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WWL>Topics>>12-23 3:10pm Angela, Tulane's President

12-23 3:10pm Angela, Tulane's President

Dec 23, 2013|

OPEN BOOK—Tulane University’s 14th president…who was named one of the nation’s Top 10 Best College Presidents by Time Magazine…Scott Cowen…joined us.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

New Orleans got lucky ones Scot Colin left case western reserve in Cleveland to become the president of Tulane University sixteen years ago. He was the right man for the good times and the best man for the tough times. Katrina was a challenge to everyone who lived here. But for a man responsible for over 5000 students and faculty it was like changing. Scott talent is preparing for his last semester to line retiring from the school in July. But not leaving New Orleans. Not the flood waters of Katrina and the struggle to rebuild could diminish his real affection for the city he now calls home. Thank you Scott callon. You were very very kind to spend a whole hour with us accurate to a delighted to be with you as always you know didn't realize that we set this up that we would be talking post. Super ball. Put your Super Bowl it was a wonderful game. They tried missed by a little -- by golly they -- there. It was a wonderful game I have to say -- spoke to their character that they came back down 21 nothing. And was able to close call the way back to tie the score and be able to win -- run up to the very end. And and one hand that was extraordinarily proud of the coaches and staff from the team which I am. And very set for the especially the seniors to come that close to not be able to win. But the future of -- -- of football I think is very bright with a new stadium hoping oh yes it's going into the new conference and of course we have a terrific coach. In Curtis Johnson saw I think to. The future's very bright for football. And -- I'm gonna talk about that later but again this is more than Scott callon -- Did you think that you would. When you moved here. Appreciate and if not love New Orleans as much as you do now. And to be very honest into what we moved here in 1998. We thought we would do ten years we view this says. A wonderful op turned to become president Tulane University. We certainly had interest in the city but we didn't think we would make the rest of our life here in New Orleans. That'll change of course when Katrina happened that changed our view of New Orleans. And what I tell everybody you don't really appreciate something. In -- you just about -- and when you lose that you understand it better. And you realize he'll do everything possible to make sure continues and thrives and that's how we felt about the wallets and that's what we're gonna -- and our home. When I stepped down as president. We're talking about that retirement too because I'm wondering why you're gonna retire other than you burned it and good for you but. Let's go back to Katrina and -- and talk too much about it but clearly it was a moment in your life that didn't change your perspective on many things. You were on the campus of Tulane as it was hitting. As the waters are coming in are you computing. Almighty god this is going to totally change everything. I did not benefit I did stay on campus and I was in one of our buildings on the campus. And you win they were called the first day after the storm there was -- -- real -- and the city. And then of course is 36 hours later this city was flooded as was our campus. And we have lost all communications says everybody else that so I had no idea what was going on the rest of the city I only knew what was going on our campus. And I actually thought well we could probably recover in a month. And it wasn't too wide left New Orleans who want to use in about a week later and I saw the images on TV that I realized the extent of the devastation. And the fact that this was going to -- Not just a year to to recover but it was going to be a decade -- more to continue to rebuild and re imagine both to blame in New Orleans. You. I have read where you thought there was a moment. That perhaps. Tooling wouldn't come back it was more than a moment to be very honest with you when we got to used in about a week after the storm. And I really begin to understand and grasp what had happened in New Orleans and 22 in the university. I couldn't imagine how we would ever recover as an institution. We we have thirteen thousand students who were all over the world we have nor do with the war. We had 5000 employees who were all over the world we have no idea where there were two thirds of our uptown campus was flooded our entire downtown campus was flooded. We. And I just couldn't figure out how we would rebuild this. There when I saw the state of the devastation of the entire city. I said I just don't see how Tulane university and maybe -- perhaps the world and will recover much less thrive in the future. And yet you did this incredible program where the students could go to other colleges. Correct me if I'm wrong -- -- and and but other words you would still be able to keep their tuition money so was out of the the love and kindness of friends. It was you know we made three very key decisions. That first 24 hours like cut to Houston after the storm. And those three decisions turned out to be key to the future for institution. The first one was like got to -- on the telephone and I called the heads of all the higher education authorities in America. And I asked him if they could encourage other colleges and universities opened their doors to our students as well the students at all the other colleges and universities and -- And let them come for one semester. But make sure that they could come back after that semester because I was afraid. The students would go away for a semester they've been transferred never come back in the damage that would be very permanent. The second thing we made a decision to do was to pay every single employee you have your pursuit for as long week. And do you know 45 months we've we get a monthly payroll of about forty million dollars we've -- payroll every single month. And of people always applaud us for doing that but that was the right thing to do. When it's all said and done what makes university greatest human talent they have and we knew that our faculty and staff were suffering just like everybody else in the city. And we didn't want them to worry about their job to whether they were getting -- paycheck. So we made that investment turned out to be a terrific investment in the third thing we did. If people I picked up forget this we announced within a week after the storm that we could reopen on January 16 of 2006. -- and what we did everybody citrus that's a lot of guts say about how do you know you're going to be able to do it. In and -- harder hearts we didn't know how we would do it but we felt we had to. Provide a sense of hope. For people and and something to look forward to and everybody we begin to look forward to and work towards reopening January 16 of 2006. And you did it and we didn't and 87% of your kids came back. 87%. Of the full time undergraduates came back. And what was interesting. That far exceeded our expectations we thought every Julia maybe 50% we come back that we ought to to about 65%. That of course. 87% came -- what we had not anticipated though Angela. Was what happened to the next fall. As the next fall we normally would bring in a class of about sixty -- only 823. Students showed that fall 06. And what dawned on us was her parents around company were not. Allowing her students to come to New Orleans considered stick with safe. They thought through the place we still flooded and there was no future. So that's really scared -- is when we had that class of 823. We had to live with that class for four years so it took this many years there after the fully recovered. And I think it when I look back at it now I don't think we fully recovered until about three years ago. Up until then I think it's. It's been consulate just. Getting back to where we work and of course now we far exceeded where we were before Katrina and give me to figure -- and it's fascinating to make the number of applicants to how many jets went where and when we -- out about three years if the storm. We had gotten 44000 applications for 15100 spots. And student just we're replying to a place cause I think they were inspired by her story inspired by what happened in New Orleans. And as you may recall what we did was we became the first and only major research university in the country. To integrate public service into the core curriculum. That really resonated which students around the country and ad account to for the -- increase in applications. -- affect the number got so why we decided to cut it down. And everybody asks how do you reduce applications and there's only one way to do it just had more essays -- or -- you get fewer outlets. Now we're down to about 32000. Applications but that's for 15100 spots it's quite -- quite astonished I would. Say two lane is back yet we are talking with Scott callon president of Tulane University. Who has announced that he is retiring in July but has had sixteen incredible years and longer than he expected right off the back. We'll go back to Katrina really wanna talk more about you have written a book it's coming out in July. Yeah June 10 June 10 the -- were -- to be specific let's be very specific and you have many book signings in the long lines. So please tell us sort of one at what inspired you to write the book and and from what I understand it was a very emotional thing for you. After the storm I had more publishers and other eskimo up to me say one that you write a book about your experience. During Katrina and for the longest time I I just couldn't do it it was just so raw and emotional with me. That he wanted to -- to talk about Katrina it was hard for me to keep my composure. So I decided not to write the book. Instead to go about my life at Tulane University here in the world and in rebuilding. Both the city in the university that about a year and a half for two years ago I begin to feel that it was time. But it did not -- -- did not want to write a book about Tulane University or about me I wanted to write about the city of violence. And the idea came to me about what it should be. So the book is entitled the inevitable city the resurgence of New Orleans in the future of urban America. Because it's not just a story about the world and so right about it is about urban revitalization America. It's about recapturing the American dream it's about leadership it's about empowerment. But I use the microcosm of what we are doing here in New Orleans as an example what other cities can do. And that came into focus two years ago that's what finally decide to write the book. So it is empowerment of citizen. -- who I believe an awful lot citizenship in the power of one. If you look at what happened in Angeles in New Orleans I don't believe that. The federal government rebuilt New Orleans now and re imagined it -- Tulane. Clearly there were contributor it wasn't the federal government wasn't to state government was in the city government -- was individual organizations and citizens. Who gathered together and decide we're gonna change thanks we're gonna change the public education system. We're going to really think Howard neighborhoods are built. We're gonna rethink the health care system into Wallace. So I believe very much in in the power of law and the power of collective. And what we call a civil society in action and that's what we've seen in New Orleans post-Katrina. I think it's a model for other cities quite obviously. So I thought by writing about it it might inspire other urban areas that are going through what we went through not because of a a great catastrophe like Katrina but take a look at Detroit go for -- bankruptcy they're going through this process. Clearly on the East Coast when they went through sandy they had to go through rebuilding. My old city Cleveland is going through it again they went through 2530 years ago there go through that promises again. So I thought our stories could both inspire and inform. About how they might go about rebuilding their cities. I've said many times that one of the great things that happened post-Katrina was the emergence of individual leaders. People who I believe always had leadership skills and they used it in some capacity is whether for nonprofits -- fund raising or what something they believed it. But they just rose up. And said we're not going to do with the way we've done it before and really took this giant -- whether it was marching to Washington or. But levees dot org or the woman who said let's take the brooms and clean the streets it was people power. Absolutely you know the people talk about leadership all the time and sometimes they think you can only be a leader is if you have a titular former head. Of an organization your present university president's state -- company. But there's something called in direct leadership and in direct leadership is something you can exercise as an individual. And by exercising that. That leadership you're setting example for others to follow. That's what happened. And Katrina individuals came forward demonstrated in to -- leadership in that inspired others to get on board and to do something so if you look at. A woman of the storm or citizens for one New Orleans that I could go on and on with the list. Of organizations that were -- post-Katrina. That was a superb example in direct leadership people taking hold of the situation and making it better not waiting for others to make a better for them. On top of putting your own school back together and all the myriad of issues you also took on. Civic leadership he worked with the Ray Nagin bring back New Orleans in hindsight now. Could anything have been done differently that might have expedited. Our our return. You know I I think he answers yes. I think we probably as we look back. Tried to develop a master plan and I don't mean just a physical plan for the city. But a larger vision for what we -- to city to become in the long run interestingly. That has emerged over the last eight years but it's been more organic. It's come from within. And now we're seeing that we're developing a very powerful ecosystem of entrepreneurship. For social innovation. In the beginning we didn't see that it's too bad we didn't see it in the beginning. And actually accelerate if you will our ability to become a much more flexible launch little community that we are today. So I think probably a better job of overall planning both physically for the city. As well was a vision for what does the extraordinary the city of the 21 century look like and how could we accelerate. Our growth and development into that kind of city. Beautifully said Scott -- is our very special guest today president of Tulane University. Who has announced his retirement in July and we'll have a book coming out on June 10. But we're just talking talking talking. And we have a caller Curtis from man to -- Curtis. -- Christmas to you and your listeners and to thank you. Yeah -- -- -- -- -- to note something had to do its order incumbent freshman class during. Katrina. They had just -- just below -- all personal belongings into their you do on January evacuated. -- went -- wall itself still there. Tulane University keeps me that -- on one of those UPS two franchise that. And Tate -- it's become an attack up all of that stop at -- cost of the students at San dispatcher -- and actually. I thought that was in the Beijing and do it managers -- congratulate president collar and that you went to -- in the right. Curtis thank you Chris wolf record here with that story had forgotten it but here you retell it. I'm so proud that we did that in and wanna thank you went all the people UPS that helped us. That was a difficult time for students and having that little kindness. -- and service that you provided really made it a little bit better for the -- thank you for. For doing it in such a professional. An effective way. Thank you are -- or call I would think you are just incredible art Merry Christmas to you. About you had to make some very tough decisions. Such as closing on your engineering department -- some teachers go hard hard decisions. Absolutely that was so of course the hardest part of Katrina. We knew. And -- there was no way we could reopen. And be exactly the way it would work before it just wouldn't have worked financially or academically. So we felt that we had to make the institution smaller. To focus -- even more. Ought to ensure that we kept our academic standards but at the same time would be a fiscal the -- So we had to make tough decisions and we we did wind up having to lay off. Over 700 people that was probably the most difficult decision -- ever permitted my life. What people may not realize we did with the best we can and severance for those people. For many many cases up to a year. We do closed down departments. Closed Newcomb college. And all of that allowed us to be more focused to save money. And to make sure that we retain the the real core strengths of the institution. And quite us -- the benefit of hard -- it turned out to those decisions all worked well for us. Joseph Miller were they were painful if we hadn't done that we were on the ensure we would have survived 2008 recession and much less be where we are today. Has it gone back up in numbers of faculty and yes we have more and more faculty today that we have before the storm. But their focus to fewer areas and we certainly have more students today that we had before the storm. So we're where we are now way a more simplified organization. -- -- give you an example. Prior to the storm if you were coming to Tulane University as an undergraduate. You would apply to one of separate different schools on campus depending on what you were interest -- And that -- Shuster cuts to confuse undergraduate why am I applying here why can't it just applies Tulane University. Now when you apply to Tulane University as -- on the that you applied through Newcomb Tulane college once you're in the door but you can go anywhere you want in the university. That's not the way it was pre Katrina. So I think now we have the foundation if you will about how we're organized. That is much more friendly to our students than it ever was before and clear to. Cutting out some of departments engineering was painful and people said that engineering would never survive that. But here we are now all these years later and science and engineering. Is doing extraordinarily. Well. In the last seven years alone we've increased the faculty in science and engineering by about 60%. -- And the student headcount in science and engineering. Today is larger than it's ever been before. In years ago people said it would never probably so far. Scott callon president of Tulane University are very special guest today. Let -- talk about what I've been reading and may not last week but recently. About what is happening in higher education. With lower numbers of enrollees. That one cost is an issue. But to looking at them what they may perceive as the valley when I finish and I have all these loans will I be able to get a job that can pay them back. We've right now higher education's going through some really seismic shifts. And -- what we call the three days access accountability and affordability. So people are now saying college is no longer afford Apple's pressure for the middle class. And because it's not affordable there's not the access that people when you and I were in college. That -- doesn't exist today and then the last thing they say is higher education is not accountable. We're used to value. How are they trying to improve productivity. How they're trying to lower cost reduce student debt. So I've been in the academy for forty years and a senior administration either university president or academic team for thirty years. The -- of rhetoric and criticism of higher education today is an all time. And quite honestly I think there's some merit in some of the criticism. I am concerned about the fact that student that is going up at such high rate. I do believe that tuition going up 45%. Per year is not sustainable. So I think those who those are really genuine issues the problem -- there's no simple solutions took them. One of the -- makes me smile as you know President Obama right now as -- said that he wants have a rating system not a ranking better rating system. Of colleges and universities so. It's consumers can see what it's like in terms of the value you're gearing from that institution. And how much it's cost. Will -- of regulation that's -- emerge from that. Is going to be overwhelming for colleges and universities and of course that's gonna cost money which is what tuition goes up. But the most important and I think provocative question is is what is the value of a degree. Yes. And a look the most simplistic answers will do you get a job when you graduate and how much money do you. Enjoy you and I know that's a very simplistic definition. And quite honestly. President Obama he had been judged by that standard. When he graduated from college. He probably would have been considered a failure because he was a community organizer didn't make much money. Or someone who decides who wanna go into public service. So we all are concerned about making sure that you get value for what you put into it. But value just can't be. Measured in terms of dollars and cents of which you earned him the job. The other thing that's happening because of this emphasis on value will lose its do you and it -- Steve valuing the humanities and social sciences yes. So you were saying you know don't get -- -- we're still couldn't agree of literature there's no value bear with -- mean as you won't get a good job. That's very unfortunate and that's something that has been counterproductive. To doping continue to build a great country. So yes there's a lot of changes going on and I think over the next ten years twenty years. You'll see ships and higher education. In ways that view we have not seen in the last fifty or sixty years. And I just hope that the way it changes in who is in the best interest of the country and not counterproductive. -- it and it's a massive subject just listening to you right now. What you're saying very very important I'm always send that there's always the value of going to college as a life experience. That. Yes ultimately you have to make money but it's the growth process. It's absolutely. It's it's it's when we all think back to our coaching experience. It's not just we got in the classroom that was important. But it was the making -- friends and it was making the transition from really being. A young adult to being an adult and that's so powerful. And you're not only get knowledge would your college Richard develop your emotional intelligence you've developed your maturity. And that pays dividends for the rest of your life. So we're gonna have to rethink some of these issues. And I am worried about the affordability there's no question. There's no way we can sustain 45% increases so in tuition every single year. But if we're gonna mitigate this tuition increases we have to figure out -- and how we gonna lower cost because otherwise we just won't be empower its us. As universities and colleges financial will be in trouble. And I think that's happening to a lot of colleges are not a lot weaker now financially than they were before. Our guest Scott Kelly president of tooling for the last sixteen years went through the I'm saying the fires -- -- the fires of Katrina but the water and Katrina. But has rebuilt feels better and is gonna remain in the city after he retires. Let's talk about public education because you work in the midst of all of this still very much a part with the -- and institute but your thoughts on where we are. We're making great progress Republican education in the world once and I think that is absolutely the key to the future of this city. There's nothing more important than the quality. Public education. Pre Katrina quite honestly I had no hope the public education group in the city. Post-Katrina I -- unbelievably optimistic. And very very pleased with the progress we're making. We can't declare victory yet so -- we're seeing gains virtually all kinds of schools. But even with those gains were below where we should be on the national. By the transformation that's going on in the world right now it's profound. It's beyond what anybody else is doing in the country. And I think will determine whether we expect on the road to becoming a great city in the 21 tree. You know we just had done the lobby man on been talking about. She's in 69000. New jobs and more coming to the state in the short period of time. Are we prepared. We are getting more prepared to the key is workforce development. The potential for this city in this region to attract businesses is unlimited we have so many things going force. But we have to produce the workforce. And that's all contingent on a great education system. Pre K through twelve and higher education. So I think guys as the citizens of the world as anything we can do to continue to advance to improvements we've seen since Katrina we have to support. If we do not do that all the gains we've gotten in workforce development attracting people to -- it can be law. You're not lost we appreciate everything you have done your book comes out June 10 and the stadium opens when. Stadium opens up in the fall of fourteen we hope it will be open in August for the beginning if -- will be September. I think you will be a wonderful addition to this community. And people who remember the old Tulane stadium -- -- stadium and re live their lives again. Through -- stadium. Value. As one of the last things that I'm getting done. As president I'm very proud of it. And the future athletics looks encouraging with CJ. And the coaches we capital sports thank you for being our guest today thank you for achieved unfortunately and that's -- Now -- it.

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