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Welcome to Your New Year!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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Dear Tulane Community:
 
Happy New Year!
 
Does that greeting sound a little strange coming in late August? Isn't the weather supposed to be a little cooler (even in New Orleans) for a New Year's celebration? But now is truly the beginning of Tulane's New Year. In fact, it is really the beginning of a new era.
 
Our incoming class is proof of this. It is the most academically accomplished, diverse and selective first-year class in Tulane's history. I will lend them a hand today during our annual Move-In Day as they leave their loved ones and begin their journey as new Tulanians.
 
What did the members of the Class of 2023 say "yes" to when they chose Tulane? And what can our upper-level, graduate and professional students, faculty and staff look forward to in the new year? Newness. Lots of it. New buildings, spaces, places, programs and people that will challenge and change us all in the most exciting and unexpected ways.
 
This includes The Commons — a truly transformative space that is the largest Tulane construction project since Yulman Stadium. The Commons combines a magnificent meeting, gathering and studying space for students, a new unified home for the Newcomb Institute and a new world-class dining facility. Imagine the synergy, the broadening of the intellectual life and the academic and social interactions when you have students and faculty from multiple fields and backgrounds gathering for discussions in an exquisitely designed, ultra-modern building with commanding views of the campus. Think about the leadership possibilities of having all the operations of the Newcomb Institute under one roof with classrooms, student meeting areas, reading rooms, media labs, conference rooms and more. We will officially welcome the Tulane community to The Commons at a fun-filled ceremony at 6:15 p.m. on Monday, August 26 on the Berger Family Lawn/Yvette Jones Courtyard. Please be there.

Hello to The Commons, Goodbye To Bruff

In addition to The Commons, we will launch numerous other building projects in 2019-20 that will remake the face of Tulane. This includes demolishing the Bruff Commons (yay!) and replacing it with a new vibrant residential quad. The Residential Learning Communities we will build in this space will help foster cross-cultural friendships, social/academic interactions with faculty and other opportunities for the holistic growth and enrichment of our community.
 
In late 2020, we will break ground on Paul Hall, the new home for the School of Science and Engineering and part of a burgeoning Science and Engineering District, which will include a renewed Stern Hall. The Science and Engineering District's central location on the uptown campus connects it to our surrounding schools and promotes collaborations between science, engineering, the humanities, architecture and more.
 
Amazing things will also take place on our downtown campus as we expand our presence and impact in the heart of New Orleans. Along with other purchases and investments downtown, Tulane hopes to be an anchor tenant in the revitalization of the iconic Charity Hospital building, filling a third of its vast, one million-square-foot floor plan with laboratories, clinical space, classrooms, student housing and more. In doing so, the university will help foster a revitalized neighborhood and a vibrant street scene on the downtown campus.  
 
Whether we are growing downtown, uptown or across the lake, the Green Wave always shows its true colors, employing green building practices and achieving LEED certification on all construction. This is part of our long-standing commitment to sustainability which continues to reduce the environmental impact of our operations, provide learning opportunities for our students and support sustainability efforts in the broader community.  
 
New buildings are wonderful, but none can make a difference by themselves. Their power is the people who occupy them and open their doors to our community and world. This is what empowers buildings to have an impact far beyond our campuses, far beyond what any of us dreamed possible.

New Places, New Faces

This year, we have many new members joining us in opening the doors of possibility and discovery. We are welcoming Lee Skinner as the new dean of Newcomb-Tulane College. NTC is a unique structure in higher education through which all undergraduates enter and share a common interdisciplinary experience. Lee's background as a leading scholar of Latin American literature and a dean at one of the nation's leading liberal arts colleges, Claremont McKenna, has ideally prepared her for this new role.  
 
We are also welcoming Dr. Giovanni Piedimonte as Tulane's new vice president for research. Giovanni comes to us from the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, where he was director of its Children's Hospital as well as professor and chair of the medical school’s department of pediatrics. This summer Tony Hu, an international pioneer in nanotechnology and advanced diagnostics for personalized medicine, joined us as our second endowed presidential chair — with his primary appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the School  of Medicine, as well as secondary appointments in Science and Engineering and Public Health and Tropical Medicine. And, let's not forget our new men's basketball coach Ron Hunter. His outsized personality and big plans for our men's hoops program are a perfect fit for our campus and city.
 
I mentioned earlier that, among many other attributes, our incoming class is also our most diverse ever. This class arrives at a university that is committed to expanding and supporting greater diversity. We are currently engaged in a nationwide search for a new associate provost for diversity and faculty development who will further our goal of creating and supporting a population of students, faculty and staff reflective of our city, country and world.

Honoring the Contributions of All

All this newness is made possible by the continued success of Only the Audacious, the campaign for an ever bolder Tulane, which posted another record-breaking year in 2018-19. But how we got to this point as a university, our true success, is the result of the vision, hard-earned sacrifice and dedication of many. For far too long we have not acknowledged the contributions of all members of our community. Thus, this year, we will kick-off a long-term effort to honor the lasting impact many important individuals from diverse backgrounds have made to Tulane. This includes designating the Willow Residences, currently named for the street on which they sit, in honor of the first African-American undergraduates to earn degrees from Newcomb and Tulane, respectively: Dr. Deidre Dumas Labat and Reynold T. Décou, Sr. We also will honor Carolyn Barber-Pierre, whose three decades of dedication to Tulane have been instrumental in its movement toward greater inclusion. The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Gender and Sexual Diversity will be moving into a new and larger facility in the Richardson Building; the space and the program will be named the Carolyn Barber-Pierre Center for Intercultural Life.
 
In addition, we will name a professorship for Luis Guillermo Solís, a Tulane graduate and former president of Costa Rica, and a lectureship on media and social change for Bobby Yan, a six-time Emmy Award winner and the founder of Tulane's Asian American Student Union.
 
This, and so much more, make this a year truly worth celebrating. So, I say it again, Happy New Year.

Signature of Mike Fitts