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Scholar Identity Institute 

The Scholar Identity Institute (SII) began in 2006 as a two-week program held on the campus of Vanderbilt University during the summer from 8am-2pm each day. The first 7 summers served over 500 of Nashville’s students. The institute has expanded to be a year-round model of academic achievement and excellence.


The Scholar Identity Institute is an outgrowth of Dr. Whiting’s research named the Scholar Identity Model™ (SIM). Since it's inception the Scholar Identity Institute includes lectures, readings, group and leadership and team building activities, health, fitness, and nutrition activities. All curriculum is designed to educate, and motivate students from the most marginalized communities.


Simply, the hope and design of the Scholar Identity Institute is to be a catalyst for change. To guide, motivate, and develop role-modeling for students. Broadening their views and attitudes about school and learning for their future. A few of the long-term objectives are to increase self-efficacy and motivation for academics. This is measured by school attendance; increased grade point averages; and participation in extra-curricular scholarly endeavors. 

"I define a ‘scholar identity’ as one in which individuals view themselves as academicians, as studious, as competent and capable, and as intelligent."

Dr. Gilman Whiting, Developer of the Scholar Identity Model


What Does It Mean to Develop a Scholar Identity?

According to Dr. Gilman W. Whiting, Vanderbilt University professor and creator of the Scholar Identity Model™ and Scholar Identity Institute, having a scholar identity means embracing, and embodying the qualities and mindset of a scholar, including intellectual curiosity, a love for learning, critical, thinking, skills, and a dedication to seeking knowledge and truth.


Scholars from the Scholar Identity Institute are committed to the pursuit of knowledge and are consistently seeking to expand their understanding of the world around them. They value academic rigor and  intellectual challenge and are driven by a desire to make meaningful contributions to fields of study. 


All major research for the Scholar Identity Institute points to the relationship between success in academics and success in life (Schott Foundation, NCES, NAGC). The broader impacts of students participating in the Scholar Identity Institute is Vanderbilt University’s opportunity to play a role in the lives of potential future Vanderbilt University students; but more than that, to assist in preparing local future productive citizens of their communities.


Several of those who have attended multiple Scholar Identity Institute's have gone on to colleges and universities across the country as well as Vanderbilt. Many of these students begin as at-promise for poor school achievement and dropping out. It is important to note that many of the low-achieving students are very capable of performing at higher levels. The Scholar Identity Institute operates on the belief that many of these students could have been identified as gifted had their earlier years been different.

The Scholar Identity Institute is a critical part of the Department of African American and Diaspora Studies (AADS) Immersion offerings. Vanderbilt undergraduates will be offered unpaid internships within Scholar Identity Institute and its community partner, Why We Can’t Wait. Prior to the immersion experience, Scholar Identity Institute offered paid internships to Vanderbilt students during several summers as it paired with the Belcourt Theatre as well as Why We Can’t Wait. 

"Embracing a scholar identity can be empowering and transformative, as it opens up new opportunities for personal growth and professional success and allows individuals to make a positive impact on the world."

Dr. Gilman Whiting, Developer of the Scholar Identity Model

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