Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009

Scott Cowen

In September 2005 most of Tulane University lay underwater. Hurricane Katrina had just carved its name into New Orleans, and the school's 13,200 students and 8,700 employees found themselves scattered across the nation. In January 2006, Tulane reopened. And while the Crescent City's three other universities (Xavier, Dillard and Loyola) showed equal resilience, it is Tulane president Scott Cowen who has emerged as both a deft academic leader and a committed civic booster. In addition to helping reconfigure the city's devastated K-12 public schools, Cowen has given the university a sense of renewed vigor. Despite having to cut undergraduate enrollment by about 600, fire professors and either eliminate or combine academic programs, Cowen reports that applications have more than doubled in the years since Katrina. Many of those applicants are attracted by Tulane's commitment to rebuilding New Orleans. "One of the critical decisions we made was to integrate public service into the university's core curriculum so that every student would engage in public service for all four years," Cowen says. That's one way to fight ivory-tower syndrome. —Gilbert Cruz