From Ironman to Vanderbilt engineering
Chandler Barnes, class of 2018, never saw himself as a Vanderbilt student back when he was in high school. Mainly, he worried that the university was out of reach financially.
“When I was applying to schools, my dad said that although he’d love to be able to pay tuition wherever I was accepted, I’d have to work to pay for any school that didn’t offer financial support. So when I found out I’d be able to attend Vanderbilt on a scholarship, I literally cried for about 10 minutes. So did my family,” said Barnes, a computer engineering major and engineering management minor.
Barnes credits his Vanderbilt scholarship for the opportunities he now has to explore new learning experiences. His lack of debt gave him the freedom to study at the University of Dublin in Ireland next semester and will allow him to complete an internship this summer in Washington, D.C.
“I’m so excited about the classes I get to take in Dublin in artificial intelligence. I believe AI can benefit humanity. I believe that intelligence breeds benevolence and we can harness that to solve problems.”
Ironman movies first inspired a much younger Barnes to follow a dream of using technology to find new solutions. Today, he hopes to build a technology business to better society just like superhero Tony Stark.
“Ironman was my idol. In the movie, he graduated from MIT in electrical engineering so as a kid that’s what I decided to do, too. But coming here I realized that I enjoy the collaborative and entrepreneurial part of engineering more than building things with my hands. This has been a big change. When I first arrived, I was very focused on just me—my grades, my achievements. But now I realize that the people around me are the real assets. This is my network. The people here are going to be part of my resources for the company I build, and I’m a resource for them as well.”
“I wouldn’t have realized any of this without my scholarship. It gave me the opportunity to discover who I am — an entrepreneur.”
Barnes received support through the Vanderbilt Aid Society Scholarship. Moral Harvey, Ph.D., PB’79, was president of the Aid Society and has seen first-hand how vital scholarships are for creating a robust campus experience.
“There are so many brilliant and hard-working students who have fantastic potential but not opportunity. If one bit of help can bring them here, to expose them to our great faculty and to expose our campus community to the full experience of diversity, then it is our job to find a way to make it possible for them to attend,” said Harvey.
Since its inception, Opportunity Vanderbilt has supported more than 8,900 undergraduate students. In the 2016-2017 academic year, the progressive financial aid program is assisting 3,058 students. Opportunity Vanderbilt depends on generous alumni, parents and friends to support students with financial need. More than 3,500 people have made gifts ranging from $1 to $20 million since the initiative was announced in 2008.