A Day in the Life at Tulane University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Joseph is an Atlanta tutor specializing in French tutoring, World History tutoring, ESL tutoring, and more. He graduated from Tulane University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations & Art History. Check out his review of his alma mater:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Joseph: Tulane University is found in the heart of uptown New Orleans, in the appropriately named “University” section of the primarily residential neighborhood. It immediately borders Loyola University New Orleans, which means that Tulane students have the opportunity to not only befriend fellow Tulanians, but students from Loyola, as well. Shuttles serve the uptown campus, the medical campus downtown, and other offices and off-campus housing complexes throughout the neighborhood. The St. Charles Streetcar also stops immediately in front of the campus, and it runs all the way downtown and towards Lake Pontchartrain. The school also prides itself on keeping its students and other affiliates safe by offering “Safe Ride,” a shuttle that operates exclusively at night, and maintaining a professional police force that has authority within a one-mile radius of the campus.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Joseph: I found that all my professors were extremely accessible. Each instructor prominently listed his/her office hours on the syllabus, and every one of them would remind students of their hours when exams or important assignments (e.g. papers) were approaching. Many professors offered special one-on-one consultations during research projects. Furthermore, every professor was keen on communicating with his/her students via email whenever class was cancelled or assignments were changed. Finally, my academic advisers (I had two advisers during my college career) were genuinely interested in helping me finish my two majors and minor and making sure I was on the right track. It was incredibly simple to schedule an appointment, and I was never left confused after our meetings.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Joseph: Dorm life at Tulane was varied in that students had many options to consider when choosing housing accommodations. Freshmen were required to live on campus, which was a sensible and important policy. The “leadership dorms” housed fewer students and were more modern, but one had to apply and be accepted in order to get in. These dorms were community-based and enjoyed certain programming that other dorms did not have. Dorm leaders created programming that allowed people to “represent” their dorms in friendly competitions across campus in order to foster an idea of loyalty to one’s community. In the dorms themselves, floor meetings were excellent opportunities to meet people who lived on the same floor, as well as to get to know the RAs. All dorms are found relatively close to each other and are in close proximity to the dining hall and student union. The dining hall, which also held student P.O. boxes and the postal center, is going to be remodeled, and there are plans to build another dining hall in a brand new dormitory too.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Joseph: Tulane has a nationally renowned medical program specializing in public health and tropical medicine. Tulane’s law program is also top-notch, as is its business program. I was enrolled in the School of Liberal Arts, which is a remnant of the female-only Newcomb College absorbed by Tulane University in the mid-20th century. The School of Liberal Arts is represented by the largest number of students because it offers so many majors and concentrations in these majors. I spent most of my time in the buildings that housed the political science program and the art program (I studied International Relations and Art History), but I often had classes that took me beyond my comfort level into the sciences. I was so attached to the School of Liberal Arts that I helped re-establish the Liberal Arts Student Government (LASG) and was the organization’s first secretary. To this day, LASG represents the concerns of students in the liberal arts among the representatives of the other schools in the Undergraduate Student Government (USG).

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Joseph: I made most of my friends in Tulane’s comparatively smaller classes that were geared toward freshmen. There were, however, numerous opportunities to join clubs and social organizations, and it is relatively easy to establish new organizations. This has led to a proliferation of unique organizations that cater to the interests of large groups of diverse people. Greek life is greatly represented at Tulane. There are no less than 20 Greek organizations represented on campus. Greek organizations are great networking groups that provide members with many opportunities to fraternize with people from the entire school and the greater New Orleans community, often through special service projects.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Joseph: The Career Center is helpful in providing fundamental knowledge for starting a career. They provide help with creating impressive résumés, teaching interview skills, and networking with national companies. The Career Services Center has a compartmentalized approach to helping students with post-collegiate life in that they consider what students need to know to succeed in their field of interest (e.g. architecture, business, law, science, etc.). They are also responsible for coordinating career fairs and recruitment opportunities, which are attended by many renowned companies and organizations, including the Peace Corps, the U.S. Department of State, and others.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Joseph: Practically every building on campus has clean, spacious, comfortable places to study. The library is the most popular place for students to study with its massive collection of books, manuscripts, microfilm, music, and film. In fact, the four-story Howard-Tilton Memorial Library is expanding by two floors to make room for study areas, as well as stacks for media. Many dorms, especially those currently under construction or planned for the near future, feature study rooms with large desks perfect for work on group projects. Despite being a hive of student activity, the Lavin-Bernick Center (LBC or Student Center) has numerous study rooms and lounges cut off from the noise and activity of the rest of the building.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Joseph: New Orleans is a fabulous town, and I can hardly do it justice in just a few sentences. New Orleans can be anything you imagine it to be. Few people imagine it as a college town, yet within its urban confines sit five post-secondary institutions. New Orleans is a crucible of culture; people flock to the city to absorb the palpable feeling of exoticism. Some of the best art, music, food, and festivals keep the city a juggernaut of enjoyment and romance. All these activities draw students further into the cityscape and make the city feel like home to so many.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Joseph: The entire student body counting undergraduate and graduate students amounts to no more than 12,000 enrolled students. There are about 6,000 undergraduates and a little more than 5,000 graduate students. Since Hurricane Katrina, admissions levels were up to about 1,600 students a year, but they have started to return to previously lower levels. This has meant that class sizes have been relatively small. My largest class had a little more than 100 students, but it hardly felt that large. The high number of advanced faculty means that more sections of classes are possible, so even the classes that everyone has to take are considerably smaller than at other schools. Even mid-level classes appeared to be like graduate-level seminars, which meant that professors were more approachable and students received more personal instruction. This is exactly what I looked for when applying to college.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Joseph: My most memorable class was one that was actually mandatory. Upon entering Tulane University, every freshman is required to take an introductory class that concerns a specific topic designated by the professor. Class sizes are kept to no more than 25, and class meets only once a week. My freshman TIDES (Tulane InterDisciplinary Experience Seminar) class was entitled, “Folk Traditions of Louisiana,” and it was taught by a professor from the Art History department, my academic field. There was honestly no better way to introduce me to college life and the city of New Orleans than this class. As a class, we met local craftspeople and leaders, including: a Creole man from a family of multi-generational traditional plasterers, a traditional sausage-maker and butcher, a participant in the female Mardi Gras Krewe of Muses, and a neighborhood leader interested in the preservation of African-American folk traditions and costumes. We learned that what makes this city great is its collection of hard-working, passionate, down-to-earth citizens who love life and wouldn’t live anywhere but New Orleans. I learned what it meant to fit in to a city that could seem overwhelming and even a bit hostile in its rawness. In reality, this class appropriately summed up the university’s informal motto, “Only at Tulane, Only in New Orleans.”

Check out Joseph’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.