Professor Profile: Scott Nolan’s courses offer intersection of courts, law and sexuality

Michael Chen, Associate Editor

Sofia Viscuso | Associate Photographer

With a 4.9 overall rating on Rate My Professors, Professor Scott Nolan has more than 20 students lined up on the waitlists for each of his classes every semester. A recognizable figure on campus, Nolan is acclaimed among political science majors for his enthusiastic and hilarious lectures which span from topics covering constitutional law and criminal justice to those concerning race, sex and power.

“In high school, I wanted to go to Tulane more than any other college,” Nolan said. “Now that I teach here, that makes me so proud and happy.”

Nolan started his journey in academia in 2002 at the University of New Orleans, where he got his B.A. degree in political science with a pre-law concentration. While Nolan had developed a love of politics and law before attending college, his classes allowed him to expand these passions and evoked his interest in teaching.

“In my first semester of college, I knew I was going to be a professor,” Nolan said. “I loved the depth of my professors’ knowledge, the way they seemed to enjoy talking about their field to others, and I romanticized a life with books, filled with research and writing.”

While a full-time undergraduate and graduate student, Nolan also worked as a full-time paralegal, working on cases involving a diverse range of practice areas from complex civil litigation to medical malpractice and healthcare law. Simultaneously, he worked and still does as a federally-contracted aviation meteorologist at New Orleans International Airport.

He eventually earned a Master’s degree in political science from UNO in 2013 and will earn his doctorate in the same field this spring.

Currently, Nolan is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Tulane, a position he has held since fall 2018. Here, he teaches courses mainly in the field of American politics, courts, law and LGBTQ politics.

“I am drawn to these courses because of the opportunity for storytelling,” Nolan said. “I enjoy the funny, quixotic, hyperbolic nature of our criminal justice and civil court system. It’s the most interesting branch based solely on the ability to entertain and analyze.”

In addition to teaching, Nolan is currently working on two research projects — one that focuses on the impact of LGBTQ coverage in the media and another which focuses on how courts handle same-sex family law cases.

“I am inspired to do research on LGBTQ issues because I wanted to better understand myself and the place of my partner and I in the world,” Nolan said.

As an openly gay professor at Tulane, Nolan feels grateful that he has never felt discriminated against on campus.

“However, I think that it is very important to have out and visible members of the LGBTQ community in positions of responsibility on campus, so LGBTQ students can be able to see other people on campus who they can relate to,” Nolan said.

While LGBTQ rights are central to Nolan’s interest, he closely follows other political issues, recognizing that environmental concerns are also one of the critical issues facing today’s current political climate.

“I think governments of the world have done a pitiful job of protecting the earth, our water and our air,” Nolan said. “Corrupt, irresponsible and exploitative business models have defaced the planet in the name of profit, and the consequences of a poisoned world are all around us. Turning humans and our governments into increasingly better stewards of our planet will be the most consequential political struggle of the 21st century.”

Nolan also serves as a resource for students seeking pre-law assistance. Thanks to his 15 years of experience working full-time in law firms, Nolan talks to many students about studying for the LSAT, choosing a law school and discussing what law school is like for first-year students after they go through academic advising at Mussafer Hall.

In his free time, Nolan enjoys going to the theatre with his partner, taking care of his saltwater fish tank, online gaming and exploring the city in which he was raised.

“Sure, the streets are a hellscape, but we also eat too much and laugh too loud and have full-on festivals for the opening of an envelope, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Nolan said. “I guess, it’s New Orleans’ joie de vivre that I love most, and I think I have a touch of it myself.”