LAS Debuts Center For Scholars

November 1, 1999

Nick Marinello

From time to time, most faculty members at Tulane could use a little extra money to enhance their teaching and research. The problem, however, is that individual departments generally do not budget for miscellaneous expenses such as honoraria for speakers or help in funding conferences and programs.

For more than a year now, Teresa Soufas, acting dean of the Faculty of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been working to address those needs and last month sent a letter to the LAS faculty announcing the creation of the Center for Scholars, a funding entity that, at least for the time being, she is operating out of her own office "I envision the Center for Scholars as something that will grow over time," she says. "I envision that it will be an institution within the institution, eventually having a geographical home."

At present, however, Soufas is glad to have been able to find and annually allocate $20,000 from the LAS budget in order to respond to various requests from her faculty. "Initially, the money will go to support any kind of presentation format that has an appeal to more than one department or program group."

Soufas says she has designated the money for collaborative use because, "I know there is a lot of need out there and know it will be a fairly easy thing for members or groups of faculty and students to write proposals for such projects." Soufas acknowledges the limitations of the center's current budget but says she believes it will measurably augment the few other funding outlets available to faculty, including the provost's office, the graduate school and the Graduate Students Association.

"These are all very limited sources of money," she says, "and LAS is the largest unit on the Uptown campus with 23 departments, 15 programs and faculty and students who are active in them all. You know, there is just not enough money to spread around."

Center for Scholars funding, says Soufas, will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis, and all proposals will be reviewed by the LAS Executive Committee. The center will award funding until it is depleted, she says. And Soufas has grander plans for the center.

"Eventually, I would like for it to have its own headquarters in a building on the Uptown campus," she says. "I would like to have an endowed fund that could support a director and, maybe, a staff person. With that kind of identity, the center could be a place where faculty and students from Tulane, as well as visitors, would have the opportunity for development in the sense of research opportunities, research support, curriculum development, course development and teaching enhancement."

Soufas sees the center as an excellent vehicle to receive foundation and corporate funding. "In terms of grant money, I see the center itself as being the site of the award," she says. "The center, in turn, would be the place, or virtual place, where collaborations of faculty minds--as well as student minds--may come together to plan or implement programs."

Soufas also expects the center to function as a "lightning rod" to develop private donations. "Some donors," she says, "want to make sure their dollars go for academic purposes. There is nothing that will be expended out of the Center for Scholars that will not be academic in nature. I think that gives people who are interested in supporting academic undertakings a place to direct their money, knowing that the faculty, students and the learning community will benefit from it."

If all the pieces fall into place, Soufas says the Center for Scholars could develop into a vital component of academic life. "I see the center as a place that can help faculty, students and perhaps staff undertake projects that they're unable to undertake right now because of lack of time, lack of support or lack of opportunity to collaborate with others."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000