Skip to main content

Mentor Immersion Experiences

Applications are now being accepted!

We are glad you are interested in Mentor Immersion at PTY! In the sections below, students and families may view the mentorship experience titles, descriptions, meeting times, as well as availability. Please note that the synchronous, weekly, virtual meeting times vary by experience. The meeting time for each mentorship experience is listed with the description in the sections below. Meetings times may change after the start of the mentorship. However, times will only be changed if a unanimous decision can be reached by the mentor and mentees for a change.

Course Availability Key:

full, waiting list closed
full, waiting list only
available, limited space

Availability for each mentorship experience will be updated starting December 1, 2020. If you submit an application for Mentor Immersion at PTY before December 1, 2020, please note that availability may not be up-to-date on this page. Please contact our office at 615-322-8261 or if you have questions about availability or the length of the waiting list for a particular experience. For more information about the application process, please visit the Mentor Immersion main page.

Select a mentor experience title below to jump to the description and meeting time for that experience. Please note that offerings are subject to change. Continue to check this page as additional mentorships may be added before applications go live on October 15. Please note that mentorship experiences and mentors are subject to change.

Mentor Immersion 2021

Creating Change: Using Grassroots Community Development to Solve ProblemsGenomics: The Next Generation of Biology Research
Data Science Intensive: Using AI to Solve Real-World ProblemsThe Leadership Institute: A Journey towards Innovative, Principled and Insightful Leadership
Environmental Engineering: Sustainability from the Sun to the SeaLegal Reasoning and the American Legal System
Exploring the Mind: The Science of PsychologyMoral Leadership: Bridging Difference, Building Trust in Uncertain Times
From Lab to Press Conference: How to Think, Write and Communicate as a ScientistStudies in Clinical Psychology: Principles and Applications of Research Science
Genetic Epidemiology: Introduction and Application of Health-Related Genetic InformationThe Writer’s Notebook: Craft and Creation of Poetry, Fiction, & Creative Nonfiction

*Availability last updated: December 1, 2020

Creating Change: Using Grassroots Community Development to Solve Problems – Limited Availability

Topics: Social Change, Community Development
Instructors: Melissa Browning, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio
Tuesdays, 5:30-7:30PM CST

How do you create sustainable change? How do you re-shape toxic systems and end injustice? And even more pressing, how do you do this work when it seems as if everyone around you feels powerless to create change? This mentorship begins with the premise that everyone is powerful and every voice is needed to create sustainable change. Through this mentorship, we will explore three methods of creating change: Asset-based Community Development, Community Organizing, and Social Entrepreneurship. Through these three change-making strategies, we will look at ways that change can happen at the neighborhood level and at the national level. We will also explore case studies of ways neighborhoods have been reshaped through residents coming together to create the change they need. We will also spend time looking at social entrepreneurship (and more specifically, B-corps) as a way to create income that serves the greater good. In this mentorship, as a final product, participants will form their own simulated? B-corp using the principles of design theory coupled with their own ideas for creating change in their community. This mentorship is a perfect fit for anyone interested in politics, government, law, business, nonprofits, faith-based work, social enterprise, city planning, or any field that works closely with the community around them.

Data Science Intensive: Using AI to Solve Real-World Problems – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Data science, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Computer Programming
Instructors: Jesse Spencer-Smith, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio and Charreau Bell, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio
Tuesdays, 5:30-7:30PM CST

Have you ever had to make a decision about the future, and even with lots of prior experience and knowledge, it was still difficult to make the decision? Have you ever thought about all the data in your smart watches or phones and wanted to glean insights or simplify your life using that data? As data scientists, we work to solve a variety of real-world problems like these to predict future events, extract insights from vast amounts of data, and automate, clarify, simplify, and optimize decision-making processes. In this mentorship opportunity, you’ll learn about the landscape of data science and application areas from a data scientist at Vanderbilt’s Data Science Institute (DSI). You’ll attend a number of hands-on workshops from data scientists to develop your skill set in using industry-standard tools in data science. Building on your previous experience in programming, you’ll learn to use data science packages in R or Python, and best practices in coding for clarity, reproducibility, visualization, and collaboration. You’ll learn about version control of your code, models, and data using repositories, and also learn how to use GitHub tools to organize your work and collaborate with others. Then, you’ll learn the basics of machine learning and deep learning to train, evaluate, and test models; we’ll also delve into the ethical implications of models and how to make sure you generate fair ones. Your final project will combine these skills on a real data science project with the DSI. Throughout your immersion, your mentor will share with you their pathway to data science and their experiences, and what they’ve learned throughout their career – both technically and non-technically. Each week, you’ll meet with your mentor who will guide you through using data science tools, share completed and ongoing data science projects, and answer any questions you might have about becoming a data scientist.

Prerequisite: Students must have completed at least one semester of computer programming by January 2021. Please contact if you would like to know how to indicate computer programming knowledge through experiences not reflected on a school transcript. These will be considered on a case by case basis.

Environmental Engineering: Sustainability from the Sun to the Sea – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Engineering, Sustainability
Instructors: Kofi Christie, Ph.D | View Instructor Bio
Saturdays, 10:00AM-12:00PM CST

The engineered systems around us are closely linked to the Earth’s natural environment. This mentorship is centered around the scientific principles and ideas that environmental engineers use to provide clean water, minimize pollution, and improve the environment. We’ll start with the basics, then we’ll grow to learn that the most pressing environmental challenges provide some of the most interesting opportunities for innovation. What if our nation’s industries could mine wastewater from industrial processes for valuable elements and compounds? What if coastal communities could desalinate ocean water at a cost and energy use comparable to other traditional water sources? What if our domestic energy industries could treat and reuse produced water for further oil and gas production as well as for other uses? What if our power producers could remove contaminants from power plant wastewater and encapsulate them in a nonhazardous solid form? What if, rather than use fresh water once and then throw it away we could use it again and again and again? These questions will be discussed along the way as we assess the current state of affairs and consider rational paths toward a sustainable future. We will conclude the mentorship with the opportunity to design your own engineered systems using combined fundamental principles to address air pollution, waste disposal, recycling, global warming, water pollution and other environmental issues.

Exploring the Mind: The Science of Psychology – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Psychology, Statistics, Cognitive Science
Instructor: Caoimhe Harrington Stack, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio
Wednesdays, 6:00-8:00PM CST

This mentorship is focused on introducing you to the field of Cognitive Psychology. Psychological researchers scientifically investigate all aspects of human cognition – memory, language, decision-making, and more! Cognitive science focues a lot on the brain and often involves work with neuroscience. The goal of this mentorship will be to help you understand how cognitive psychologists frame questions about human behavior and learning and then ultimately answer them. We will begin by discussing what is involved in becoming a researcher and what life as a researcher looks like. To get you thinking like a cognitive psychologist, we will move into exploring how the scientific method is used to answer questions about the mind. Here, we’ll focus on key psychological research methods, and also gain an understanding of how to use basic statistics to analyze findings. Along the way, we will explore key findings from psychology, taking a look at what researchers have already discovered about our minds. While doing this, we’ll engage in critiquing research, learning how to question data we are presented with and suggest improvements to current research. The ultimate goal of this mentorship will be for you to ask your own psychological question, and then design a research project to answer it. Through your own data collection and analysis, you will get a true glimpse into how the world of research works in the field of psychology!

From Lab to Press Conference: How to Think, Write and Communicate as a Scientist – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Communications, Writing, Biology, Chemistry, Statistics
Instructor: Loren LaPointe, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio
Saturdays, 1:00-3:00PM CST

2020 has taught us that clearly communicating scientific research and policies in the public sphere is a challenging but critical task. This mentorship, lead by a scientist with a Ph.D in Biochemistry who now works in a government position focused on science communication and policy, is designed for the scientifically curious student who may be interested in a career outside of a laboratory or medical setting. Though many science based careers still begin with a traditional undergraduate curriculum with lecture and lab coursework followed by some type of post-baccalaureate study in the form of a Master’s degree, MD, or a PhD, pursuing a career in science no longer means following only one predetermined route. This mentorship begins with the foundational belief that everyone, no matter what academic path they choose to take, should be scientifically literate. Through this mentorship, you will carefully consider diverse ways science influences American society and then develop critical skills that will lead you in your own journey towards becoming a science communicator. Mentorship content will draw more from the critical thinking skills that are required to be a scientist than actual scientific content – skills which are useful in any and all careers. While topics in this course will at times be led by student interest, we will consider such questions as “How does science influence American society?,” “How well is science communicated in US and international media?” and “How can you differentiate between good and bad scientific research studies?” At the conclusion of the course, you will develop and present your own project that will contribute to the timely and important scholarly conversation concerning scientific communication.

Preferred pre-requisites: One year introductory biology; One year introductory chemistry; U.S. government or civics course helpful, but optional; Additional science courses are helpful, but optional.

Genetic Epidemiology: Introduction and Application of Health-Related Genetic Information – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Genetics, Genomics, Statistics/Mathematics, Biology
Instructor: Brittany Hollister, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio
Tuesdays, 5:30-7:30PM CST

This mentorship experience is centered on the fast-paced field of genetic epidemiology. A genome is the complete set of DNA which contains the information needed for an organism to function. Genetic epidemiology is a field of biology focused on understanding how differences in DNA (genetic variation) among humans can influence disease risk in communities. In this mentorship experience, students will begin with the fundamental principles of genetic epidemiology and focus in on applying these principles to the challenges currently facing the field. We will discuss how to succeed in the field of genetic epidemiology as well as set goals for our experience. Throughout the mentorship, we will hear from current geneticists who are working in different subfields as guest speakers. The first section of the mentorship will cover fundamental principles of human genetics as well as biostatistics, both of which are needed in genetic epidemiology. You will then be immersed in the field as you explore how to conduct analyses of genetic data by completing labs and learning programming in an analysis software used by researchers across many scientific areas. Furthermore, you will consider how genetic information can be applied and used to make decisions to improve human health. We will conclude the mentorship with the opportunity to design your own genetic analysis from existing data or design a proposed solution for addressing one of the field’s current challenges as an independent project.

Genomics: The Next Generation of Biology Research – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Molecular Biology, Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Mathematics
Instructors: Andrea (Andy) Perreault, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio; Katie Reed, Ph.D. Candidate | View Instructor Bio
Sundays, 1:00 to 3:00 PM CST

This mentorship is focused on the field of biomedical research called genomics. Genomics is the study of the whole genomes of organisms and leverages DNA sequencing methods and bioinformatics to sequence, assemble, and analyze the structure and function of genomes. Genomics takes classical genetics to a new level by considering an organism’s full hereditary material, rather than one gene at a time. Led by a postdoctoral fellow with her PhD in Chemical and Physical Biology from Vanderbilt Univeristy, you will take a deep dive into how researchers are using genomics to study the structure and function of DNA and how this can be applied to understanding diseases as well as discovering new treatments for diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, and cancer. As a foundation for genomics, you will work through an introduction to molecular biology, genetics, and bioinformatics at the start of the mentorship. This mentorship will give you a base of content knowledge crucial to genomics research, so that you can then continue to expand your knowledge and develop your problem solving and critical thinking skills with weekly literature review sessions and discussion. You can also expect advanced lectures and conversations with faculty, postdocs, grad students, and professionals from universities and industry, who will serve as guest speakers. Ultimately, you will use your evolving understanding of genomics to develop an independent research proposal. This proposal will stem from a question you have about the current state of genomics research and encompass a literature review, a hypothesis, and scientific method process to address this hypothesis. The mentorship is designed to challenge you to see the world the way an interdisciplinary biomedical researcher does—how using skills from across disciplines to study an organisms’ DNA might address some of the world’s biggest diseases.

Prerequisite: Students must have completed at least one semester of Biology by January 2020, preferably molecular biology or genetics. An interest in computer science is also suggested.

The Leadership Institute: A Journey towards Innovative, Principled and Insightful Leadership – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Social Entrepreneurship, Leadership Theory
Instructor: Katie Minyard, MBA | View Instructor Bio
Thursdays, 6:00 to 8:00 PM CST

Instead of beginning with what leadership is, this mentorship intentionally starts with what leadership does: Leadership translates vision into reality. In today’s world of growing complexity, it is essential to not only have knowledge, but to have the imagination to anticipate, adapt to and initiate change. In this mentorship opportunity, your cohort will be challenged and will challenge one another to become innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who seek to positively change the world. In order to begin that rigorous journey, you will first explore major frameworks of leadership through analyzing primary research articles and key academic works in order to “map” the field of leadership theory. With this guiding knowledge, you will collaborate with peers and industry experts in analyzing and evaluating real world case studies of leadership “successes” and “failures” in the corporations, nonprofits and government. After developing a foundational leadership toolkit and working towards developing fluency in the scholarly vocabulary of the field, you will turn your attention to your final project of developing your own robust theory of leadership. You will propose this theory and it’s application through a research and reflection paper that will become the foundation for a formal presentation ready for C-suite executives! By the end of this mentorship, you will have a well-developed, carefully articulated, and peer-vetted understanding of leadership that you can put to the test in your current and future leadership roles.

Legal Reasoning and the American Legal System – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Law, Policy, U.S. History
Instructor: Zachary Richards, JD | View Instructor Bio
Saturdays, 12:00-2:00PM CST

This mentorship is focused on the law and legal profession. Legal reasoning refers to the methods that various players in the legal profession—judges, attorneys, regulators, and politicians—use to apply law and fact to resolve legal questions. These parties all play different roles writing, interpreting and enforcing the laws, and in this mentorship, we will learn about these various roles and how they relate and interact in the American legal system. We will discuss various substantive areas of the law, including procedural and substantive protections in the Constitution, as well as Torts, Contracts, and other doctrinal areas that every first-year law student studies. Led by an attorney who has practiced in a major American law firm, clerked for a federal judge, and gained experience in both the United States House of Representatives and Senate, students can expect to gain a wide exposure to “how the system works.” This mentorship will also give students the opportunity to select a topic of interest to research and produce work product with the direction of the mentor. The topics for these projects are up to the student, and could range from issues relating to food regulation, to the merits and problems of eminent domain, to the constitutionality of speech laws. Regardless of topic, students will be challenged to read difficult legal materials, extract information, and make focused arguments for their positions.This mentorship is designed to challenge you to think like a lawyer while introducing you to legal doctrine and the structure of the American legal system.

Moral Leadership: Bridging Difference, Building Trust in Uncertain Times – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Ethics, Leadership Studies, Psychology, Interprofessional Studies
Instructor: Laine Walters Young, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio
Sundays, 1:00-3:00PM CST

How is ethical identity related to leadership capacity? Should morality be an integral part of leadership style? Can moral leadership be learned and leveraged towards the greater good? In this class for aspiring change-makers, you will reflect upon the relational, interpersonal, and visionary aspects of leadership, and discuss case studies of moral leadership (and missing the mark) across professional disciplines. As future custodians of central social institutions or agitators of social change, you will be challenged to critically reflect upon and examine the world as it is while at the same time beginning to craft a vision of how you believe the world should be. As you continue to refine your emerging vision for the future throughout the course, you will also work to theoretically and practically develop your own moral leadership compass. Drawing both on your own personal goals, aspirations, and moral concern, as well as on scholarly research in psychology, ethics, and leadership studies, you will design a  proposal that argues for specific and well-researched “glocal (global/local),” tangible action on pressing social issues.

Studies in Clinical Psychology: Principles and Applications of Research Science – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Clinical Psychology, Psychopathology, Statistics, Research Design
Instructor: Pietra Bruni, Doctoral Candidate | View Instructor Bio
Sundays, 2:00-4:00PM CST

Led by a clinical psychology graduate student at Vanderbilt, this mentorship will address the intersection between clinical and research psychology and focus on the exciting and complex work that happens in the field of research science. Clinical psychologists are focused on causes, treatments, and prevention of different types of disorders. Clinical psychologists who are involved in research science ask questions like — How do we learn about the way people think, feel, and behave? How can psychopathology be studied in an ethical way? What approaches are used for disseminating research findings, and how are findings utilized in clinical settings? Come ready to explore the diverse field of clinical research science.

To begin to understand how research questions are operationalized in clinical work, you will need an introduction to study design. This introduction will include a deep dive into creating research protocols, selecting suitable stimuli, appropriately navigating the informed consent process, and submitting approval for research to the Institutional Review Board. The mentorship will provide a base of content knowledge crucial to the field, so that you can begin the process of designing and developing your own research project. You can also expect advanced lectures, labs, extensive study, an introduction to the DSM-5, and guest lectures from fellow clinicians and research scientists. Ultimately, you will use your research science understanding to do an independent project (with input from your mentor) as your synthesize literature in the field about a current clinical psychology question. The possibilities are endless—this could be related to a specific psychopathology, social-connectedness in the time of COVID, the gut-brain connection, or another relevant query. You will develop a researchable question, propose sound methods to address this question, and begin the exciting process of finding answers! This mentorship is designed to challenge you to see the world the way a clinical research scientist does—pushing to explore your interests in both a creative and empirically meaningful way. In this class, you will learn how to design, conduct and polish a university level research project. As research projects are a part of every academic discipline, the skills learned in this mentorship will prepare for you for success in college level courses while still in high school.

The Writer’s Notebook: Craft and Creation of Poetry, Fiction, & Creative Nonfiction – Course full, waiting list only

Topics: Creative Writing, Critical Analysis, Literature
Instructor: Carlina Duan, MFA | View Instructor Bio
Thursdays, 6:00-8:00pm CST

This mentorship focuses on the evolving and immersive field of creative writing. Together, we will explore and apply craft techniques and literary elements that make for engaging pieces of writing. We will do so by studying (and writing!) literary genres such as: documentary writing, flash fiction, poetry of witness, golden shovels, ghazals, and more. Through close readings, discussion, and our own writing, mentees will emerge from this mentorship with: (1) a rich “toolkit” of creative writing craft techniques, (2) an understanding and participation in the contemporary literary arts scene, and (3) their own revised and polished original work — to be published and presented in a culminating creative anthology. Throughout our time together, we will ask questions around the powers and challenges of creative writing in the U.S., such as: What does the “writer’s life” entail and look like? How do writers portray community ethically and responsibly? How might we understand language as social action? How does translation shape and form the ways we read and respond to literary texts? Furthermore, we will discuss strategies for publication – studying contemporary literary journals and presses, and hosting guest speakers — published writers and editors from across the U.S. — who will provide mentees with concrete resources and tips for publication.

This mentorship is designed to provide interested emerging writers with a guidance and appreciation for creative writing as a discipline. It’s also designed to celebrate the joys of creative writing; writers can expect to be critically engaged in their work, as well as participating in the delightful process of making, reading, reflecting, and community-building. This is an introduction to creative writing; therefore, you do not need to have prior knowledge or experience with poetry, fiction, or nonfiction – though you should, first and foremost, be interested in the field. Good writers are also good readers, who can express and evaluate a poem with a critical and creative eye. During this mentorship, you will read and engage with writers in your mentee-community, as well as with writers of the wider literary world.