Students from all walks of life come down to the Big Easy with big dreams and high aspirations. Here at Tulane, we learn we should have audacity and push friends, groups and ourselves forward.
In my time here, I have found 10 students who do push the boundaries by pursuing their goals and reaching new heights.
1. Erin Blake
While we all wish we could have Julia-Louise Dreyfus from Veep as our undergraduate representative, Tulane’s president might just have her beat. A senior studying biomedical engineering and computer science, Erin Blake stands as the USG president at Tulane University for the 2018 to 2019 school year. Tulane’s USG focuses on making sure that every single Tulane student has a happy and fulfilling school year, and Blake seeks to solve problems and bring stability to Tulane’s undergraduate population. “I find it extremely important to always work to be a servant leader. In everything I do, it’s important to get as much input as I can and listen to the people around me, along with hold myself and our organization with integrity and never let the ends justify the means,” Blake said.
Since joining as a USG member in her freshman year, she strives to use her time as USG president to focus on preventing sexual assault and improving campus health resources. Blake also takes steps in creating an education culture that not only affects the students on Tulane’s campus, but also those in the New Orleans community. With the semester off to a quick start, Blake and the rest of USG look forward to sharing their ideas with the community.
2. Alex Kaufman
In a time when comedy can influence just as much as classic rhetoric, Tulane students often seek different outlets to get their messages out. Alex Kaufman, a senior studying communications and classics, leads Tulane’s 10-person sketch comedy group Cat Mafia Comedy. Every year, Cat Mafia Comedy performs comedic sketches for Tulane students—one in the fall semester and two at the end of the spring semester.
Performing in theater and doing improv throughout high school, Kaufman auditioned and joined Cat Mafia as a freshman after attending a show with a friend. He seeks to bring together a varied group of comics to not only make Tulane students roll in the aisles, but also allow aspiring writers and actors to speak up and get heard. In the future, Alex would like to see Cat Mafia Comedy perform more shows and strive for further inclusivity, bringing in as many new and diverse voices as possible. “We live in a time of social change, or [a time] where social change is necessary,” Kaufman said. “Getting as many voices out there as possible is one way we’re going to bring about that change.” Cat Mafia Comedy will have you clutching at your sides for hours, bringing that quintessential Tulane humor right to your doorstep.
3. Hannah Elliot
Since singing the national anthem at convocation in her freshman year, Hannah Elliot has spent her time in Tulane onstage performing for her fellow classmates. Now a senior studying theater and marketing, she has become the president of the Tulane Musical Performance Organization, the school’s only student-run music organization. For the last two years, Elliot has held the responsibility of collaborating with student performers in their three cabaret performances, with varying themes such as “A Night of Disney!” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” She currently seeks to expand the organization’s relevance with a new partnership with the Tulane University Performing Arts Society in their first ever musical collaboration. “Theater itself is a collaborative process—it never works well if you only have one person at the top,” Elliot said. “I really felt through my role in TMPO that I had to promote collaboration. The more voices you have, the better the outcome.” TMPO and TUPAS will collaborate on a production of Heathers: The Musical in November and December of 2018. Honey, what’chu waiting for? Get ready to step into their candy store for many semesters to come.
4. Chris Hooks
Black students, white students and other students of color all have a voice on Tulane’s campus. As a co-president of Tulane’s Black Student Union, junior Chris Hooks considers his position as one of great responsibility to his school. Hooks, studying public health with a minor in Africana studies, acts as both a second-year RA of Monroe Hall as well as the president of the Rho Iota chapter of fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. As president, he helps put on several events through BSU, including the annual Bounce Back event at the beginning of every fall semester to welcome students back to campus and ongoing weekly Melanin Monday events with listening parties and study sessions. “It’s really a great responsibility to make sure students of color feel comfortable on this campus…I just want to make Black Student Union that place for students to feel supported,” Hooks said. While Hooks views one of his biggest challenges as bringing students, particularly upperclassmen, together, he has confidence that BSU will become even more visible in the future, as well as continue to make change on campus.
5. Semhal Abbady
While there are some instances where you can accomplish your goals by flying solo, teamwork can truly make the dream work. Semhal Abbady, a College Track scholar and co-president of BSU, enters her junior year of Tulane studying communications and digital media production. In her own words, Abbady considers BSU an organization that helps bring students of color together and feel comfortable in a space on Tulane’s campus. Aside from general body meetings every other week to organize and communicate, BSU plans on introducing upcoming financial literacy events in November of 2018. Going forward, Abbady would like to have others see BSU as an organization both highly visible to the student body and a spearhead of increased change on campus to create leaders with a passion for what they do. “I want to focus more on advocacy and community engagement…and hopefully having the space to do more marches and more protests for injustices around the world,” Abbady said. As the year marches on, it becomes clearer and clearer than nothing can stop Abbady from achieving her and BSU’s on campus goals.
6. Samantha Ryan
From the Queer Student Alliance to the Intersections section of the newspaper, LGBT students on campus make their voices loud and heard. Southern Decadence, New Orleans’s annual LGBT pride parade, starts off every single school year with a festive bang and attracts students, tourists and locals alike. Tulane continues to foster a growing community for LBGT and multicultural students, including the Xi chapter of Gamma Rho Lambda, a national sorority for multicultural youth. Led by junior Samantha Ryan, she wants to foster a community of tolerance and acceptance on Tulane’s campus through GRL, including through their annual Pride Prom event in support of BreakOUT!, a New Orleans philanthropy dedicated to stopping the criminalization of LGBT youth in the Crescent City. In spite of GRL’s small size, Ryan would like to create a different, yet still supportive community for multicultural and LGBT students where people can feel comfortable. “We’ve seen LGBT people and people of color become very successful in roles professionally, and they’re a lot more visible, but I do think that there needs to be another step of more acceptance and embracing diversity,” Ryan said. Tulane students always get encouraged to embrace change and diversity, and we need the help of Ryan and others now more than ever.
7. Michael Seuylemezian
Everyone who attends a college sports game knows that one part possibly more exciting than the actual team: the marching band. Senior Michael Seuylmezian holds the position of drum major in the Tulane University Marching Band as well as current president of the Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity. Since starting to play the clarinet in fourth grade, Seuylmezian has participated in marching band all throughout high school, using his position as drum major to lead TUMB and promote school spirit. Along with performing at football games throughout the first semester, he also actively searches for service projects in the New Orleans community and helps the team prepare for their annual appearances in several Mardi Gras parades in the spring semester. “As a senior, my primary focus this year is on what I leave behind,” Seuylmezian said. “Tulane has many great individual communities. I hope to do what I can to preserve these communities while at the same time combining them to better unify the university.” As the band continues to grow in the future, Seuylmezian hopes that the marching band’s members continue to foster relationships with the student body and expand into the rest of campus. As the saints and the Green Wave go marching in, remember to let out a roar for your local drum majors and clarinet players.
8. Margo Hera
The Tulane University Performing Arts Society works to help bring that Broadway magic right to the heart of Tulane’s uptown campus. Making the McWilliams Lab Theater her stage, Margo Hera majors in theater, gender and sexuality studies and psychology, and helps to organize TUPAS’s semester activities. Annually, Hera and the members of TUPAS release up to three official productions a year, including performances of Much Ado About Nothing and Annie. On top of hosting field trips to local productions in the New Orleans community and variety shows throughout the year, Hera feels responsible to carry on the legacy of a long-running organization. Through her position in TUPAS, she wants to open up more opportunities for Tulane students to get involved in theater production — even if they have no experience — as well as create a larger community so people with similar interests can find their place. “I’ve had people tell me ‘I didn’t think I could do theater in college,’ and it was such a big part of my life before college,” Hera said. “I’m really happy I can do it still.” Even though Ben Platt or Lin-Manuel Miranda haven’t dropped in to visit yet, we still go to see our talented friends at TUPAS.
9. Charlotte Barrielle
Tulane plays host to a fair share of fraternities and sororities, and Tulane students take to Greek life on campus like a movie buff takes to a Wes Anderson film. Senior Charlotte Barrielle holds titles as the president of Tulane’s Panhellenic sororities, Alpha Delta Pi, wing commander in Tulane’s Air Force ROTC and as a service-learning assistant at the Center for Public Service. In her leadership positions, Barrielle seeks to address sexual assault on campus as well as promote an end to hazing in the Greek system through the national #StopTheHazing campaign. Started by an ADPi alumna, #StopTheHazing formed as a result of a Louisiana State University brother’s death by hazing last year, which promptly suspended all Greek life activity on their campus. She states that she loves helping and empowering others and encourages Tulane students to find their voices and keep making changes for the better. “If you find something you love but that needs help, people should invest their time into improving instead of being apathetic about things they think will never change,” Barrielle said. Though still small in number, brothers and sisters continue to appoint thoughtful leaders like Barrielle to challenge the national opinion of Greek life.
10. Lindsay Scheer
Thanks to the Tulane University Service-Dog Training and Education Program, Tulane students see service dogs in training almost as often as they see a skateboarder on McAlister Drive. Following an accident that kept her in a wheelchair during her recovery, senior Lindsay Scheer now walks around campus with a new passion; changing someone’s life with a service animal. She founded and leads the Crescent City branch of Canine Companions for Independence, a national non-profit organization that provides service dogs for people with disabilities. Since getting involved with Canine Companions for Independence six years ago, Lindsay has raised five service dogs, including her current puppy-in-training Atkins. By training Canine Companions dogs through TUSTEP, Lindsay helps to raise awareness of service animals and teach about the needs and care of service animals, but also educate non-disabled people on how to interact with on-duty service animals. “[I’d like to] change people’s lives,” Scheer said. “It’s been a huge part of my life and literally turned my entire outlook on life around. I’m just so grateful I’ve been able to touch as many lives that I have.” Keep an eye out for your furry friends on campus as they train for their future roles in service, and remember to always ask the owners before you pet.