Skip to main content

What is SAIL? - New! 

Next Steps student presenting on entrepreneurship and a supporterThe Self Advocacy in Leadership (SAIL) concentration aims to empower Next Steps students to become effective self-advocates and leaders in their lives and communities. They will earn a SAIL credential through 900 Hours of leadership development opportunities across four years. 

Scholars will take classes like: 

  • 1500: Fundamentals of Public Speaking 
  • HODI 3200, Global Dimensions of Community Development 
  • WGS 3030: Feminist Disability Studies 
  • HOD 2400: Talent Management and Organizational Fit 

Student shaking hands with GovernorScholars will complete internships with partners like:

  • Governor’s Work Experience Program 
  • Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD)                                                                       
  • TennCare       
  • Vanderbilt Leadership Offices


NS students participating in Disability Day on the Hill

Scholars will participate in experiences like:  

  • TN Disability Coalition- Disability Day on the Hill event 
  • Clifton StrengthsQuest                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  • Vanderbilt Student Government
  • DIDD State Leadership Academy 


Student speaking in front of crowd

Scholars will participate in speaking engagements like:

  • Vanderbilt Toastmasters organization
  • Southeast Postsecondary Education Alliance (SEPSEA)
  • Think College Policy Advocates- Disability Policy Seminar
  • TransitionTN Conferences



Policies directly impacting people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) are often implemented without their input. Young adults with IDD want to be the leading voice in their own lives. Many want to be change agents in their communities and to improve the lives of others who have disabilities. Inclusive Higher Education programs are the ideal place to prepare the next generation of leaders with IDD - yet no other college-based training programs exist!


Student at internship

Key Definitions - created with assistance from Next Steps students and alumni

A Self-Advocate is someone who knows what they need and value. They speak out and make decisions based on their needs, even if others disagree. They know when they need to ask for help.

A Leader is responsible for making decisions, speaking up, and accomplishing tasks that help themselves and others meet established goals. They do this by being proactive and good listeners, having positive attitudes, and working with others, even when things change. The example leaders set can earn them respect and inspire others.


The Five Pillars of SAIL

The SAIL program is anchored in the following 5 competencies and values (Pillars):

Communication Skills (CS): the ability of an individual to share information with others to ensure the mutual understanding of all parties.

Individual Responsibility (IR): the extent to which an individual consistently chooses to meet agreed upon expectations with appropriate support and accommodations.

Personal Integrity (PI): Having strong beliefs that guide an individual's decision making and behavior, while doing what they believe is right.

Professional Reliability (PR): conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the setting, including working well with others, and responding appropriately in group situations.

Self-Knowledge (SK): knowledge of an individual's abilities and how those abilities relate to what that individual wants to accomplish.


Students at Next Steps Summer Institute

Contact Us! 

Are you interested in partnering with us on a leadership experience, class, internship or other event? Are you a prospective student thinking about applying to Next Steps at Vanderbilt? Are you a Vanderbilt student enrolled through Next Steps who is interested in our program? Are you another Vanderbilt student interested in getting involved? 

Please contact us! 


Phone: (615) 322-3978