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SoPA's History

For over 130 years, the School of Professional Advancement has extended the resources of Tulane University to the communities it serves. Although the name has changed over time, the mission has remained constant: to develop and deliver distinctive undergraduate and graduate professional programs of the highest quality for a diverse student population that fits into the lives of working adults.


  • 1884-86: First continuing education classes offered at Tulane University of Louisiana. Teachers attend free lectures and drawing lessons on Friday afternoons and Saturdays; young men receive instruction in freehand and mechanical drawing four evenings a week.


  • 1907: The Division for Teachers begins to offer part-time instruction in education to students who are unable to attend college full-time.
  • 1914: The College of Commerce & Business Administration offers evening classes leading to an undergraduate degree.
  • 1942: University College is created by the union of the Division for Teachers and the College of Commerce and Business Administration’s Night Division. The new college offers 75 courses to 783 students at a tuition of $7.50 per credit hour and awards 31 baccalaureate degrees.
  • 1946: Roger P. McCutcheon, dean of the Graduate School at Tulane, is the College’s first part-time director, followed by Ross M. Trump (1946–47) and Thomas T. Earle (1947–48). John P. Dyer becomes full-time head of the College in 1948, a position he holds for 20 years.
  • 1952: The College’s first satellite campus opens at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. African-American soldiers attend classes there (though they did not receive credit) a decade earlier than integration of full-time undergraduate courses at Tulane. The Navy defunds it in 1953.
  • 1954: Alpha Sigma Lambda, the national honor society for part-time college students, charters a chapter at Tulane, selecting 18 high achievers for induction. To date, more than 1,500 students of high scholastic merit have been named to membership.
  • 1967: After several years of pioneering coursework in computing at Tulane with state-of-the-art equipment that easily fills entire rooms, the College begins a new minor in Computer Studies.
  • 1968: Dr. Robert C. Whittemore, a professor of philosophy, becomes dean of the College.
  • 1978: Law professor Wayne S. Woody succeeds Whittemore as dean.
  • 1980: A popular program for training paralegals begins, the first in Louisiana to be certified by the American Bar Association.
  • 1981: Dr. Louis E. Barrilleaux, a professor of education, is named University College dean.
  • 1984: The Master of Liberal Arts degree is established to give those who wish to pursue advanced interdisciplinary study an option previously unavailable in New Orleans.
  • 1994: Dr. Rick Marksbury, an associate dean at the College since 1980 and an anthropology faculty member, becomes dean. In 2011, he is the senior dean of Tulane University’s 10 colleges and schools.
  • 1998: A second satellite campus opens in Elmwood in suburban Jefferson Parish, followed quickly by a campus in downtown New Orleans.


  • 2001: University College opens an out-of-state branch at the Edgewater Mall in Biloxi, Mississippi. The campus survives Hurricane Katrina with minimal damage; staff and students manage to hold a six-week semester in fall 2005.
  • 2006: In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, University College is renamed the School of Continuing Studies as part of the university-wide Renewal Plan. Its mission of educational outreach to the community continues unchanged.
  • 2010: The Master of Professional Studies degree in Homeland Security Studies begins accepting students, expanding the School’s graduate offerings beyond the long-standing Master of Liberal Arts program. Madison, Mississippi, becomes the site of the latest School of Professional Advancement satellite campus.
  • 2016: Dr. Suri Duitch, after an extensive academic career at the City University of New York, is appointed the new dean of SoPA and university vice president for academic innovation.
  • 2017: SCS relaunches as the School of Professional Advancement (SoPA) to better reflect the mission of the school.