President's Letter - August 9, 2000

Dear Alumni, Faculty, Staff, Parents and Friends:

By the time you read these words, I will have received quite a few more stamps on my passport as I have traveled to two different continents to meet with alumni groups and colleagues. I just returned from Taiwan, where in addition to meeting with Tulane's growing group of alumni and colleagues, I had the honor of meeting with ROC President Chen Shui-Bian and other government and industry leaders.

Earlier this summer, I ventured to Costa Rica and Panama to address a conference on globalization that Tulane helped to sponsor and to explore partnership opportunities with educational and governmental organizations to enhance Tulane's presence in Central America. In Costa Rica, I had an opportunity to meet with President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría to discuss areas of mutual interest.

As part of our planning process, we have identified Latin America--especially Central America--and Taiwan as important areas to further build on our already existing strengths. We are a real presence in these parts of the world and I want to deepen our ties to these regions in the years ahead.

I began my summer travels pleased with what we have achieved at Tulane in the six months since my last letter. We have made real progress toward the goals and visions outlined in our strategic plan, even as the planning process continues at a much more detailed level. Our faculty, staff and students continue to excel and be recognized with an impressive number of research grants, scholarships, fellowships and published works. In May, we graduated a simply outstanding group of young scholars ready to pursue their own goals and dreams armed with the security of a well-rounded Tulane University education.

With that introduction, join me on a quick review of some of the more exciting things that have happened at Tulane in the first half of the year 2000.

I'm sure you've all heard and read about our strategic planning efforts by now, and that we're building those plans around the focal points of people, education and research, community, and resources and leadership. It is exciting to look back over the past year and realize the strides we've taken in each of those areas even as we continue to refine and specify points of the plan.

In terms of people--quite arguably Tulane University's most precious resource--we have been able to develop a compensation program to ensure that we attract and retain outstanding faculty. We also have completed a Faculty Evaluation and Reward System (FEARS) report on reward systems, promotion and tenure, faculty performance and evaluation, and have developed plans for a Center for Workforce Effectiveness to address staff training and development needs.

In terms of education and research--the heart and soul of any university--we have created an exciting new residential initiative with the Urban Village. Students with interests in urban issues live together in a residential community and enjoy special programs and courses as well as increased interaction with faculty members. The Global Village will begin this fall, and the Mississippi River Village will begin in fall 2001. This all is a part of our efforts to truly make the Tulane undergraduate experience one that attracts and engages the very best and brightest students and dovetails nicely with our First-Year Experience initiatives begun last year. In terms of research, we have begun the strategic planning process for increasing competitively awarded, federally funded research, and have created an Ad Hoc Committee on Research Support and Infrastructure to recommend improvements in how we support and encourage research efforts among our faculty.

Our accomplishments in terms of community are quite tangible. The new Tulane University Web site has been well received, and we are currently assessing our public relations, marketing and communications strategies universitywide. In terms of our surrounding community, implementation of our Louisiana Focus program in its first year resulted in an increase in the number of Louisiana students enrolled at Tulane. This is the first time in quite a few years that the number of entering Louisiana students has increased. And in terms of our physical community, we are working to identify campus needs as we develop a master plan.

Finally, in terms of resources and leadership, we have begun strategic planning and the creation of a master plan for Howard-Tilton Library and the University Center, and have continued our expansion of the Board of Tulane University with the addition of seven new members during the past year. Our review of University Senate governance has been completed, with recommendations to be presented this fall.

Financial resources are needed to fund all these plans and programs, and toward that end we have developed a preliminary capital campaign table of needs and funding requirements. Those, plus our preliminary five-year financial projections, will continue to be refined in the coming year. Fortunately, we had another record-breaking year in terms of fund-raising, and for the first time in a number of years saw a substantial increase in the number of donors to the university.

As we continue to work on our strategic planning initiatives, we also continue to educate our extraordinary students and invest in cutting-edge research. A number of really exciting Tulane programs have attracted crucial funding in recent months. For example, the National Institute on Aging recently awarded a $3.74 million grant to the Bogalusa Heart Study, Tulane's landmark program that for almost 30 years has studied the origins of cardiovascular disease in young people. The new grant will allow the study to expand its focus to continue following its subjects into adulthood and middle age.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Tulane's Primate Center a $2.2 million grant to study malaria in pregnant monkeys. Researchers believe the information gathered from the studies will reveal methods to prevent the devastating effects of malaria during pregnancy; the disease is the leading cause of death among pregnant women throughout much of Africa.

The Louisiana Board of Regents awarded Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine a $1.5 million grant to help Acadiana teens avoid and kick the smoking habit. The money will fund a five-year study of teen smoking patterns and attitudes while instituting various anti-tobacco campaigns. The information derived from the study will help educators and public health officials find effective ways to prevent teen smoking.

Finally, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies has been awarded a grant of more than $900,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to continue its work as one of the world's leading programs dedicated to research and teaching about Latin America. Tulane was one of only six universities to receive such a grant. The latest issue of U.S. News and World Report ranked Tulane's Latin American Studies program eighth in the country.

In terms of individual recognition, multiple Tulane scholars received Fulbright grants to study abroad this year. James Allen Roberts of the Tulane Primate Center received a grant to lecture on urinary tract infections at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease in Stockholm, and Kathryn E. Sampeck of anthropology received a grant to fund her research on the archaeological excavation of Ciudad Vieja, El Salvador.

Two Tulane faculty members also received prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships this year. William Craft Brumfield of Russian and Slavic studies will be studying the architecture of the Russian North and Siberia, while law professor Lloyd Bonfield will be studying 17th-century British probate records.

A number of Tulane faculty members also were honored during the university's unified commencement ceremony at the Superdome on May 20. It was a spectacular ceremony, and marked the first year that all 11 of Tulane's schools and colleges were represented in a single commencement. It also was the first year that my newly inaugurated President's Awards for Excellence in Teaching were presented. The awards, which comprise a special medallion designed by professor emeritus Franklin Adams and a cash prize, recognized Norman R. Kreisman, a professor of physiology in the School of Medicine, for excellence in graduate or professional school teaching, and Venkat Subramaniam, associate professor of finance, for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

There was another first at commencement this year, as the traditional reception for degree candidates and their families gave way to a "Super Party" on the Gibson Quad. The "Wave Goodbye" party attracted some 6,000 people to campus to listen to the music of Dr. John and enjoy New Orleans cuisine. It is sure to become a Tulane tradition.

Time magazine managing editor Walter Isaacson, whose parents attended Tulane, delivered this year's commencement address the next day, offering words of inspiration to our new graduates. These wonderful 2,165 students represented all 50 states and 62 countries; 24 percent were from Louisiana.

It was a proud moment to watch as these students officially completed their time at Tulane. Our students are the reason we are here, the reason Tulane exists and the reason we are working so hard to make this university the best it can be. They are our future, and we owe them no less than our best.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, even as we at Tulane are bustling to prepare for another outstanding group of first-year students to begin their orientation on August 26.

Scott S. Cowen

Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638