Catching Up with Dean Edwards

Dean Brian Edwards at the first annual 5k New Student Orientation Rise and Shine Run

A friend from Chicago recently asked me for one highlight of my first two months as dean of the School of Liberal Arts, “a moment that stands out in your memory.” We had only a minute to chat, but the question gave me pause.

There have been so many incredible moments: the unbelievable energy of 1,900 members of the class of 2022 filling McAlister for President’s Convocation, as the deans, provost and president, all decked out in our colorful academic robes, followed Dr. Michael White and the Liberty Jazz Band playing “Just A Closer Walk with Thee;” the huge turnout for the SLA Open House filling the Qatar Ballroom in LBC as faculty and staff from our 35 departments and programs spoke to students and their parents; and leaving my office in Newcomb Hall one evening last week to come across five dance students outdoors with dance professor Barbara Hayley, silently and gracefully rehearsing for an upcoming production.

Over the course of my first two months as dean of the School of Liberal Arts, I have enjoyed meeting so many members of our exceptional community. The collective welcome has been especially warm, from the students in the Marching Band who invited me to a pasta dinner during band camp, to two staff members in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese who dropped in simply to say hello. Now that the school year has begun, I have been visiting our departments, one by one, to meet each faculty member and learn about what they are researching and writing about. It’s been inspiring!

As we reimagine our own communication from SLA, you’ll notice a particular focus on faculty research in our digital newsletter, both to celebrate achievements and to share some of what the more than 250 SLA faculty are doing. There are a lot of great stories to tell.

The range of disciplines and areas across the School of Liberal Arts is especially broad, from policy relevant research in our social science departments that take on some of the key issues of our time, such as Mirya Holman’s work on gender and urban politics and Felix Rioja’s inquiry into the way infrastructure affects poverty, to archival research that reveal to us distant and foreign worlds, such as Tom Luongo’s exploration of female saints in the 14th century. SLA’s extraordinary research also advances our ability to garner nationally competitive funding, such as the two prestigious NEH grants awarded this summer that will bring educators together from across the country to discuss intersections of race, religion, civil rights, and culture in the South.

The strength of a great research university lies in its faculty. Tulane is at an exciting moment in its history, and our ambitions for the next decades are ever more bold. Tulane’s scholars are leading the way in so many areas, and I look forward to sharing with you highlights from their work in the months and years to come.

Read more from the SLA September 2018 Newsletter.