May 17, 2013
I have been busy this week putting the finishing touches on my Commencement 2013 remarks and also learning the proper protocol for greeting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. I’ll admit that sharing speaking duties with such a revered figure, whose wisdom and teachings have gained him millions of followers and admirers worldwide, is a bit daunting. But once I recalled how remarkable the class of 2013 is — a class that entered Tulane as one of the country’s most academically qualified and is graduating as one of its most accomplished — the words just flowed.
A special class like this deserves this memorable Commencement, which will also feature U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and legendary New Orleans musicians Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. This will also be another chance to tell the Tulane story to the world as NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, the Associated Press and our local media are all planning coverage of this special day. The banners are hung, the grass is cut, the script is written and the stage is set for what promises to be our most well-attended Commencement ever. The fun begins this evening as we welcome graduates and their families to Wave Goodbye, a party that will remind them of the great food, great music and great people that helped complete their Tulane experience.
Congratulations to our graduates, the faculty who taught them and the families who raised them. Thanks also to the many staff members who are coordinating this weekend’s celebration and to Ron Marks, dean of the School of Social Work. It is through Ron and his students’ work with Tibetan refugees that we are able to host this year’s special Commencement speaker. The Dalai Lama’s visit is a gift not only to Tulane but to our entire city at a time when his words of wisdom and compassion are needed more than ever.
Have a great Commencement weekend,
May 10, 2013
While most of the university is busy with finals or making preparations to honor our graduates at next week’s Commencement, our Office of Admission is working on the Class of 2017. And what a class it will be! Selected from more than 30,000 applications, the 1,575 members of the class of 2017 are the best of the best. In fact, the mean SAT score of these students and their high school class rankings are on par with the record-breaking first-year classes we have been welcoming in recent years.
The incoming class is also diverse, representing minority groups and communities from throughout the country. This includes students from the Posse Foundation, which recruits and prepares talented public high school students from New Orleans and other urban areas to attend highly selective universities like Tulane. And speaking of selectivity, this year we accepted only 26 percent of students who applied to Tulane. This is an area of great growth and pride for the university. For instance, in 2003 our acceptance rate was 55 percent; in 2000, it was 73 percent. Not only are our incoming students great scholars, they also excelled at public service during their high school years and are now excited to put civic engagement at the heart of their education. In other words, they are true Tulanians.
Students are willing to travel a long way for a Tulane education, too. The typical member of the class of 2017 will travel an average of 923 miles to attend Tulane. While the largest percentage of our new students continues to come from the Northeast, we are increasingly attracting more students from the country’s western regions. In fact, nearly 17 percent of our incoming class hail from the Mountain West or Pacific West. Attracting these intelligent, energetic and accomplished young people, many of whom stay to live and work in New Orleans after graduation, is one of Tulane’s many contributions to our hometown. In addition, spending by prospective students and their parents, who visit Tulane on their tour of the nation’s best schools, is equivalent to a major convention returning every year to New Orleans. Then again, almost 200 members of the new class won’t have to travel that far at all since they come from right here in Louisiana.
Now you know some of the facts about our new class. It will be August before you can meet them and learn more. I, for one, can’t wait.
Have a great weekend,
May 3, 2013
This week I had the opportunity to speak with members of the Louisiana Legislature to discuss issues being debated in the current legislative session that could affect Tulane and the New Orleans community.
These issues include bills related to tax exemptions for universities; the expansion of Medicaid services crucial to patients cared for by Tulane physicians; coastal protection and restoration funding that supports Tulane research; and legislation related to the TOPS scholarship program.
I will be back in Baton Rouge on May 21 for more detailed discussions at Tulane Day at the Legislature. At this annual event Tulane administrators, faculty and alumni advocate for education and healthcare legislation while showcasing the university’s value to the state as the largest private employer in New Orleans and a magnet that brings the country’s most brilliant and creative minds to Louisiana.
Please stay informed regarding these important issues as the legislative session continues. Share your opinions with your elected representatives. Your voice and vote make a difference.
Have a great weekend,
April 26, 2013
Much of this week was devoted to ensuring that Tulane is prepared in the event of extreme weather, fire, laboratory accident, hazardous materials release, violence, terrorism or any other threat to its community or operations. Though this week’s focus on emergency management was in the works for a long time, the recent tragedy in Boston gave it new relevance and urgency.
Top administrators and representatives from schools and departments across the university were involved in half-day emergency planning activities, which included a table-top exercise to introduce the all-hazards emergency operations plan for Tulane. The Office of Emergency Management, Tulane University Police Department, the Office of Insurance and Risk Management and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety also hosted a risk and safety summit for departmental safety representatives, who are the emergency response contacts for their offices and departments.
All of our emergency planning has three main components: to identify and prioritize risks, to formulate a plan for each risk and to integrate risk management into the overall culture and strategy of the university. The most important goal of our risk management system is the safety of our students, faculty and staff.
I am confident Tulane is well-prepared when it comes to emergency planning and even ahead of our peer institutions in many respects. But we always can and always must do more. The key is for us to learn from our prior experiences and the experiences of others to continually improve our policies and procedures. Even though we have dealt with several emergency situations, there are other scenarios we have not yet encountered and I pray never will. But our university leaders are devoting the necessary time and resources to plan for all possible risks. While our emergency managers, responders and departmental safety representatives play vital roles, we all need to be involved in emergency planning and prevention. This means following established safety protocols while performing our jobs and reporting any hazardous situations or suspicious activities or persons to the Tulane Police Department or other appropriate offices.
Together, I know we will continue to keep Tulane safe.
Have a good (and safe) weekend,
April 19, 2013
This week I attended the spring presidential meeting of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a group of 62 universities in the United States and Canada known and respected for their excellence in research and education. Tulane has been a part of the association since 1958 and is still one of just a handful of members from the South. I also happen to be chair of the AAU this year.
This was one of the most somber meetings I recall attending in my years as Tulane’s president. The main topic of discussion was the state of higher education – currently and for the foreseeable future – and the unique challenges facing the missions and operations of major research universities.
In general, future growth in the higher education sector is likely to be stagnant as universities face declining state and federal funding coupled with pressure to mitigate tuition increases and lower the cost structure of colleges and universities. Even highly selective universities like Tulane will not be immune to these trends.
In essence, we are about to enter a “new normal” for higher education. This era will be characterized by constrained budgets, increased government scrutiny and regulation, and pressure from the public for more accountability and proof of the value of a college degree. Those institutions that thrive will demonstrate adaptability, innovation (transformative and incremental), fiscal conservancy and focus.
Fortunately, Tulane has been engaged in a long-term planning process for the last year and a half that will position it to remain one of the country’s leading institutions – an academically distinctive, high quality and financially strong institution true to its educational, research and civic engagement missions.
The new normal will be different and difficult for all universities and colleges, but Tulane’s distinctiveness and academic excellence will remain the same. Tulane has been tested in the past and demonstrated its resilience, determination and ability to change as circumstances warrant. These attributes will serve us well as we confront the new normal and forge a future of our making rather than one shaped by others.
April 16, 2013
Along with rest of the world, we are closely watching the tragic news from Boston and trying to make sense of a tragedy that has touched all of us. Our thoughts and prayers go out to our fellow citizens in Massachusetts and to the families and victims impacted by this horrific event.
For the past 24 hours, the images of chaos and courage, heartbreak and heroism, have flowed across our television and computer screens. Like all of you, my first thoughts, and prayers, turned to the victims.
We know that a few members of our Tulane community were at the Marathon, but thankfully they were not physically injured. We continue to assess whether the explosions impacted any Tulanians and, if so, how we might assist them. Please let us know if someone needs our help.
As we have learned, these tragic events test our resilience. We also know that healing and recovery begin when our communities come together to mourn. Leaning on and drawing strength from one another leads to the renewal of the human spirit.
We will help in any way we can.
April 12, 2013
This week was a special one for New Orleans and Tulane as the host city and host university of the NCAA Women’s Final Four. The Final Four teams practiced at Tulane and cheerleaders representing the final two teams visited patients at Tulane Hospital for Children. Staff from athletics and other university departments assisted with the tournament’s logistics, special events and crush of media requests. I am very proud of their work on behalf of our community.
I had divided loyalty during the tournament. I am a UConn graduate (B.S.’68) and a recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame, where I also serve as a university trustee. In the week leading up to the UConn/Notre Dame Final Four matchup, I met with the coaches and players from both schools. I was impressed by their success on the court and even more so by the 100 percent graduation rate each team boasts. As I told the university presidents, I was going to be happy no matter who won.
UConn, as you know, was ultimately crowned national champion. But in my mind there were plenty of other winners coming out of this tournament. The student-athletes and fans of all four teams enjoyed a wonderful competition in a great city. And Tulane, once again, played a central role in keeping the national spotlight shining on our hometown.
The Final Four featured university students at their best. It was a reminder to me of how proud I am of Tulane’s student-athletes and Tulane students in general, who on a regular basis host events such as tonight’s “http’s Got Talent.” Proceeds from this event and all the activities of Asian-American Week will benefit injured Green Wave football player Devon Walker. Please make every effort to attend and continue to support the many contributions our students make in athletics, academics and the community.
Have a great weekend,
April 5, 2013
The excitement is building for what promises to be one of our most memorable commencements ever. You already know that our keynote speaker, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey will each receive honorary doctorates at Commencement 2013, right? Well, that is just the beginning of a day of recognition, honors and fun.
Medical degree candidate Jonathan D. Santoro will represent the class of 2013 as the keynote student speaker. Jonathan can speak with authority about the Tulane experience. He has been enrolled here since before Katrina, earning his bachelor’s, master’s and medical degrees from Tulane.
This Commencement we will also recognize several faculty members who have helped so many Tulane students reach their potential and achieve the dream of earning a Tulane degree. Latha Rajan, associate professor of clinical tropical medicine, and T.R. Johnson, associate professor of English, will receive the Suzanne and Stephen Weiss Presidential Fellows Awards for their excellence in undergraduate teaching, student advising and instructional development. They will each receive a medallion, a cash award of $5,000 a year for four years and the title of Suzanne and Stephen Weiss Presidential Fellow.
Elma Ireland LeDoux, associate professor of medicine, and Gabriel A. Feldman, associate professor of law, will receive the Tulane President’s Awards for Excellence in Professional and Graduate Teaching for their continued commitment to educational excellence at the graduate level. Elma and Gabe will each receive a $5,000 cash award and a special medallion designed by Professor Emeritus Franklin Adams.
Commencement is the pinnacle of the academic calendar and this year we are reaching new heights in honoring our graduates and sending them off in true Tulane and New Orleans style.
Have a great weekend,
March 22, 2013
Service never takes a break at Tulane. During this year’s spring break, which begins Sunday, hundreds of Tulane students will head to various locations across the country to perform community service. For example, dozens plan to go to New York and New Jersey to help residents rebuild after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. They will help rebuild homes in northern New Jersey, clean up parks in Manhattan and assist with recovery work in the Rockaways. As a college president and native of the Garden State, I am so proud and moved that our students came up with the idea for this particular alternative spring break.
One of our student leaders said it was Tulane’s emphasis on public service and the outpouring of help New Orleans received following Katrina that inspired her and her friends to take part in an alternative spring break. This confirms that we are definitely doing something right at Tulane. Kudos to all students spending their break helping others.
Have a great weekend and spring break.
March 15, 2013
In November I announced the exciting news that Tulane would be moving to the Big East Conference in 2014. Since that time there has been further realignment among the country’s leading conferences, including this week’s agreement that the basketball schools known as the Catholic 7 will form their own league using the Big East name. This move, which was apparently under discussion before Tulane accepted the invitation to join the Big East, has not diminished our commitment to or excitement for the future of Tulane athletics within the new conference. The new conference is made up of universities that share our academic mission and values. In this new league, our student-athletes will have the opportunity to play on a larger and more competitive national stage, which will better showcase their talent while also ensuring the financial stability of our athletics program through TV rights, increased ticket and merchandise sales and other revenue streams associated with Yulman Stadium.
We will also have the opportunity to select a name for the conference that will reflect the quality and personality of our member schools. Conference realignment in college sports can be a complex, confusing, frustrating and perilous undertaking that requires much forethought, planning and vision. With the guidance of our Athletics Director Rick Dickson, Tulane has been able to position our athletics program on an upward trajectory to be more successful athletically, academically and financially. Joining a new, more competitive conference comprised of well-respected universities from major metropolitan areas, coupled with the significant investments we have made in athletics facilities and academic programming for student-athletes, will ensure increased exposure and stability for all of our sports. It will also make Tulane even more attractive to the nation’s most talented and academically qualified student-athletes.
Have a great weekend,