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Ted Buchanan

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Riggio professor uses innovative ways to teach about local culture

Nghana Lewis (LA ’94), associate professor of English and African & African Diaspora Studies, is the inaugural Louise and Leonard Riggio Professor of Social Entrepreneurship 

October 20, 2011  Nghana Lewis

Michael Ramos
mcramos@tulane.edu  

Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio and his wife Louise were moved to make a difference after watching Hurricane Katrina unfold on television.   

In 2007, the Riggios committed $20 million to build 100 energy-efficient homes in New Orleans through Project Home Again, a nonprofit created by the couple’s foundation to serve families in need. The gift remains one of the region’s largest post-Katrina donations.  

But they didn’t stop there.   

In 2010, the Riggios worked with Tulane University to endow the Louise and Leonard Riggio Professorship in Social Entrepreneurship.   

Nghana Lewis (LA ’94), associate professor of English and African & African Diaspora Studies, is the inaugural Riggio professor, and part of a team of five social-innovation scholars charged with empowering Tulane students to develop scalable solutions to regional challenges.   

It is a task Lewis takes to heart.   

As founder and executive director of Encouraging Student Scholarship & Excellence through Native-Centered Education, or ESSENCE, Lewis creates classroom lesson plans that teach K-12 students and teachers in local public schools new ways of thinking about Louisiana's African American culture. A lecture on the Mississippi River, for example, cuts across disciplines to tell the full story of how this unique place came to exist, says Lewis, a Louisiana native.   

“This connects students to what they are learning,” she says.   

The premise of ESSENCE also informs Lewis’ research on HIV/AIDS prevention and care among African American women and children, a topic central to her nonprofit Networking Minorities’ Education in the Sciences & Humanities. N-Mesh offers a menu of interactive services to educate Louisiana students on health and environmental issues and develop respectful models for intervention.   

The Riggio professorship was matched by funds from the Carnegie Corporation of New York Leadership Award given to Tulane President Scott Cowen in 2009.   

Michael Ramos is a senior writer in the Office of Development.

 

 

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