August 30, 2018
Dear Tulane Community,
What a week! The start of a new academic year is a special time at Tulane: The energy is palpable as students fill our campuses and encounter novel ideas, fresh possibilities and new horizons. As you read this message, I think you will agree that Tulane finds itself in unique territory. Unlike many institutions of higher learning, our trajectory allows us to reimagine our university and soar to greater heights each year.
With top-ranked students, world-class faculty, devoted staff and engaged alumni, we are truly a campus on the move. This year promises to be transformative as we work to support an increasingly diverse community and engage in interdisciplinary, innovative and pioneering research and scholarship.
It all begins with the new class. Last week we welcomed first-year students with our newly designed week-long orientation. If you have seen me around campus at any point these past two weeks, then you know I can't stop bragging about the class of 2022 – the most academically qualified and diverse class we've seen yet at Tulane.
These newest Tulanians will join returning students in hands-on research and cross-disciplinary learning – from cell and molecular biology to theater and dance, from English to environmental studies and from business to brain science. They will encounter faculty who are changing the way we think about the past, present and future, the way we treat disease and address the most challenging societal issues … and they will do it all while living in America's No. 1 college city!
Joining students on this journey are new deans at four of Tulane's schools: internationally acclaimed architect Iñaki Alday at the School of Architecture; leading global scholar Brian Edwards at the School of Liberal Arts; pioneering researcher Kimberly Foster at the School of Science and Engineering; and Thomas LaVeist, a national expert on equity and health, at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Renowned neuroscientist and HIV/AIDS researcher Jay Rappaport also joins Tulane as the new director and chief academic officer of Tulane's National Primate Research Center. These academic superstars are the quintessential Tulanians: ground-breaking scholars who have spent their careers crossing boundaries among disciplines to make the discoveries that create a better world.
Speaking of groundbreaking, as the bulldozers and hard hats in front of Howie-T make clear, Tulane is also busy creating a physical campus just as creative and forward-thinking as the people who call it home. This summer, we opened Mussafer Hall, a one-stop shop housing all of Tulane's academic and career advising services, as well as a 24/7 Collision Space for students to gather and collaborate.
And, just one year from now, the magnificent Commons will open for business. Connected to the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life, the Commons will house 77,000 square feet of classrooms, meeting spaces, the Newcomb College Institute and – last, but not least – a new dining hall!
Tulane's housing master plan calls for renovations and additions to nearly every student residence. Once the Commons opens, Bruff will be demolished and replaced with a new unified first-year residential quad that will include additional student housing and community spaces. Tulane also remains committed to the continued expansion (we're now up to nine) of our academically-themed Residential Learning Communities.
All of our progress is possible thanks to the support of Tulane alumni and other donors who made this another record fundraising year — topping last year, which previously held the record. At a time when most universities are struggling to find their footing, and alumni support is waning, Tulane again breaks the mold with our alumni supporters increasing by 22 percent this year.
Among all these endeavors, Tulane also is committed to providing an inclusive environment and a welcoming home for students of every racial and socio-economic background. To this end, this year we are hiring an associate provost for diversity, who will help lead our efforts to enhance existing initiatives in this critical area, while promoting greater diversity among our students, faculty and staff.
These activities and those being planned for the coming academic year were informed by my Commission on Race and Tulane Values. To date, the commission has been successful in many ways, from recommending curriculum changes, to launching the Center for Academic Equity and providing support for first-generation students and students of color.
Next, we are considering how we can best honor and memorialize the diverse individuals who have contributed to making Tulane what it is today. A subcommittee of the Commission will engage the broader Tulane community to identify such distinguished Tulanians and explore how we can pay tribute to them throughout our campuses.
All of our work has the common goal of making Tulane the strongest, most inclusive and welcoming community it can be. Together we will cross boundaries to discover models of collaboration and understanding that will lead to the solutions of today’s most pressing problems, while unleashing the opportunities and promise of tomorrow.
Ours is a spirit nearly 200 years in the making, a legacy of the founding Tulanians, a group of doctors who wanted to help humanity. Pushing society forward with innovation and ambition is part of our collective DNA.
That's how I know – even during these exciting times of transformation and renewal – a few things will never change:
We are Tulane.
We are changing the world.
We are doing it together.