Beyond Data Analysis

Matt Blackbourn (SLA '11) B.A., Political Science

More than four years after graduating, I find myself revisiting notes from various classes I took as a Tulane undergraduate. Funnily enough, the material I return to most is often from classes that were beyond my major and minor.

Art history, history of jazz, cultural anthropology, global climate change: a unique cross-section of disciplines, to be sure. For me, these classes were a refreshing break from the dense reading and analytical-heavy leaning of political science and philosophy courses.

One of Tulane’s strongest traits as an institution is that it encourages all students to try a diverse intersection of subjects, embrace the eclectic and carry an open mind. New Orleans, an urban melting pot, functions with the same ideal. With enough time as a city resident, you learn to appreciate a beautiful dynamic between science and art—from the importance of levee engineering to the aesthetic brilliance of street musicians.

At first glance, the elective courses above don’t have direct application to my daily work. I’m a research associate at a Boston-based think tank, working towards ideas to improve government. I may not spend my work days learning about the radical individualism of abstract expressionists, nor do I have field experience studying the Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. But, returning to my notes on these subjects reminds me of a bigger picture—beyond the data analysis, the white papers, and the study of legislative documents. Broadly speaking, it helps me see the value of learning beyond anything that’s just career-oriented.

A former professor once described to me his experience of living in New Orleans as “living in a giant house with all your friends.” It’s accurate: New Orleans offers the most intimate social fabric of any city in America. NOLA, in this way, offers an ethos to live by—live to better your community, give back to it and do it through being as well-rounded and educated on as many subjects as possible. Whether I stay in Boston, return to New Orleans or venture elsewhere, I’m grateful to carry this sentiment wherever my aspirations take me.

Share with us what inspires you to give. Learn more about the different ways to give. Support What Inspires You!