School of Liberal Arts Professors Advance Social Entrepreneurship Studies


Story by: Mary Sparacello


Professor Barbara Hayley
Department of Theatre and Dance

“I believe in the arts as a tool for social change,” says Barbara Hayley, Tulane dance professor and coordinator in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Hayley was recently appointed as the Kylene & Brad Beers Professorship II in Social Entrepreneurship in recognition of her unique approach to community service through scholarship.  She is the most recent addition to a contributing critical mass of seven social entrepreneurship scholars on the Tulane campus and enhancing the new interdisciplinary minor in social innovation and social entrepreneurship that debuted in the fall.
Hayley co-teaches the undergraduate course Building Community through the Arts with Professor Ron Bechet of Xavier University’s Department of Art, a founding artist of the “HOME, New Orleans?” project in post-Katrina New Orleans. In collaboration with community partners and artists, the course attempts to blur the lines between theory and practice and engages students in an array of arts-based projects designed for children and adults from New Orleans neighborhoods.

During her 27-year tenure at Tulane, Hayley has combined her scholarly and professional dance career with the university’s mission to engage in powerful relationships with community partners. She actively facilitates new connections between the creative arts and the community by networking with various New Orleans performing artists and organizations.

Artists are accustomed to working as a team with other artists, so social entrepreneurship is a natural fit, says Hayley, the Kylene and Brad Beers Professor of Social Entrepreneurship II. “Community collaboration is inherently part of what we do,” she says.

Nghana Lewis (NC ’94), associate professor of English and African and African diaspora studies, was named the Louise and Leonard Riggio Professor of Social Entrepreneurship in 2011. As such, she helped develop the minor in social entrepreneurship and is now teaching the introductory course, mainly taken by first-years and sophomores. Lewis says she is amazed by students’ maturity and determination to look beyond themselves.

“Tulane has some really phenomenal students,” Lewis says. “They are thinking not only about their lives but other peoples’ lives and the contributions they can make to the world.”

As students create nonprofit businesses aimed at improving society, Lewis says they are raising the bar for what is possible. “They’re thinking broadly. They’re thinking big.”

Lewis and Hayley join a team of social entrepreneurship professors in law, ecology and evolutionary biology, architecture, global health and teaching. Each professor’s work deepens Tulane’s approach to social entrepreneurship, says Rick Aubry, assistant provost for civic engagement and social entrepreneurship in the Office of Academic Affairs.

“No one specialty has a corner on the market for how to create social impact in the world,” he says. “Our students are coming from all of the majors and minors in the school.”

Hayley says the university-wide emphasis on civic engagement has valuable applications for all students.

“It’s part of growing into their role as citizens,” she says. “They start by looking at ‘me,’ but transcend that to reach ‘we’ in their concern about the human condition.”


Tulane University, School of Liberal Arts, 102 Newcomb Hall, New Orleans, LA  70118, (504) 865-5225,