Ben Fensterheim (G3) and Alex Sundermann (G2)
November 29, 2016
Posted in Workshop News

This month marked the first Vanderbilt MSTP Student Advisory Committee (SAC) in its new structure. Previously, SAC meetings functioned much like a lab meeting where the MSTP director solicited reports and initiated committees for new areas of work. While this format gave way to many great MSTP groups and activities, it was steered largely by the leadership team as opposed to the students. The SAC reboot is motivated by the desire to increase student-input concerning ways the MSTP can maximize training opportunities and address student needs. Now, with MSTP leadership team support, the SAC will be a student-run board for the MSTP whose mission is to resolve student-raised concerns, address questions important to our training, and continue to facilitate excellent programming. 

Some features of the new SAC include:

  • SAC agenda items will be largely generated by student input. A survey will be circulated every month for students to suggest topics to be addressed by the committee.
  • A student chair (Ben Fensterheim – G3) and chair-elect (Alex Sundermann – G2) will develop the monthly agenda based off of submitted topics and will facilitate each SAC meeting.
  • The MSTP leadership team will remain on the SAC providing insight and support for student initiatives.
  • SAC student representatives will distribute class-oriented notes from each SAC meeting so all MSTP students can stay up to date on SAC work.

The November meeting premiered the new structure. Three of the agenda items in the meeting came directly from student-raised issues and the discussion on these topics was lively and uninhibited. Topics at the November meeting included formalizing MSTP committees, improving the MSTP interview day tour, and clarifying support mechanisms for travel to conferences. We were very encouraged by this first SAC meeting and, while the specifics will continue to be adjusted as we grow, we feel strongly that the new SAC format will enhance the SAC’s ability to serve MSTP students.

As the new SAC continues to develop, we hope that it will become a body that is in touch with and responsive to student concerns. However, the SAC will require student help in order to make that successful! We created a survey designed as an easy way to bring concerns, questions, and ideas to the committee's attention. While students are always encouraged to champion an agenda item, we recognize that students voicing concerns may want to remain anonymous and that some of the best ideas for new programming may come from students who are not interested in leading an initiative. We hope that this survey will break down barriers for bringing ideas and concerns forward to so they can be addressed rapidly and effectively.

If you have any questions or comments about the new SAC, Ben Fensterheim ( and Alex Sundermann ( would love to hear from you.

Ben and Alex


Survey Link: