Immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2006, then-Tulane President Scott Cowen emerged as one of the few civic leaders in the city to serve as a leader in the recovery. He quickly realized the unique opportunity that New Orleans had to transform its public schools, rather than returning to the old way of running schools. Dr. Cowen, now President Emeritus, recognized that the University’s long-term survival depended on the revival of the entire city, and that without a strong K-12 education system the city would never become a true urban center with economic development opportunities for its citizens. In December 2006, his commitment and passion were recognized by one of the University’s trustees who presented him with a generous grant to create the infrastructure to leverage Tulane’s resources for the transformation of public education.
Named in his honor, the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives (commonly called the “Cowen Institute”) opened its doors in March 2007. The Cowen Institute is a unique entity that takes Tulane University beyond the typical framework of higher education institutions that interact with K-12 public education systems through Schools of Education or Public Policy. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the Cowen Institute is pioneering a new model for the role of universities to play in public schooling systems. The Cowen Institute aspires to be the premier university-based entity where individuals and communities learn about best practices for programs, partnerships, and policies for transforming K-12 public school systems.
The mission of the Cowen Institute is to advance public education and youth success in New Orleans and beyond. Launched in 2007, we inform relevant stakeholders, decision makers, and the public at large on issues related to K-12 public education, disconnected youth, and college and career readiness. We promote the practical application of data and analysis to improve education and career pathways for youth. We also proactively develop, incubate, and operate innovative initiatives that support students and young adults. Based at Tulane University, a national research and regional anchor institution, we strive to positively impact our community and strengthen the local and regional economy.
Transforming the community through education has been identified as one of the priorities of the University, and to enable that commitment the Cowen Institute operates under the direct supervision of President Emeritus Cowen. To inform and revolutionize change, the Institute’s efforts are led by a talented and diverse staff of eight full-time staff members and a growing number of Tulane students. Additional support is provided by Tulane faculty, centers, and institutes. We have developed national and local advisory councils, both a diverse and distinguished group of national and regional leaders, to advise the Cowen Institute’s staff on current and potential initiatives. The Institute has also partnered with a number of major research universities from around the country – including Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, Brown, Emory, and DePaul – to engage their students and faculty in this historic effort. The brightest minds are participating in our efforts.
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