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TIDE Is In At Tulane

September 17, 2002

Mark Miester

mark@tulane.edu

Business undergraduates typically enter the Freeman School in their junior year, but this semester, a group of incoming freshmen will spend 10 weeks studying how to develop a product and bring that product to the market. Has the Freeman School changed its admission policy? No, it's just a turn of the TIDES.

"Students don't come to us until they're juniors," says clinical professor of business Mike Hogg, an instructor in the Tulane Interdisciplinary Experiences (TIDES) course More Than Business. "TIDES gives them an opportunity to experience some classes in the Freeman School and to interact with our faculty and learn a little more about the programs we offer."

Developed and coordinated through the provost's office, TIDES is a new program aimed at improving freshman retention by linking students with common interests and creating a greater sense of community among students and faculty. According to senior vice president for academic affairs and provost Lester Lefton, that sense of community is often what makes the difference between a student remaining at Tulane or enrolling elsewhere.

"Students want to be at a large research university, and at the same time they want a small, intimate kind of environment," Lefton says. "TIDES creates an opportunity to have that sense of intimacy with faculty members and yet still get asked broad intellectual questions. It's an opportunity to connect with faculty it's an opportunity to connect with students. Within a large university, TIDES makes it feel like a small college environment."

"The goal of TIDES is to increase student satisfaction in the first year, hopefully with the benefit that our retention rate from freshman to sophomore year increases," adds associate provost James MacLaren. "Generally, if we find that students at the end say this was a good experience, that they learned something outside the classroom, we'll consider it a success."

In many respects, TIDES builds on the concept of the former Living Learning Communities, which introduced to Tulane the idea of organizing residential, academic and co-curricular activities around a unifying theme. TIDES differs from the LLCs in that TIDES is open solely to freshmen and students have the option--but are not required--to live in a particular residence hall.

TIDES also offers a greater variety of themes than the LLCs. Students can sign up for one of eight TIDES offered this semester: Cities and the Urban Environment; Our Digital World; More Than Just Business; the Music and Culture of New Orleans; Race, Class and Gender Issues in Modern America; World Culture and Religions; and Leadership, Power, Politics and Change.

Each experience is built around a one-credit seminar that meets once a week in the late afternoon for the first 10 weeks of the semester, a format chosen so as not to conflict with required curricula or collide with end-of-semester cramming. Enrollment in each TIDE is limited to 100, and seminars are divided into sections of 15 to 20 students. In addition to the seminar, each TIDE will involve a series of co-curricular activities designed to stimulate students intellectually and engage them socially.

Students enrolled in Music and Culture of New Orleans, for example, will visit Preservation Hall for a private concert followed by a question-and-answer session with the musicians. Approximately 30 faculty members are participating in TIDES. The mentoring aspect, MacLaren says, is another important ingredient of the program.

"This year's Tulane and Newcomb senior classes were the last that had a faculty freshman advisor," he says. "Students four years ago each met with a faculty member several times during their freshman year to talk not only about required courses, but about things intellectually interesting to them. I hope the TIDES instructors will be able to serve in a mentoring role, too."

According to Lefton, TIDES has the resources to accommodate about half of the incoming class. As of August, approximately 40 percent of the class had signed up for TIDES.

Mark Miester may be reached at mark@tulane.edu.

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