Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

From Tulane Magazine: Raison d' être, Tulane professors help students stay ahead of the class

April 12th, 2018

By Mary Ann Travis

Tulane is one of the nation’s leading research universities— and has been for more than a century. Research here isn’t just the province of graduate students and faculty: undergraduate research plays a vital role as well. With investment from campaign donors, Tulane will continue on the leading edge of discovery.

For a university to be truly great, it depends upon well-informed and caring teachers.

Tulane has many such teachers and has had for years—as thousands of graduates can attest.

To move forward, Tulane plans to continue to invest in its professors.

Phyllis Taylor, co-chair of Only the Audacious, said at December’s launch of the campaign, “With transformative teaching, Tulane inspires generations of young people to become creative thinkers and inspired doers.”

Taylor is the benefactor for her namesake center, The Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane, where students learn by doing and where what is possible in the classroom is being redefined.

The influence of Tulane professors often extends beyond the students to whom they teach academic subjects. In addition to their classroom roles, professors are mentors and advisers outside the classroom.

James Huck serves as a mentor to Posse Foundation Scholars. Posse Scholars—carefully selected and trained—are diverse and talented students who may be overlooked in the traditional college selection process. They are placed in supportive, multicultural teams—Posses—of 10 students, throughout their four-year undergraduate experience.

Huck, administrative assistant professor and assistant director of the Tulane Stone Center for Latin American Studies graduate programs, has been mentoring a Tulane cohort of Posse Scholars from Los Angeles for nearly three years.

In his mentoring role, he follows the same philosophy that he has developed in his teaching. “It’s a philosophy that doesn’t want to shut down students as agents of knowledge.”

This philosophy has evolved as he has had more contact with students over the years, he says. “I began to understand and respect that, even though I had more factual knowledge or theoretical training that was more substantive than what students brought to the table, students—especially students from backgrounds and experiences that were very different from mine—international students, students from marginalized communities—had important things to say that I hadn’t thought of before.

“I didn’t want to dismiss that. I thought it was valuable. That got me questioning, why haven’t I been exposed to this way of thinking?”

Huck recognizes that professors, even with their advanced degrees and training, are “not the final authority in knowledge production and creation.”

Rather, students “can be agents in the creation of knowledge.” This acknowledgement leads to students who are “more energized, engaged and excited about learning,” says Huck. The result is that he, as a teacher, is rewarded and challenged, too.

To read the full article from the March 2018 issue of Tulane Magazine, click here.