Graduating senior experienced in the art of giving back
Kevin Morgan-Rothschild, 22, a graduating senior from Amherst, Mass., was in the final weeks of his undergraduate course-work, spending a lot of time at his neighborhood coffeehouse talking to the regulars, and telling people about Aquaponic Modular Production Systems. From a distance, it looked much like recreational activity but, in reality, Kevin was working. For him, it's all integrated – the course work, the coffee house, the neighborhood and the very serious business of growing food are all elements of Kevin's excellent adventure in higher education at Tulane University.
Kevin was drawn to Tulane, primarily, because he was attracted to New Orleans, and with a major in sociology and social policy and practice and a minor in urban studies and architectural studies, the city itself proved fertile ground, and it wasn't long before he was immersed and exploring, neighborhood by neighborhood, giving particular attention to his own uptown enclave. A class during his last semester, sociology of culture, brought him full-circle, and he found himself interviewing regulars at the Neutral Ground coffeehouse – which he suggests is a center for cultural capital, socialization, and social cohesion.
Kevin puts it succinctly. "I believe a sense of belonging within one's community is one of the most important factors to well-being in our society, which has become so fragmented. Through my Tulane education I have learned the value of community in building social capital – a network of resources through which members support one another."
Kevin didn't miss many opportunities while he was an undergraduate, even spending his "free time" doing meaningful work. As president of Tulane Alternative Spring Breaks, a student-led service organization advised by the Center for Public Service, Kevin teamed up for his third alternative break with United Houma Nation member Colleen Billiot, a senior majoring in international relations, and led a trip to Terrebonne Parish to help the tribe locate "lost" members. Kevin described the trip as "interesting sociologically – to see how these people with common ancestry have spread out throughout the Greater New Orleans area and assimilated as New Orleanians, yet they continue to have a network of common identity as part of the United Houma Nation."
A semester abroad in Argentina studying rural sociology at the University of Buenos Aires left Kevin fluent in Spanish, and he incorporated that experience into his work in the community. Last summer he received a grant from the Devlin Foundation for an internship with the Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana, and learned a bit about local Latino culture as he helped organize their community garden.
"Each time Tulane students do service, we become a little bit more connected and cohesive, which is important in a city that is so culturally diverse," he said.
This April, Kevin was part of a team led by Doug Jacobs that competed for and won a $10,000 prize for the best idea for a socially meaningful startup venture in the NewDay Social Venture Challenge. Their company, "Aquaponic Modular Production Systems" (AMPS) aims to provide fresh produce to communities where soil degradation, water shortages, pollution and other factors prevent the cultivation of healthy food.Their mission is to deliver nutrition where healthy food is unavailable, or where social inequities have resulted in "food desert" shortages of fresh, nutritious foods.
Following graduation, Kevin plans to stay in New Orleans and continue volunteering with the New Orleans Food Cooperative and pursuing his work with AMPS and, of course, making the most of "any other opportunities that come my way."
Reflecting on his decision, Kevin said, "I have become too attached to the community at the coffeehouse. I can not imagine a better situation than having all of my closest friends in the same place every night. New Orleans is a great place to grow and start something new."
Maureen King is a writer in the development office.
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