College Cousins: Tulane University or University of Miami

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Why Cousins? Because they are similar in style and, therefore, attract similar styles of students.

Two universities located in southern climes in regions with distinctive styles are Tulane University and the University of Miami. One can’t help but think “ocean and palm trees” when picturing Miami and “French Quarter and good food” when thinking about New Orleans, home to Tulane. Those images immediately conjure thoughts of laid-back fun times – not rigorous academics. Prospective students, however, shouldn’t kid themselves. These two universities have put themselves on the academic map because of their commitment to excellence, and that doesn’t happen by allowing students to sit in the breeze or indulge in haute cuisine all day long.

The academic home for Tulane’s undergraduate students is the Newcomb-Tulane College, which functions as a kind of home base for a number of academic support services. Students are then free to enroll in classes in any of the schools that offer undergraduate courses. Those schools are organized under academic disciplines that include Architecture, Business, Liberal Arts, Public Health & Tropical Medicine, and Science and Engineering. All students, however, must fulfill core curriculum requirements in addition to meeting the specific requirements of their selected majors.

The University of Miami offers undergraduate degrees through its College of Arts and Sciences and its eight other schools, which include Architecture, Business Administration, Communication, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Marine Science, Music, and Nursing and Health Studies. Like Tulane, the University of Miami has general education requirements which students must meet in order to earn their undergraduate degree. The widest spectrum of majors and minors is found in the College of Arts & Sciences, but each of the above-mentioned schools sets the requirements for the majors it offers.

One difference between these two universities is in the area of athletics. Sports are huge at the University of Miami, and over the years, its students have supported many highly successful teams. Particularly notable are Miami’s football and baseball programs, which are perennial powerhouses.

Tulane pours its heart into service. On most weekends, you will find its students not in stadium stands, but out in the community, involved in service projects. Non sibi, sed suis is the university’s motto. It means “not for one’s self, but for one’s own,” and Tulane lives up to it. In fact, Tulane requires all its students to fulfill a public service requirement, and for most students, this is more than a “check-off-the-box” kind of commitment. Tulane’s students are deeply engaged in New Orleans and the surrounding community.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 took that commitment and burned it into the university’s psyche. The storm, storm surge, and subsequent flooding did tremendous damage to campus buildings and infrastructure, so much so that the university was forced to have students attend classes elsewhere for the fall semester. Afterwards, the university was in some respects remade – not only by virtue of the rebuilding of physical structures but because of an enormous budget shortfall, which led to decisions to cut athletic programs, eliminate degree programs, and even fire a considerable number of faculty and staff. It was draconian, but over time, Tulane has come back – and come back strong. Today, it stands tall among our national universities and has a reputation of which it can be justifiably proud.

The University of Miami (whose main campus is actually located in Coral Gables) took a pretty good punch this year from Irma. Significant clean-up efforts have been needed to clear debris and restore power, but damage to the infrastructure overall was limited, and the opening of the semester is expected to be delayed by only a couple of weeks. First back in action was the school’s much heralded football team, which, appropriately, bears the school’s nickname – the Hurricanes!

All schools, to one extent or another, reflect the communities in which they reside, and that is definitely true for these two. Cultural carryovers are significant in both cases. For Miami, that means a beach culture mixed with Cuban influences. For Tulane, it’s all about French-Creole music and cuisine. In both cases, students experience a cultural context that, for most of them, is significantly different from their home environments.

Because these universities have national reputations, they attract students nationally and internationally, so student bodies are diverse. The students attracted are smart and academically engaged, but also eager to engage in the campus life that awaits them. Tulane’s most recent class profile and Miami’s freshman class profile both highlight their strength and reach.

Considering Tulane University or University of Miami? We aren’t be surprised that these are two popular institutions. The distinctive identities of these two universities add to the rich academic experience they offer their students.

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