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Renewal: The Undergraduate Experience

January 18, 2006

Suzanne Johnson
Michael DeMocker

tulwin06_tarchThe possibilities are enticing: a first-year student, excited and inspired by the teaching of a senior research faculty member; groups of students working shoulder-to-shoulder with local citizens to rebuild a devastated major American city; young people gathered around a common room listening to a guest speaker, joined by a professor and her family.

Those are images of the "campus-centric" and "student-centric" undergraduate experience envisioned by Tulane administrators as they crafted a plan to make undergraduate education the centerpiece of the overarching Renewal Plan for the university.

"The changes being made offer our students the maximum amount of opportunity to be successful -- academically, intellectually and in terms of their own personal commitments and aspirations," says Richard Whiteside, vice president for enrollment management at Tulane.

The changes cut across the spectrum of undergraduate life -- inside the classroom and out. They also will make the most of the anticipated smaller number of students that will be a fact of post-Katrina life, says Lester Lefton, vice president for academic affairs and provost, who adds, "We're going to be a stronger university because of this."

Tulane will not drop its admission standards for incoming students even though it will likely mean a smaller university. In mid-December, Whiteside said 86 percent of enrolled Tulane students had pre-registered for spring, compared with 90 percent during a normal semester. Pre-registration for returning first-year students was also down slightly, though officials were cautious about anticipating that all pre-registered students would actually return.

"The ideal number of students at this particular time in our history is 1,400 first-year students," Whiteside says. "That is down from the 1,700 we had this past fall. The new number is consistent with our mission of the institution to teach the students with full-time faculty in an intimate environment and to make sure we are not stressing our physical facilities."

The smaller undergraduate classes will be taught by full-time faculty members, which also strengthens the quality of the university's educational offerings, Lefton says.

Outside the classroom, Tulane will accelerate its commitment to a residential college system. Incoming students will be assigned to a residential college, to which they will belong throughout their undergraduate years. The first residential colleges at Tulane that initially were scheduled to debut this fall opened in January. By 2008, when the residential college system is more fully developed, all first- and second-year students will be required to live on campus.

And finally, the renewed focus on undergraduates will use the circumstances thrust on the university by Hurricane Katrina to benefit both students and the city of New Orleans. As of fall 2006, all incoming students will be required to participate in community-service work in order to graduate.

Whiteside believes all the changes represent a "win-win" situation for Tulane and its undergraduates, as well as for the city. "This is going to be a wonderful thing for our students," he says. "There's a lot to be said for the fact that we're focusing so much of our energy on the undergraduate program and the residential colleges. Our students will have affiliations with their academic schools as well as with their residential colleges. They will have central advising. They will have a setup for public-service opportunities that will help them realize their own aspirations for helping the city."

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

Winter 2006

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