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College Cousins: Southern Methodist and Tulane

Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Tulane University have always had somewhat of a dual identity: enjoying a certain popularity but still looking for greater academic respect outside of the South. Well, times have changed, and there are a few things about these schools that might surprise you.

Southern Methodist University

The 2013 opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on SMU’s campus drew national media attention back to the school. Prior to that, many East Coasters tended to overlook a university in Dallas only now entering its second century of existence. SMU, however, has built a solid academic reputation, and its highly respected Cox School of Business has led the way. Undergraduates can earn a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and benefit from the robust business climate of Dallas, now the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and home to 12 Fortune 500 companies. SMU also has schools for the arts, education and human development, engineering, and humanities and sciences. All undergrads, however, are now required to meet university-wide curriculum requirements. Like its home city, the university is a blend of 21st-century sophistication, western roots, and its new majority-minority status. An “En Español” website tab leads to a description of the proceso de admisión, all in Spanish.

Tulane University

Tulane’s history is different – and unique. It was founded in 1834, and at one time, it was the University of Louisiana. It is the only public university in the U.S. to become privatized, when a major endowment gift in 1884 prompted its re-branding as Tulane University. It also was the first school to establish a coordinate college for women (Newcomb), making it the model for other women’s colleges associated with universities originally established as men-only, such as Radcliffe (Harvard), Barnard (Columbia), and Pembroke (Brown).

Tulane faced unique challenges following Hurricane Katrina, sustaining more than $650 million in damages and losses. The school was forced to close for the fall 2005 semester, but it used the time to reorganize the university structure. It reopened for the spring 2006 semester and has since rebounded, partly due to a large and successful capital campaign in 2008. The university today has five undergraduate schools (in architecture, business, liberal arts, public health and tropical medicine, and science and engineering) that operate together as the Newcomb-Tulane College. All have a core curriculum that allows students to explore different disciplines and approaches. Tulane’s recent efforts not only transformed its academic structure but earned it greater national and international renown. 

These two schools have always enjoyed popularity, but in recent years, they have truly spread their wings. Today, their national reputations reflect their growth and academic muscle.

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