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Nicholas S. Zeppos

University Distinguished Professor of Law and Political Science
Chancellor Emeritus

Nicholas S. Zeppos served as Vanderbilt University’s chancellor from March 1, 2008, to August 15, 2019. Zeppos is on sabbatical during the 2019-20 academic year, after which he will return to the Vanderbilt Law faculty, which he first joined in 1987 as an assistant professor of law. A distinguished legal scholar, teacher and executive, Zeppos was recognized with five teaching awards and served as an associate dean of the law school before he was appointed associate provost and then provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs of Vanderbilt University in 2002. He then served as interim chancellor of the university from August 1, 2007, until March 1, 2008, when he was appointed chancellor.

As provost and vice chancellor, Zeppos chaired Vanderbilt’s budgeting and capital planning council and led all fundraising and alumni relations efforts across the institution, in addition to overseeing the dean of students and dean of admissions.

As Vanderbilt's chancellor, Zeppos led a number of important initiatives, including the planning processes for The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, a landmark transformation of the first-year experience, and Warren and Moore colleges for upperclassmen; and Vanderbilt Barnard, the next phase of the university’s unique living-learning residential college system. Other key advancements include the restructuring of the institution to split out clinical health care operations into a new corporate entity; the Academic Strategic Planning Group; innovative efforts in undergraduate admissions and financial aid; and the development of new programs in Jewish studies, genetics, and law and economics. In February 2016, Zeppos was honored by Insight Into Diversity magazine for his commitment to diversity and inclusionwith its national Giving Back award.

In a bold move to strengthen Vanderbilt’s commitment to admitting undergraduates on the basis of accomplishment and achievement, rather than their ability to pay, Zeppos created an expanded financial aid program in 2009. By replacing undergraduate need-based loans with grant and scholarship assistance, this transformative initiative allows Vanderbilt to open its doors wider to highly talented and qualified students of all economic, cultural and geographical backgrounds. The expanded aid program is a top university priority and is funded by a combination of strategic budget allocations and gifts from thousands of generous donors to Opportunity Vanderbilt, a campaign to increase undergraduate scholarship endowment.

At the law school, Zeppos teaches and studies administrative law.

Research Interests

Administrative law, higher education

Representative Publications

  • "Monitoring Government Disposition of Assets: Fashioning Regulatory Substitutes for Market Controls," 52 Vanderbilt Law Review 1705 (1999) (with H. Krent)
  • "Department of Justice Litigation: Externalizing Costs and Searching for Subsidies," 61 Law & Contemporary Problems 171 (1998)
  • "Reforming a Private Legislature: The Maturation of the American Law Institute as a Legislative Body," 23 Law & Social Inquiry 657 (1998)
  • "The Legal Profession and the Development of Administrative Law," 72 Chicago-Kent Law Review 1119 (1997)
  • "Judicial Review of Agency Action: The Problems of Commitment, Non-Contractibility and the Proper Incentives," 44 Duke Law Journal 1133 (1995)
  • "Chief Justice Rehnquist: The Two Faces of Ultra-Pluralism and the Originalist Fallacy," 25 Rutgers Law Journal 679 (1994)
  • "The Use of Authority in Statutory Interpretation: An Empirical Analysis," 70 Texas Law Review 1073 (1992)
  • "The Administrative State," "Justice David M. Souter" and "Justice Clarence Thomas," in The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, Oxford University Press (1992)