Living and Learning as Changemakers in New Orleans

Group Photo Of TIDES Class And PlayBuild Members.

This fall, in partnership with the Taylor Center, Tulane Housing and Residence Life launched the Changemaker Residential Living Community (RLC) at Paterson House, a living learning community for students interested in making positive social change. In addition to co-curricular programming,  the Changemaker RLC hosts a variety of Tulane Interdisciplinary Experience Seminar (TIDES) courses related to changemaking. These TIDES courses provide first year students with the opportunity to make meaningful connections with a small group of students and a faculty member. While learning about changemaking, students also discuss fundamental topics to the first-year experience, including health and wellness, diversity and inclusion, campus resources, and the local New Orleans community. This semester, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. James “Dusty” Porter, who has dedicated his career to students’ leadership development, is teaching a section of the TIDES course, “Leadership, Politics, Power, and Change” for students in the Changemaker RLC. This course explores the intersections of leadership within the themes of politics, power, and change through group discussion, guest speakers, and experiential learning.  

Changemaker RLC Classroom

Changemaker RLC Classroom

To create an immersive experience within the New Orleans community, Dr. Porter partnered with Playbuild, a local nonprofit that transforms neighborhood spaces into architectural playgrounds by combining unique playground equipment with elements of an outdoor classroom to promote creativity and learning.  Students in Dr. Porter’s class volunteer weekly at Playbuild, forging meaningful connections to youth and their parents.  Dr. Porter reflects, “Students have gained a real sense of environment. The partnership with Playbuild is the highlight of the course for students.” The service learning component of the TIDES course encourages students to consider the ways they can participate in the community as changemakers.

To examine the political nature of leadership, Dr. Porter invited changemakers from the city as guest speakers in his class. In early October, Jared Brosset, a Councilperson of New Orleans visited the RLC and spoke to the class about his experience as a young adult in local leadership. Considering the environment of the Changemaker RLC and the topic, Dr. Porter believes the experience added great value to the TIDES curriculum and allowed students to explore the political nature of changemaking.

New Orleans City Councilperson Jared Brossett discusses his work as a young elected leader in New Orleans

New Orleans City Councilperson Jared Brossett discusses his work as a young elected leader in New Orleans

While Dr. Porter’s class is  jam packed with many “changemaking” topics for students to consider, he hopes that students will walk away with a more nuanced understanding of leadership in the four key ways. First, leadership requires a passion for change and is not about position or power but a passion for change. Second, he wants students to understand that diversity, inclusion, and community are core components of  leadership. Dr. Porter says,“There is a value in understanding different perspectives. It’s not a one size fits all world.” Third, leadership can inherently be political, which means identifying stakeholders, building coalitions, and strategizing methods. And fourth, he wants students to grow in their personal missions and goals, which will contribute to a positive experience at Tulane.

The communal nature of the class, in which over 90% of students live within the Changemaker RLC, encourages students to continue class discussions outside of the classroom. Dr. Porter notes, “Students are bringing their connectivity to class; community drives continued conversations.” For Dr. Porter’s personal teaching students who are living together within the RLC has been an enjoyable experience.

To learn more about the Changemaker RLC and ways you can become involved with becoming a changemaker, visit the Taylor Center website.