Public service outreach inspires New Zealand trip

October 2, 2013 8:45 AM

Hannah Dean

Vincent Ilustre, executive director of the Tulane Center for Public Service (CPS), traveled to New Zealand in August to spread the word about the university’s public service and engagement program. Interaction with communities outside of New Orleans by Ilustre and others has forged strong relationships for Tulane University and, as in this case, helped other universities develop community engagement programs.

Service project in New Zealand

Vincent Ilustre of Tulane, left, and Billy O’Steen, academic lead for community-work integrated learning and research at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, team up for a service project, salvaging aluminum siding from homes that are soon to be demolished. (Photo from Vincent Ilustre)

The CPS connection to New Zealand started when William O’Steen, a 1961 College of Arts & Sciences graduate and a former Tulane football player, began forwarding New Wave stories about the public service program at Tulane to his son Billy O’Steen, a faculty member at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Billy O’Steen noted in a letter to Tulane University President Scott Cowen: “The visit [by Ilustre] was especially poignant for me, as my father William O’Steen — a proud Tulane alum — kept me informed about Tulane’s post-Katrina actions, and that is what led to me contacting Vincent three days after our devastating February 2011 earthquake to ask for guidance in designing a university response to our disaster.”

During the trip this past summer, Ilustre spoke at the First New Zealand Tertiary Community Engagement Summit held at the University of Canterbury. He also talked with student, faculty and community groups about effective service learning and partnerships. 

Ilustre found time to complete a service project in which his group salvaged aluminum siding from homes about to be demolished in Christchurch.

“Tulane is seen as a leader in public service and engagement, particularly with its public service graduation requirement,”  says Ilustre. “It has become a model for other universities.” CPS receives at least 40 requests related to the public service program each year from national and international universities.

Ilustre says that his New Zealand trip proved to him, once again: “Disasters or not, universities must play a role in their communities.”

Hannah Dean is a first-year Newcomb-Tulane College student.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu