Vandiver did undergraduate work at Shimer College in Illinois (U.S. state) where she went as a 16-year old early entrant. In 1975, she got her B.A. degree and worked several years as a librarian. She studied Classics at the University of Texas at Austin and received her M.A. degree there and a Ph.D. degree in 1990. She's taught at the University of Maryland, Northwestern University, the University of Georgia, the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, Italy, Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Utah State University.
- Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Philological Association, 1998
- Excellence in Teaching Award from Northwestern University's Department of Classics
- Outstanding Honors Professor Award from the University of Georgia, 1993, 1994
- Heroes in Herodotus: The Interaction of Myth and History
- Lectures for the Teaching Company -- Aeneid, Odyssey, The Iliad of Homer