Catching Up with Dean Edwards

Catching Up with Dean Edwards Wednesday, October 16, 2019


The weather briefly dropped to the low 60s over the weekend, and people quickly proclaimed fall’s arrival in New Orleans. A few days later we’re back to the 80s, but not before Halloween decorations sprung up around town. A little more than a year living in New Orleans, I am still looking for signs of seasonal change.

I know from the calendar, however, that Homecoming and Parents’ Weekend is only two weeks away. This is one of my favorite weekends during the school year, as we welcome back both longtime Tulanians and some of the newest members of the Tulane family, the parents of our current students.

I hope you will consider joining us! So much is new on campus these days. Most dramatic is the Commons, which has transformed the experience of students and faculty by bringing us together over meals and conversations in a light filled, open space. Above what must be the best dining hall in America, the spectacular Newcomb Institute on the third floor draws scholars and students from across the campus to a truly inspiring setting.

Less immediately visible, in the School of Liberal Arts we are opening up and expanding our academic programs in ways that address the three pillars of our strategic vision: a more global liberal arts, an embrace of our dual status as R1 research university and liberal arts college, and expanding and deepening our relationship with New Orleans and the Gulf South region. (You can read more about these priorities in last month’s newsletter.)

Two examples of global approaches to the liberal arts can be found in this newsletter. The interview between student Elizabeth Vidrine and professor André Scheutze on programs relating to the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the faculty spotlight about anthropology professor Claudia Chávez Argüelles's courses show us the ways a global orientation decenters familiar understandings of history and culture. Scheutze reflects on life before and after the Wall; Chávez questions notions of truth and culture from the perspective of indigenous claims and movements in Latin America.

The point is as much learning about particular cases and contexts as it is putting the otherwise “natural” understanding of cultural claims in relief. That ability has incredible value in a multipolar world, where comparative perspectives enable greater understanding.

Changes in our professional fields are no less decentered, as the digital revolution and the transnational flow of capital and culture continue to reorganize many of the industries within which our graduates will work. We’ve appointed a task force to review the School of Liberal Arts Management Minor (SLAMM) to better address the exigencies of the careers of today and tomorrow. Made up of a dynamic group of faculty drawn from disparate areas and approaches, the task force will make recommendations on new ways to structure and deliver this popular and important program.

As we look forward to Homecoming and Parents' Weekend, I invite you to Dixon Annex Recital Hall, room 152, on Friday November 1, at 2 p.m., for an open conversation about the liberal arts at Tulane. There I’ll discuss the three pillars of our vision for the liberal arts of the next generation and how they prepare our students for an ever changing world and workplace. Change is the constant, as we frequently remind ourselves, and I believe passionately that the ways in which a liberal arts education teaches students how to grapple with complexity, the possibilities of creative problem solving, and multiple forms of communication is of unparalleled value for today and tomorrow.

As always, I will welcome your ideas and questions and look forward to a vibrant discussion. Please join us!


Read more from the SLA October 16, 2019 Newsletter.