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Nicole Graas: Raising Support for SSE

Summer 2014 | Article by Kirby Messinger

As the Director of Development, Nicole works closely with alumni and friends to fund initiatives within the School of Science and Engineering that benefit students, faculty and staff. She assists donors in the creation of their vision while supporting the school’s future.

When alumna Nicole Smith Graas (‘04) had the opportunity to return to New Orleans and work with the new School of Science and Engineering she felt like she was “coming home.”

As the Director of Development, Nicole works closely with alumni and friends to fund initiatives within the School of Science and Engineering that benefit students, faculty and staff. She assists donors in the creation of their vision while supporting the school’s future.

“There are so many high-impact opportunities for support within the School of Science and Engineering,” says Graas. “The departments and faculty are eager to grow, and they often come to me with ideas for development. It’s really an environment of collaboration.”

Nicole came to fundraising through a somewhat unlikely path: her love of dance. After receiving dual degrees in both neuroscience and dance from Tulane, Nicole landed a spot as a dancer in a St. Louis dance troupe. But as with most small non-profit organizations, the troupe was all-hands-on-deck and Nicole quickly learned the ins and outs of the non-profit world, including fundraising and grant writing. She found a new passion in doing her part to support a worthy cause.

When the opportunity arose to support both her alma mater and post-Katrina New Orleans, Nicole embraced the chance to build new programs within a new school and help build a more sustainable and economically diverse city.

“Tulane is so integral to post-Katrina New Orleans,” says Graas. “I wanted to be part of that movement. There is a level of excitement and energy here.”

Since joining SSE in 2010, Graas’s work has helped fund some exciting and innovative initiatives including the Novel Tech Challenge and a professorship for community engagement that is linked to a service-learning internship class.

Graas’s knowledge and skills, active engagement with alumni, and understanding of the school’s needs has made her an asset to the SSE community.

“Nicole has been an invaluable part of the School of Science and Engineering team,” says Dean Nick Altiero. “Her tireless commitment to fundraising for the school is critical to our success. Her work has helped us fund student scholarships and fellowships, endowed faculty positions, infrastructure, and an array of school initiatives. She is a delight to work with.”

Graas continues to be excited about raising money for projects within SSE. And although she admits she might be biased, she says that the most exciting things on Tulane’s campus are happening at the School of Science and Engineering. She is excited about what the future has in store for the school’s students, faculty and alumni.

“The School of Science and Engineering is on a positive trajectory,” says Graas. “ We have great ideas and enabling technology, great leadership and a great team. Alumni support and their generosity will be the fuel to achieve SSE’s goals.”

School of Science and Engineering, 201 Lindy Boggs Center, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5764 sse@tulane.edu