Class of 2020 Part 2: Colleges postpone commencement ceremonies and turn to virtual recognition

 

With spring graduation ceremonies canceled or postponed, many class of 2020 graduates are disappointed that their official graduation day won’t be recognized the way they had anticipated. “That walk across a stage was earned through four (in my case, five) years of hard work and panic attacks — just to be taken away within a blink of an eye,”  said Loyola University senior Christian Willbern in an Uptown Messenger column. While few deny the public health necessity of closing colleges, it was heart-rendering for many seniors to be abruptly banished from their campuses in the final months of their final year. Universities are finding ways to commemorate the day, often through virtual ceremonies to be followed by a delayed ceremony. Tulane University’s virtual ceremony marking the conferment of degrees to the class of 2020 will take place May 16.

Tulane institute to study effect of pandemic on nation’s schools

From Tulane University

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences has awarded the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, or REACH, at Tulane University a $100,000 contract to collect data from approximately 150,000 school websites across the country to see how the nation’s education system is responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The project, which will track traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools, aims to quickly answer questions that are critical for understanding how students are learning when school buildings are closed. Key questions include: how many schools are providing any kind of instructional support; which are delivering online instruction; what resources are they offering to students and how do students stay in contact with teachers? “This data will also help answer important questions about equity in the school system, showing how responses differ according to characteristics like spending levels, student demographics, internet access, and if there are differences based on whether it is a private, charter or traditional public school,” said REACH National Director Douglas N. Harris, Schlieder Foundation Chair in Public Education and chair of economics at Tulane University School of Liberal Arts. REACH will work in cooperation with Nicholas Mattei, assistant professor of computer science at Tulane University School of Science and Engineering, to create a computer program that will collect data from every school and district website in the country.

The students and instructors at Nicholls University hold many of their lessons in the Lanny D. Ledet Building funded by Benny Cenac of Houma.

Nicholls State University: Benny Cenac, Houma businessman, and the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute

The smell of sautéed shallots, butter browning, and sugar caramelizing hits your nose the moment you walk down the halls of Nicholls State University’s Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, the only post-secondary institution in Louisiana offering a four-year culinary degree. Your mouth is watering before you even see the state-of-the-art kitchens donated by Arlen “Benny” Cenac—Houma businessman and owner of Cenac Marine, Main Iron Works, Houma Machine and Propeller, and Golden Ranch Farms. Back in 2015, as soon as Benny Cenac learned that construction of the school’s new culinary arts building might not move forward due to lack of funding, he knew he had to act fast. The school needed additional funding to receive the match from the state of Louisiana to complete the cooking school renovations. Benny, ever the Cajun food aficionado and proud Nicholls alum, recognized the cultural, historical, and economic impact the culinary program had on both the local university and in keeping South Louisiana culinary traditions alive. 

In 2015, Benny Cenac made a very generous donation in honor of his long-time employee and friend, Lanny D. Ledet, that led to the creation of a 33,000 square foot state-of-the art culinary facility, complete with six kitchens, lecture rooms, and a student study lounge. The Lanny D. Ledet Culinary Arts Building even features a full-size, 96-seat restaurant called Bistro Ruth, named in honor of New Orleans restaurateur Ruth Fertel.

Lusher engineering teacher creating medical masks with Tulane medical students

From Lusher Charter School

In true collaborative spirit, Lusher Charter School engineering teacher Matthew Owen and his wife, Laura, are working with Tulane Medical School and local hospitals to create much-needed personal protective equipment, or PPE, for New Orleans hospital employees to protect them from COVID-19. The Owens are working with medical students and other engineers and students on designs for PPE. Laura Owen, a support services teacher at Lusher, spearheaded the effort with medical students who contacted hospitals about their needs. When they discovered that the teachers had access to Lusher’s 3D printers, the med students planned a Zoom call with the couple and developed a design to print. With permission from the school, the Owens brought three 3D printers and supplies home to begin the project.

Tulane University: New COVID-19 test gives results in four hours

By Barri Bronston, Tulane University

A laboratory based at Tulane Medical Center and in partnership with UMC-LCMC is conducting a new test for COVID-19 that can yield results within four hours. The test was made possible through the joint efforts of the Tulane University School of Medicine, the LSU School of Medicine, Tulane Medical Center, LCMC Health and Roche Diagnostics. Researchers at the Tulane Medical Center Laboratory ran its first set of tests using the Cobas 6800 analyzer over the weekend and is now capable of running nearly 200 tests a day. The testing is open only to patients at Tulane Medical Center and University Medical Center. Roche Diagnostics is the Switzerland-based manufacturer of the Cobas 6800 analyzer.

Viewpoint: Between panic and denial, there’s a more sensible road to tread

By Christian Willbern, guest columnist

In a few weeks, I was supposed to get up at 7 a.m., put on a starchy cap and gown, and walk across a stage in front of hundreds of people to receive an empty diploma sleeve. While that sounds more revolting than Burger King’s 2002 green ketchup, I was inexplicably looking forward to it. Many of my fellow seniors were. That walk across a stage was earned through four (in my case, five) years of hard work and panic attacks — just to be taken away within a blink of an eye. Instead, now, I am using hand sanitizer my dad made with baby lotion from the 1990s.

View from Tulane: Why are we still going out?

By Julia Prager-Hessel, guest columnist

Students, faculty, and staff at Tulane received an email last Wednesday that said classes will cease or go online, and those living on campus are to leave in the next week and a half. However fracturing to our semesters, this move came as no surprise and with little resentment from students. Tulane is largely a flight school that draws many of its students from Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, and our friends at schools across the country had been sent home throughout the week. There is also a sense of gratefulness on campus — our university is offering emergency housing and food, and most of us have the opportunity to go home if it becomes suddenly necessary. Students recognize that we are in a beautiful city that is not being hit as hard as many other metropolises in the United States — metropolises that many Tulanians come from.

Tulane researchers explore teacher retention in city’s all-charter system

From the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice

A new study from an education research center based at Tulane University finds that New Orleans’ all-charter school system succeeds in removing low-performing teachers, but it struggles to replace them with high-performing ones. The study by National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, or REACH, cuts to the heart of the debate over whether market-based school reforms help improve teacher quality. In New Orleans, all schools are charters with great freedom to hire and fire teachers. Schools also compete with one another for talent and are under intense pressure to raise student test scores. Advocates of market-based reforms argue that this combination of flexibility and accountability should encourage schools to remove ineffective teachers.

Loyola students and professor in self-quarantine after coronavirus exposure at conference

Two Loyola University students and a faculty member went into a 14-day self-quarantine on March 10, at the request of the university, after attending a journalism conference and having lunch at a downtown restaurant with an individual who was later diagnosed with COVID-19 novel coronavirus. The students and professor have not displayed any symptoms, Loyola President Tania Tetlow said in a March 11 letter to the Loyola community announcing that all classes will taught online for the rest of the spring semester beginning Monday (March 16). Tetlow said the potential exposure was not the reason behind suspending on-campus classes. Tulane, Xavier, UNO and other local universities also have moved their classes online as more coronavirus cases are announced in New Orleans. “I have spoken to the director of state public health, who tells me that there is not a reason to broaden that circle more widely — those who later interacted with the faculty and students do not also need to self-isolate,” Tetlow said in the letter.

Tulane cancels Book Festival, moves all its classes online over COVID-19 concerns

From Tulane University

The New Orleans Book Festival at Tulane University has canceled its inaugural event for 2020, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and adherence to university protocol. Tickets purchased for keynote addresses with John Grisham, Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell will be fully refunded within 10 business days. The book festival had planned to run March 19-21, and festival organizers estimated around 30,000 visitors would attend the three-day event on Tulane’s uptown campus. However, the top priority for the festival organizers is that of the health and safety of the general public, authors, volunteers and Tulane’s faculty, staff and students. On Wednesday afternoon, Tulane University announced it would reduce the concentration of people on campus by conducting classes online beginning March 23 and through the end of the semester, reducing the number of gatherings and eliminating non-essential travel.