From the president: A sense of community

April 26, 2000

Scott Cowen

Editor's Note: Following is the fourth in a five-part series in which President Scott Cowen discusses the strategic plan for Tulane and its four areas of strategic initiatives: people, education and research, community, and resources and leadership.

It is only fitting that this discussion of our strategic initiatives in terms of community falls just before the university's second unified commencement. At no other time of the year is a universitywide gathering so meaningful as when we unite to celebrate the graduation of another generation of Tulane students.

If we have achieved our goals, these students will leave us with all the knowledge and skills they need to become productive citizens in whatever communities they become a part throughout the rest of their lives. "Community" is a broad term; each of us belongs to any number of differently configured communities. In addition to our neighborhood, religious or personal interest communities, we are part of the Tulane community.

We are a part of the New Orleans community, and of the Gulf South, American and international communities. The number is limitless. When we speak of strategic planning initiatives at Tulane University, we are speaking about four particular communities: that of our physical campus, of our region, of our sphere of influence internationally, and the community of those with a shared vision for this university.

In each of these, we should seek to foster community-building and social, scientific and cultural understanding that integrate with and strengthen learning and research. Let's look at each of the four areas individually. First, in terms of the physical community of our university campus both uptown and downtown, we should develop a comprehensive master plan that focuses on campus safety, beautification, architectural unity and functionality of educational and research space.

I would like to have faculty, students, staff and visitors to campus highly rate both the beauty and user-friendliness of the Tulane campus. We also are a part of the New Orleans and Gulf South communities and we should be able and willing to contribute significantly to the betterment of these communities.

This can be done through partnerships with educational, business and community organizations that fulfill both the organizations' and our own missions. It can be done by attracting the best Louisiana and Gulf South students to matriculate at Tulane. And community enhancement can be done on a personal level by individuals from Tulane who volunteer their time and skills to local and regional efforts.

I would like to see at least 50 percent of our students, faculty and staff involved in community activities. As technology continues to "shrink" the world community through rapid exchanges of information, it is vital that Tulane University enhance its position and reputation internationally through curriculum development and partnerships.

Much has already been accomplished in this area, particularly in such fields as public health, Latin American studies and business. But during the next decade, we should increase the number of our undergraduates who study abroad from 7 percent to 20 percent annually.

We also should increase funding and incentives for faculty members to gain international experience through teaching and/or research. Finally, there is the community I like to refer to as our "esprit de corps," the community of those with a vision for what Tulane can become-should become.

It has often been said that people support what they help to create, and that is true of our university community. We must develop more effective ways to communicate our vision to each other and to those around us, to strengthen involvement with our alumni and friends, to continue emphasizing ways to recognize and celebrate our accomplishments as a single, united community, and to have all of our constituents take pride in Tulane and their association with it.

The upcoming May 20 commencement celebration is just one opportunity to be a part of that "esprit de corps." I hope you'll join me there.

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