Meet the Board
Who We Are, Why We Joined VPP
Sriya Nemani is a freshman from Seattle, WA, double majoring in Neuroscience and Philosophy.
“I joined VPP to help fight the injustices that happen in the criminal justice system and hopefully make a difference in the lives of those inside, their families, and their communities.”
“With more than 2 million people in state and federal custody, the United States has the highest number of incarcerated people in the world. As a political science and LHS major, and especially after taking “Intro to AADS” with Professor Claudine Taaffe, I have come to understand the systemic, sociological, and historical roots of mass incarceration and the critical need for reform. While most people now understand what mass incarceration is, simply understanding will not alone effect change. I joined VPP to work with students similarly motivated to work against the human inequality perpetuated by our criminal justice system. Now more than ever, it feels as though America is at a point of inflection; and through education, activism, and service, it is our job to combat injustices like mass incarceration.”
Sydney Aronberg is a junior from Delray Beach, FL, double majoring in Political Science and Spanish.
“My experience in VPP has taught me that the criminal “justice” system, as it stands today, is more a system of injustice that perpetuates inequality and depersonalizes individuals. There are many facets of the issue—the policing of Black and Brown folks, wealth-based sentencing, inhumane treatment in prisons, systematic disenfranchisement, and MANY more. Each affects real people and leaves a stain on communities and society as a whole. The scope of the problem is intimidating yet motivating, and I joined VPP to become a part of the very necessary movement toward change. Through VPP, we are able to use our privilege as Vanderbilt students to advocate for an American justice system that represents a more humane and true ideation of “justice”.”
Asya Azkin is a junior from Atlanta, GA, double majoring in Psychology and Computer Science.
“I was inspired by students and the community playing direct roles in helping make the criminal justice system less unjust and wanted to take the opportunity to do my part.”
Lauren Zaylskie is a junior from Troy, OH, double majoring in Neuroscience and Spanish with a minor in Child Development.
“I joined VPP because the current criminal justice system in the United States has deviated far from its intended purpose of serving and executing justice, and instead perpetuates a cycle of inequity. The focus has shifted from actual rehabilitation and the human aspects of individuals. I want to effect change to get back on the right track and help the millions of people’s lives dismantled by mass incarceration. It’s time for our country to stop profiting off of and using people that it oppresses.”
“The three central tenets of VPP – service, education, and activism – and their connection to progress in the criminal justice system are hugely important to me. Too often activism is done without a real interest in the wellbeing of affected individuals, but VPP has a true dedication to currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. I am also familiar with the links between racial and ethnic bias and mass incarceration in the United States, and hope to inform Vanderbilt students of these facts through educational programming.”
Claire Davis is a freshman from NY, double majoring in Politcal Science and Economics.
“I joined VPP because it is impossible to ignore the destructiveness and complete injustice of our criminal “justice” system. It is ruining people’s lives, as well as harming their families and communities. I wanted to be able to help raise awareness and hopefully make things just a little bit better.”
“I joined vpp because of my desire to commit to pursuing criminal justice reform and amplify the voices of the ones who are hurt by the current system.”
Kavi Palmer is a junior from Blue Bell, PA, majoring in Computer Science.
“The people I have met who have been impacted by the criminal justice system have made me believe in the need to push for change.”
“African Americans make up 38% of those incarcerated in the US despite making up only 13% of its population. That was the statistic I learned as a senior in high school that first prompted my research on the connection between mass incarceration and racial injustice. Once I got to Vanderbilt, I found VPP and saw they called attention to that exact same statistic. I figured I would find a group of likeminded people passionate about making changes to our criminal “injustice” system, and I did!”
Tess Ostroff is a junior from Summit, NJ, majoring in Political Science.
“I got involved with VPP because I feel criminal justice issues are one of the most important problems in the US today. Our criminal justice system is not a rehabilitating system. It perpetuates the cycles of poverty. By isolating formerly incarcerated people from housing, employment and other aspects of life they are more likely to commit crimes again. The criminal justice system disproportionately affects minority backgrounds. For example, African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women. These statistics inspire me to work to create a more just system.”
“I initially became interested in prison reform after learning about the egregious statistics associated with the US criminal justice system, and particularly the high rates of recidivism. After I joined VPP my freshman year, I had the opportunity to meet people affected by the prison system. Focusing on real people rather than just statistics further motivated me to advocate for change in the criminal justice system so that it truly helps people rather than further diminishes their humanity.”
Emily Song is a sophomore from Arlington Heights, IL, triple majoring in Secondary Education, History, and Sociology.
“I joined VPP because I want to help shed light on the American criminal justice system that is far from “just” and acts as the modern day Jim Crow. VPP not only seeks to drive long-term reform at the political and public policy levels, but also to change the everyday narrative that surrounds mass incarceration by spreading awareness, sharing real stories of the unheard, and providing direct actionables. The prison system constantly operates against the freedoms and basic rights of Black and Brown communities, and we can’t afford to stay on the sidelines while millions of lives are at stake. VPP provides students a great opportunity to actively use their privilege and get more involved in the long fight for those who have been silenced for generations.”
Jordan Baines is a senior from Memphis, TN, double majoring in Law, History, and Society and Political Science.
“’The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ – Edmund Burke. Growing up in Tennessee has shed light on the injustices that continue to plague society. We like to pretend that we have become better. Truly, we have become more secretive, but what happens in the darkness will eventually come to the light.”
Professor Craig Philip is a faculty member in Civil & Environmental Engineering, who joined Vanderbilt in 2015 after a career with the Ingram Companies in Nashville.
“I have a passion for social justice issues and have become sensitized to the many problematic areas in our criminal justice system through a four year relationship I have been fortunate to develop with an individual on Tennessee’s Death Row.”