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Leadership TIDES Course Convenes at City Hall

October 22, 2019 1:30 PM
 | 
Trisha Torres ltorres3@tulane.edu

The New Orleans City Hall’s Council Chambers were active with attending members trickling in and taking their seats. However, these constituents were not there to cast votes, pass ordinances, propose new legislation, or review budgets. All students enrolled in Newcomb-Tulane College’s Leadership, Politics, Power & Change TIDES course convened at Council Chambers to hear from District “E” Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen.

TIDES courses, which make up NTC’s Tulane Interdisciplinary Experience Seminar Program, pair small groups of first-year students with Tulane faculty in order to foster connections between peers and staff over a common intellectual interest. In conjunction with this TIDES class’s course work, which illuminates the practical, political, and ethical challenges of politics and leadership, it was arranged for these students to meet with and interview a local community leader to gain greater insight into successful leadership.

Four students volunteered to moderate the interview event which included a class introduction, Councilmember Nguyen’s personal introduction, Councilmember Nguyen’s testimony to her 10-month-long tenure in local politics, followed by Q&A. In addition to moderating, these four volunteers filled the shoes of important city figures such as Councilmember Nguyen and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, standing at the chamber’s main podium and commanding the attention of the room.

Thomas Eglin, one of the first-year students who hosted says, “Researching and hosting a local politician connected me more with political issues in New Orleans and allowed me to recognize my place as a university student in this city. New Orleans is a vastly complicated urban scape, and by hearing about local economic and social issues from Councilperson Nguyen, and hearing about what she has done to improve those issues, our TIDES class became more assimilated to the New Orleans community."

Nguyen, in charge of a district with 86,000 residents encompassing 63 percent of the city’s geographic location, then detailed the issues she tackles on a daily basis. Her work, she says, centers on creating solutions to the negative public perception of New Orleans East, rebranding her district, garnering new development contracts and partnerships that have not taken place since Hurricane Katrina, and fostering an engaged and involved community.

“[The work is] about community,” says Nguyen. “About lifting everybody up, about bringing people together. I’m not going to abandon those neighborhoods that are still struggling.”

Nguyen encouraged students to take part in the local community efforts, considering it a lasting investment back into the area that provided these students their education.

Vice President of Student Affairs and TIDES Leadership Instructor Dr. Dusty Porter echoed the councilmember’s sentiments and expressed the value of this interaction saying, “The opportunity for new Tulane students to hear from a City Councilperson about [their] work in New Orleans politics and affecting change on issues important to [their] constituents is phenomenal.” He personally hopes this opportunity empowers students and makes them realize they can “get involved on focus areas they care a lot about.”

Rachel Adenan, another first-year student enrolled in the course, says, “I really enjoyed listening to Councilperson Nguyen speak about the things she has done as a member of city council and what she has learned from being on it. I was amazed to hear about how involved she was in the community of New Orleans East, and how many programs she had each week to get involved with her constituents. Hearing from Councilperson Nguyen truly showed me that if you are passionate about something or care deeply for a group of people, your actions will reflect that.”