Living and Learning

When Hurricane Ida arrived 16 years to the day after Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, a narrative quickly emerged that it would be the Katrina of the 2020s. Fortunately, the improvements made to New Orleans’ flood protection system more than a decade and a half ago changed this storyline.

photo of students using wifi in Contemporary Arts Museum after hurricane Ida
On the third floor of the Contemporary Arts Center on Camp Street in the Warehouse District in downtown New Orleans, architecture students Katie Schultz, Malian Pickard and Kelsie Donovan tune into an online class on Sept. 15, 2021. Following Hurricane Ida, Wi-Fi hotspots across the city were made available to students. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Ida resulted in downed trees, damaged roofs, water intrusion in numerous campus buildings and an extended citywide loss of power. But New Orleans was spared the catastrophic flooding and widespread loss of life it experienced in 2005. Our levees received their greatest test since Katrina and passed with flying colors, allowing Tulane to rebound much more quickly than expected.

While there are still many construction workers on our campuses, their tasks have pivoted from hurricane repair to building the Tulane of the future — a university filled with the newest, state-of-the-art facilities designed to support, elevate and expand our teaching and research mission for the good of our city and world. Evidence of this is everywhere. The Village, our new undergraduate residential quad, continues to rise along McAlister Drive, making way for more students to live on campus and create more synergy, innovation and living/learning opportunities.

The twin threats of a global pandemic and a major hurricane are not challenges faced by the average university — but the Tulane community is far from average.

MIKE FITTS, president

We are also building our future by creating a new home for our School of Science and Engineering, the Steven & Jann Paul Hall. And we have embarked on a major renovation and expansion of Richardson Memorial Hall, home of our School of Architecture. Meanwhile students, staff, faculty, postdocs, residents, researchers and other Tulane affiliates are moving into the newly built apartments of Thirteen15, the latest addition to our expanding footprint in the heart of the city’s downtown commercial district. Plans are also progressing to redevelop the long-dormant Charity Hospital building, filling it with labs, classroom and an innovation institute designed to bring Tulane discoveries to the market more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

While improved infrastructure protected New Orleans from the worst of Ida’s damage, many in neighboring parishes were not as fortunate. Through fundraising, donations and hands-on volunteer work, Tulane students, faculty, staff and alumni continue to help residents in these hard-hit areas recover. In fact, this outreach was one sure sign that things were getting back to normal for Tulane as we returned to campus following Ida.

Sustained public service efforts coupled with Tulane’s creation of the next generation of entrepreneurs and our pathbreaking discovery and investments in the city — especially downtown — promise to move our beloved hometown forward in every way. The twin threats of a global pandemic and a major hurricane are not challenges faced by the average university — but the Tulane community is far from average. Rather than simply surviving such challenges, we are changing their narrative and writing our own ending.