According to GQ, The New York Times, Business Insider and 20,702 Vanderbilt alumni living in the area, Nashville is the place to be these days. The Hustler talked to experts, alumni and students to find out why Nashville’s star is rising.
“There are so many reasons why I stayed in Nashville,” said Class of 2012 alumna Lyndsey Wilcox. Currently a production assistant for the creative services department at Country Music Television, Wilcox cited her job, personal connections and the city’s overall vibe as crucial to her decision to stay. Others also referenced these three factors to explain Nashville’s current allure for both graduating students and alumni.
Read on to hear their answers, and check out the rest of the issue to find out what’s next for one of America’s hottest cities.
An internship in the spring of her senior year helped Wilcox land her current job. Stories like Wilcox’s serve as examples of advantages Vanderbilt students have in the Nashville job market, according to Cindy Funk, director of the Center for Student Professional Development. Nashville companies know the quality of a Vanderbilt student through their experiences with interns and previous hires, Funk explained. She also cited Nashville’s large alumni population as a networking resource for students interested in staying in Music City.
The Nashville area is also home to four companies listed in the Fortune 500, and the city is a leader in several different industries like healthcare and entertainment. A foot in the door to the Nashville job market and the presence of several robust industries may help explain why the city boasts the largest Vanderbilt alumni population in the world.
Mary Nell Bryan, president of the Nashville chapter of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association and Class of 1989 alumna, offered other reasons why grads might stay in the city.
“A big bonus of being an alum living in Nashville is that we can still enjoy events on campus such as IMPACT, Vanderbilt University Theatre productions, music at Blair, and it’s easy for us to attend home games in person,” Bryan said in an email to The Hustler. “The Nashville Chapter of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association is a vibrant community that I enjoy immensely as it reminds me of many of the reasons my time at Vanderbilt was so rich and meaningful.”
While staying involved with Vanderbilt may be one perk of living in the city, personal connections also factor into students’ decisions to stay.
“I decided to stay in Nashville next year because I have a lot of friends staying in the area, I have a lot of connections here and I’ve also been doing a lot of social justice work in the area,” said senior Sebastian Rogers. “I want to keep those relationships going.”
Wilcox also listed the presence of friends and family as factors leading to her decision to remain in Nashville after graduation.
But even without these personal ties, Nashville itself is attracting national attention as a city on the rise.
“Cities all over the U.S. today realize the importance of talented and well-educated young people to growing the local economy. As Vanderbilt’s national stature has continued to improve over the last decade, one of the concerns of city leaders has been keeping the talent flowing through the university … to benefit the city in years to come,” Dr. Richard Lloyd, associate professor of sociology, said via email. “Luckily, changes in the city today work to make it a more appealing environment for Vanderbilt’s grads.”
Lloyd emphasized newer cultural and entertainment opportunities, offered by neighborhoods like the Gulch and East Nashville, as part of the city’s attraction for young, educated consumers. Nashville’s low cost of living also draws new residents, according to Lloyd.
Rogers mentioned the city itself as an important part of his decision to stay after graduation. “I also really like Nashville as a city, and it’s been a lot of fun to live here these past four years and I’ve stayed here some summers, too, and so I think it will be a lot of fun to stay here next year,” he said.
Nashville’s vibe is one of the reasons Wilcox chose to remain in the city as well. “Just Nashville in general … I love the restaurant scene, I love the going out scene,” she said. “It’s really a unique city because it’s the only city in the U.S. where you can go to a restaurant and there’s, you know, a hippie, a cowboy, a musician and an artist all in the same area. I just really like the speed of life in Nashville, so I fell in love with the city.”
These factors appeal not only to current seniors, but also to older alumni looking to settle down in a new environment.
“Vanderbilt typically will see graduates come back after they’ve been at Vanderbilt,” Funk said. “They will go and do something in New York or D.C. and then when they want to start a family, they’ll come back to Nashville and relocate here because they really loved the area when they were students. We see that often.” She listed the vibrant arts culture, good medical care, pleasant weather and the young, professional social scene as part of Nashville’s allure.
Even students who don’t plan on staying can get hooked. Wilcox thought she would move to the D.C. area after graduating before deciding her senior year to stay in the city.
“I’m really glad I stayed in Nashville after graduation. It was really great while I was an undergrad at Vanderbilt, but Nashville has so much more to offer outside of Vanderbilt that you don’t really see when you’re an undergrad,” Wilcox said. “A lot of times when you are an undergrad, you have so many things going on that you … really just stay in this general area. But there’s a whole other life out there in Nashville, outside of Vanderbilt, and it’s been really cool to explore that.”
Staying in the city wasn’t always a part of Rogers’ plan either. “I’ve grown to love Nashville more and more each year that I’ve gone (to Vanderbilt),” he said. “Probably freshman year, if you had asked me what I wanted to do after college, I wouldn’t have said, ‘Stay in Nashville.’”