January 18, 2006
When Tulane President Scott Cowen was named a member of the 17-person Bring New Orleans Back Commission appointed by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it signaled a new day in relations between Tulane University and its hometown.
"It has become clear that the higher education community is the shining jewel in the city right now, and we're going to play a major role in bringing this city back," Cowen says. "As New Orleans goes, so does Tulane, and vice-versa. You can't separate the two."
Of the city's four private universities in New Orleans, Tulane suffered heavy damage while neighboring Loyola University, whose smaller campus does not extend as far south into the flooded area, suffered less so.
The other two universities, Xavier University and Dillard University, were decimated. Dillard's campus in the Gentilly area of New Orleans was inundated with heavy floodwaters from the London Avenue Canal break, and several buildings burned. Xavier's mid-city campus was likewise badly flooded. Both are schools designated as Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
After Tulane formed a partnership with Dillard, Xavier and Loyola as part of the higher education "village" (see related story), Tulane officials set to work devising ways to make the partnership permanent, not only helping to rebuild the city but to set an example of racial harmony and help shape Tulane's focus on urban communities.
"In the future Tulane will be defined, in part, by its unique relationship with the culturally rich and diverse city of New Orleans, and by the city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina," Cowen says. "Tulane also will be shaped by its relationship with other institutions of higher education in the city."
As part of the university's increased emphasis on urban community-building, Tulane is creating a new program, the Partnership for the Transformation of Urban Communities, that will support educational, outreach and research programs of national and international relevance stemming from the Hurricane Katrina experience.
Tulane, Dillard, Xavier and Loyola will be partners in the program, which Cowen says is the only such partnership in the country. "Our focus will be on transforming and sustaining healthy communities locally, regionally and around the world, but will begin with the city of New Orleans," he says.
The partnership will address such issues as race and poverty, social justice, educational policies and strategies for public school systems, and the physical development of cities.
"It became apparent to everyone after Katrina that New Orleans has serious issues of race and of poverty. That is true of all large urban areas but nobody talks about it," Cowen says. "We're going to talk about it."
The partnership, he says, will benefit all four university partners. "It will ultimately prove a model for other universities to follow."
From Survival to Renewal
Renewal: The Undergraduate Experience
Renewal: Academic Reorganization
Renewal: New Strategy for the School of Medicine
Renewal: Community Focus and Partnerships
Renewal: Intercollegiate Athletics
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