Letter from the President: Fall 2017

Millennials get a bad rap. Think pieces mourn the death of the “9-5,” “modern romance,” and even “The American Dream;” all killed, apparently, by the Anti-Midas touch of the Millennial Generation. These authors would have you believe that Millennials are lazy, uninspired, and disinterested in the world outside their phones.

Today, I would like to offer you my own possibly controversial take: Millennials aren’t the harbingers of doom they’ve been painted to be. In fact, I believe they’re quite the opposite.

Millenials – the largest and most diverse generation in American history – have arrived not a moment too soon, an electric shock to the nervous system of a complacent nation. They are passionately trying to use their boundless talents to make the world a better place. They are open and excited by the notions of change and diversity. They want to solve traditional problems in untraditional ways.

Tulane Millennials are community-driven, answering the call to action at every opportunity. Our graduate program produces more Peace Corps volunteers than any other school in the nation.

Tulane Millennials are “woke” with a penchant for supporting a culture of inclusivity. Student leaders serve on my Presidential Commission on Race and Tulane Values, where they provide valuable insight on how to ensure Tulane’s community is one where everyone is made to feel like they belong.

Tulane Millennials are pioneers of innovation, who revel in the complexity the modern world demands. The 2016 graduating class is a shining example; nearly 40 percent were double majors, with 41 students somehow finding the time to add on a third.

This past spring, a team of Millennials – all Tulane PhD candidates – traveled to Silicon Valley to compete at the International Business Model Competition – the Olympics of Entrepreneurship. Two of the students, David Tulman and Peter Lawson, are in Tulane’s Biomedical Innovation Program. There, they learn how to create unique medical advances and immediately bring them to market. Their teammate, Mei Wang, is a member of Tulane’s Biomedical Engineering Program. She studies the connection between engineering and medicine – pioneering the machines that could one day save your life, or mine.

Although the team was well prepared, they would have to design and present something truly remarkable in order to succeed at the competition.

Today, when surgeons test for cancer, they typically perform a biopsy in order to determine a targeted course of treatment. Unfortunately, the current process for harvesting and evaluating biopsies is inaccurate, costly, and painful. As a result, repeat biopsy surgeries are commonplace; every year, five million Americans have biopsies to diagnose cancer. And, every year, one million of us have to go back for a repeat surgery.

After five years of back breaking work, and writing their own federal research grants, our Tulane team had found an answer to this problem. They developed a test that immediately diagnoses entire biopsies for cancer, without any cellular loss. It’s called “Instapath,” and it’s accurate 90 percent of the time. It’s a revolutionary idea – a perfect storm of health, medicine, and computer science – and it will immediately change the world and benefit humanity.

As you can probably guess – the Tulane trio won the competition, defeating nearly 6,000 teams from 27 different countries around the world.

Their story is just another illustration of how Millennials continue to embody the Tulane motto, “Not for one’s self, but for one’s own.” So if you were thinking of writing this generation off, don’t. They just might surprise you.

As the new academic year begins, we usher in the Class of 2021. I wonder – how will they make their mark on the world in their time here?




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