

Dean Philippe Fauchet chats with senior civil engineering major and football player Andrew East.

“Being a successful SEC athlete and a successful School of Engineering student requires excellent time management skills, great dedication, and perseverance,” said Dean Philippe Fauchet, at a Jan. 27 dinner reception to recognize the School of Engineering’s student athletes.

“Such attributes should be recognized and celebrated,” Fauchet said to the group of students, coaches and guests gathered at the University Club. Fauchet called the event a “first annual” reception, signaling his interest in regularly acknowledging engineering students’ dedication to academics and athletics.

Two alumni who were Vanderbilt athletes made special appearances. Baratunde Cola, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Meg Underwood, a principal at c3/consulting, a Nashville management consulting firm, shared their university experiences.


“When I came here I was taught how to work hard as a student and as an athlete,” said Cola, who praised his engineering professors for “taking a lot of time” to work with him.

“I learned time management and teamwork and how to take notes,” said Underwood. “I’m really prepared, and to this day I still use engineering notebooks.”

“It was interesting to see engineering alumni who were athletes, and what they’re doing now, said tennis player and junior civil engineering major Marie Casares Rosa. “It was a great opportunity to meet the dean and other engineering student athletes. I was happy to meet students who I can relate to.”

Baratunde Cola is a former walk-on fullback on the Commodore football team who earned a BE degree in 2002 and a master’s degree in 2004 in mechanical engineering. He received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 2008.Cola directs the NEST Research Group at Georgia Tech. His current research is focused on fabricating nanostructured surfaces and interfaces to enhanced energy transport and conversion, and improve heat transfer characteristics. He is particularly interested in investigating energy transport through interfaces and nanosized contacts.

At Vanderbilt, Cola was actively involved in research while playing football, which contributed to his winning the School of Engineering Stein Stone Memorial Award and the Football Team Dedication Award. Cola earned a scholarship as a starting fullback in his final year after recovering from two ACL injuries to his right knee.


Meg Neidhardt Underwood was a track and field athlete who focused on the 400 hurdles. She earned a BE degree in biomedical engineering in 1996.

Underwood has more than 15 years of experience in health care information technology and specializes in the project management of large complex multisystem implementations. For the past three years her focus has been on implementations of electronic medical records.

Underwood, and her husband Ryan, also a Vanderbilt graduate, and their three children live near campus. “I enjoy attending as many Vanderbilt sporting events as my schedule allows,” she said.

“I really enjoyed getting a chance to speak with the alumni about their experiences at Vanderbilt,” said swim team member and biomedical engineering sophomore Hannah Martin. “They shared valuable advice about being a successful student-athlete engineer while in school, as well as after graduation. The reception was a great way to connect with other athletes with similar interests.”

L-R, Cross country and track athletes Claire Benjamin, mechanical engineering junior; and Vanessa Valentine, mechanical engineering sophomore.

Candace Lee, associate athletics director, shared the “state of athletics” at Vanderbilt. Lee noted that Vanderbilt is in the Top 25 in U.S. collegiate varsity sports.

Lee’s responsibilities include oversight for women’s basketball, lacrosse and student services, which includes compliance and academic support. Lee is a former Vanderbilt women’s basketball player who earned a bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees at the university.

Burgess Mitchell, assistant dean for minority affairs in the School of Engineering, served as master of ceremony.

“I feel privileged to be a part of the engineering student-athlete community at Vanderbilt. I am thankful to have been honored with a reception,” said Casares Rosa. “It was a wonderful evening.”