Staff Ed: This holiday, we’re giving thanks for our faculty

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Staff Ed: This holiday, we’re giving thanks for our faculty

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Undoubtedly, Tulane is already feeling the Thanksgiving spirit. With bags packed and planes boarded, students are vacating school and readying themselves for warm embraces from grandparents, heaping trays of turkey and the pumpkin pie-sweetness of spending a few days away from the looming threat of finals.

We would be remiss, though, if we didn’t take a moment, before whisking away to a traffic-congested new airport, to express our gratitude. This year at The Hullabaloo, we are feeling exceptionally thankful for our Tulane professors and faculty. 

The Hullabaloo covers professors on occasion, whether it be a profile of a campus institution like Dr. Vijayaraghavan or a Views piece thanking Professor Horowitz for his scholarship on Hurricane Katrina.

Yet, our gratitude extends beyond the newsworthy and the known. Every professor and instructor, who takes time beyond office hours, who focuses on the enrichment of students’ lives or who imbues lectures with joy and a love of learning deserves our recognition.

Our amazing faculty are on the front lines of generational change – if we millennials and Gen Z-ers will be the ones to reshape the world, our professors will be the ones to teach us how, giving us the tools to think critically and challenge existing structures.

By directing theses and independent studies or simply taking time out of the day to sit with a student for a cup of coffee, our faculty serve as mentors, helping us make sense of our role in society.

And with dynamic classroom lectures coupled with out-of-the-class experiential education, our faculty has set each of us on a lifelong path of learning and exploration.

By highlighting a professor in each department who inspires us, we hope that the faculty will hear our Thanksgiving affirmation loud and clear: we appreciate you and all you do for us.

A.B. Freeman School of Business

Christine Smith 

Christine Smith was destined to teach accounting at Tulane. Her father, Beauregard “Beau” Parent Jr., taught the subject at Tulane for almost 40 years and founded Tulane’s Master’s in Accounting program. 

From a young age she would sit in on his lectures and internalize the material. She went on to study as an undergraduate at Tulane and now oversees the Master’s program her father created. 

Her teaching style is spirited and engaging, making sure each student picks up the same enthusiasm for accounting that she did as a child. Her philosophy clearly informs each impassioned lecture she delivers:

“It starts with a very deep-rooted belief that I can’t possibly expect my students to get more excited — equally or more excited — about the content than I am,” Smith told The Hullabaloo last year.

School of Science and Engineering

David Mullin 

David Mullin runs a Cell and Molecular Biology lab at Tulane with a simple objective: finding an alternative to gasoline. 

Through the process of bacterial fermentation, students assist Professor Mullin in trying to break down substances and create biofuel. A few substances he’s tried throughout his career include cotton waste, sugar cane and shredded newspaper. 

He earned national attention in 2011 when his team discovered that old copies of the Times-Picayune contain cellulose and could be used to help create the substitute for gasoline.

Though we cannot endorse ripping up old copies of The Hullabaloo, we would make an exception for Mullin, a professor breaking ground and leading his field. 

School of Liberal Arts

Jesmyn Ward

Students at different schools might try to compete with one another, comparing their professors’ accolades against one another.

“I’m taking Ta-Nehisi Coates this semester. He’s got a National Book Award,” a New York University student might brag. “Oh yeah, well I’m taking Alice McDemott, so does she,” a Johns Hopkins University student might retort.

Then a Tulane student would chime in, “Guys, I’m in Jesmyn Ward’s class this semester. She’s got TWO National Book Awards.”

There are few authors in the 21st century as decorated as Ward – her novels “Sing, Unburied, Sing” and “Salvage the Bones” were celebrated as instant entrants into the literary canon and she’s one of America’s greatest living authors, often compared to William Faulkner. 

Yet, beyond her myriad awards and trophies, there’s a better reason to take Ward’s introductory or advanced creative writing courses: her compassion and dedication to passing on her literary gift, cultivating a new generation of literary lyricists and storytellers.

School of Architecture

Richard Campanella

With ten books under his belt and more than 200 articles written, Richard Campanella is a leading expert on the geography and landscape of New Orleans.

Campanella has worked as a U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger, a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras and a mapping scientist at NASA. 

Today, he serves as associate dean for research for the School of Architecture where he teaches courses on New Orleans geography, instilling students with the same interest in the city and its spatial patterns.

Only a professor with his curiosity and specialized research area could create a color-coded, socially ranked heat map of what areas of New Orleans are considered the coolest. This is just one of many examples that demonstrate why Campanella, himself, is the coolest.

School of Public Health

Mollye Demosthenidy

Tulane preaches interdisciplinary approaches as a bedrock of its liberal arts credo. Mollye Demosthenidy embodies those values.

Demosthenidy earned her law degree from Tulane and practiced law at two firms before joining the Tulane faculty as a Public Health professor. Teaching global health law and policy, she bridges her experiences to help students understand the foundations of health care systems.

She’s been celebrated by students year after year. With two student government association teaching excellence awards, an outstanding undergraduate public health teaching award and other honors, Demosthenidy is known for relating lectures to her personal life and applying lessons to everyday life.