Meet Your 'Bus Driver'
I’m a rising sophomore at Vanderbilt University, majoring in economics and minoring in astronomy. I’m also looking for more disciplines to major/ minor in, but I haven’t set my mind on anything else yet. On campus, I’m a member of the College of Arts and Science’s honors program, the College Scholars Program; I play on Vanderbilt’s club Ultimate Frisbee team, and I'm a member of our Hillel committee that plans and leads weekly Shabbat services. Furthermore, I work with Vanderbilt’s Office of Immersion Resources to promote and answer questions about the Immersion Vanderbilt program, a mandatory experiential learning program for all Vanderbilt undergraduate students.
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Reach Out To Me
Do you have questions or want to learn more?
Feel free to direct message me @imperialnolini.
What do you love about your school?
The community (specifically that among freshmen)! All freshmen live on Commons, our freshman campus which is approximately ten minutes from our main campus. It’s not a far walk to get to the rest of campus, but because freshmen aren’t directly next door to it, they tend to spend lots of time on Commons, perfectly setting everyone up to befriend everyone else. Moreover, there are ten dorms on Commons (called “Commons Houses”), and every house has a signature event, a weekly program to unite all the members of that respective dorm. I lived in Gillette House, and we had weekly Gillette Gelato, an opportunity to eat gelato and hang out with other Gillette residents. Pairing the signature events with the fact that most freshmen hang out on Commons, the community at Vanderbilt is quite remarkable. In addition, most every faculty member is fantastic: all my professors genuinely care about me as a person and student, and they try their best to help me learn and grow. They're incredibly approachable, and they have a true love for teaching. I absolutely love the opportunity to study with such knowledgeable faculty members.
Why did you choose your school when you were a senior in high school? Walk us through that process.
I applied to twelve colleges, so my college list was quite long. I didn’t apply early decision to any school, so I knew I likely wouldn’t commit to a school until I had heard back from each school to which I’d applied. As my decisions trickled in, I became increasingly excited; the idea of beginning college was becoming increasingly real to me, but I still didn’t have my heart set on any one school. Well, my heart wasn’t set on one school until I heard back from Vanderbilt, that is. While reviewing my application, Vanderbilt selected me to receive a full-tuition merit scholarship, and after the admissions committee emailed me about my acceptance and scholarship, I knew I would attend Vanderbilt. While I was open to any school that accepted me, I still had a few dream schools - three, in fact - and in all honesty, Vanderbilt was not one of them. However, the scholarship pushed Vandy over the edge for me; it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. In comparison with some of my peers (especially those admitted through early decision), I was not as excited to attend Vandy, but now that I’ve finished my first year as a Commodore, I can say with total certainty that there’s nowhere else I would rather study. In short, my experience picking a college was mildly long and windy, but it worked out by bringing me to exactly where I want to be. :)
What has been your favorite class so far? Tell us about it!
Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science has distribution requirements for our courses (i.e., we have to take a certain number of math courses, a certain number of science courses, etc.), and one of the requirements is that all students take a science course and its corresponding lab. Knowing that I don’t want to be a doctor, I decided not to take chemistry or biology, and I ended up falling into an introductory astronomy lecture course and its corresponding lab. I absolutely LOVED both courses, and they inspired me to pick up a minor in astronomy. To earn that minor, I took a course this spring called “The Trial of Galileo and its Background.” In short, we examined how astronomy and religion have pushed back on each other throughout the entirety of history, and everything we learned led up to an examination of the 1633 Trial of Galileo. In full, the Roman Catholic Church’s religious beliefs had been intimately intertwined with the astronomical theories of Aristotle, with one of those theories being that the Earth was the center of the universe and that all planets and stars orbit a stationary Earth. Today, we know that’s not true, and Galileo is one of the people who stood up for the belief that the Sun - rather than the Earth - is at the center of things. Because Galileo’s beliefs so drastically differed from Aristotle’s, the Church saw him as a threat to its very existence - because Roman Catholicism had been built on the foundation of Aristotle’s beliefs, any challenge to Aristotle was a challenge to the Church. By examining the relationship between Galileo and the Church and all that led up to Galileo’s trial by the Inquisition, my class discussed philosophy, medicine, politics, the evolution and prevalence of different religions (e.g., Judaism, Islam), astronomy, science, and epistemology (the theory of knowledge) as a whole. The course stretched my understanding of what it means for something to be based in fact, and it encouraged me to analyze my beliefs and examine if they can cloud my judgement about other issues (as the Church’s beliefs clouded its judgement of astronomy and the structure of the universe, preventing it from recognizing the Earth isn’t as special as Aristotle made it out to be). In addition to how interesting the material was, my professor was another reason I loved the course. He’s taught at Vanderbilt for thirty years and has won all sorts of awards, but it’s apparent that at the root of all his accomplishments is a deep-seated love for teaching. I have never met anyone as knowledgeable about anything as he is about astronomy, Vandy, and life in general. No joke: I could literally just sit in a room for a full twenty-four hours and listen to him talk about anything. In fact, he taught my introductory astronomy course in the fall as well (so I’ve studied with him for two semesters), and since getting to know him during first semester, he’s become my mentor for all things Vanderbilt - he’s helped me choose classes, navigate potential majors and minors, and adapt to college overall. It’s truly an honor to study with him, and he’s why I chose to minor in astronomy and why I loved taking The Trial of Galileo so much.
What fun traditions do you like to partake in at your school?
I enjoy our Commons Houses’ signature events.
Tell us about Jewish life on campus. How have you been able to engage with this aspect of your identity while at school?
I am an avid participant of Vanderbilt’s Hillel. During first semester, I served on FYSH Board (First Year Students of Hillel Board), a leadership committee that had weekly meetings ranging from team building activities, to learning about Hillel, to simply hanging out. Now, I serve as a member of our Jewish Life Committee (JLC). As a JLC member, I get to help plan and lead our weekly Shabbat services and other Jewish holiday programming, and by serving on the committee, I get to bring my love of Judaism - a love I found at URJ Camp Coleman and in NFTY - with me into college.
Share your favorite road trip song that we can add to our college road trip playlist!
“Brand New” by Ben Rector or “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO
Jewish Life On Campus
Hillel connects with students at more than 550 colleges and universities across North America and around the world, creating lasting connections with students, inspiring and training them to become leaders and build their own communities.
Check out Hillel’s Guide to Jewish Life at Colleges and Universities.
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