Catching Up with Dean Edwards

SLA Deans Advisory Council members Dianne LaBasse and Loryn and Michael Kass with Dean Brian Edwards

The semester is in full swing, and the energy of our campus is everywhere apparent. In my first semester as dean, I’m getting a closer look at what makes the School of Liberal Arts tick.

In between a full load of meetings in Newcomb Hall and a trip to New York for the Audacious Campaign, I’ve been venturing around the campus to meet the 260 full-time faculty of SLA. Perhaps it was a bit forward of me, but I invited myself to the meetings of each of our 16 departments. After all, the strength of any university committed to research and teaching is its faculty. Plus, I’m truly curious about what our professors are researching, writing, and creating.

As I read the interview with artist Sally Heller, I recognize a common theme throughout the School of Liberal Arts—crossing boundaries.

Indeed, I was rushing to the faculty meeting of our Newcomb Art Department, in Woldenberg Art Center, when I passed Heller’s installation Mind Over Mayhem in the Carroll Gallery. I stopped in my tracks to admire it. Heller, I learn here, involved our own students in the design and execution of the work. She reveals that not subscribing to boundaries—of painting, of two-dimensional space—was her discovery as a feminist artist. Heller reminds us that such expansive thinking is at the heart of the liberal arts themselves.

This week’s issue shows us again and again that crossing boundaries is what the liberal arts are particularly good at.

Heller’s work in the Carroll Gallery makes this immediate and visually compelling. But you can see it too in the projects on urban trash and punitive traffic fines identified by our students in the Policy Research Shop. Or the Professional Meet Up event that presented political science students with the stunning variety of career paths that their degrees can open up.

Similarly, the theme is also present in anthropology professor Nathalie Dajko’s new research on language variation in Louisiana, where she explores how displacement and migration in the wake of Hurricane Katrina may be affecting the way language is used in New Orleans. Storms know no boundaries, and one of the lessons of sociolinguistics is that language and society are perpetually malleable.

There’s so much going on every day at Tulane, and as I spent a couple of days in New York last week meeting with alumni and members of my Dean’s Advisory Council, my enthusiasm about all the boundary crossers in the School of Liberal Arts was hard to contain.

We continued celebrating the theme of crossing boundaries at a fabulous New York City fundraising event held in the Ziegfeld Ballroom near Central Park, featuring the always inspiring Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History, and New Orleans’ iconic Preservation Hall Jazz Band. And we are lucky enough to live it every day here on the Uptown campus. Learn more about the boundary crossers featured in the stories of this latest installment of our SLA Newsletter!

Read more from the SLA October 11, 2018 Newsletter.