Newcomb Institute Awards Ceremony May 2021

Executive Director’s Remarks

Address to Graduates

Awards and Recognition

The Newcomb Fellows Program is a voluntary collegial association of faculty drawn from all undergraduate colleges of Tulane University. Newcomb Fellows support women’s leadership and gender equity, and participate in activities of the Newcomb Institute that foster faculty-student interaction and research.

Since 1994, an accomplished member of the Tulane faculty has been named Distinguished Newcomb Fellow. Newcomb Institute is proud to carry on this tradition, annually recognizing one Fellow who is judged to have made an extraordinary contribution to the Newcomb community.

Alyssa Lederer

We are honored to recognize Alyssa Lederer, PhD, MPH, MCHES, Assistant Professor and Program Director of the Health Education and Communication MPH Program, as this year’s Distinguished Newcomb Fellow.

Dr. Alyssa Lederer’s research focuses on improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health through the design and evaluation of health promotion interventions, and using multi-method approaches to examine the intersection between health education and behavior change. Dr. Lederer teaches courses in public health program design and public health pedagogy. She thoroughly enjoys mentoring students and engaging them in her research.

Dr. Lederer brings a wealth of expertise about health education and intervention, particularly as it pertains to sexual health, to her mentorship of undergraduates engaged with Newcomb Institute. Over the last five years, Dr. Lederer has supervised seven research assistants participating in our Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health internship program. These students have excelled under her tutelage, learning valuable research skills, co-authoring papers, and winning awards through their work on her research projects. Students consistently name their internship with her as the most important experience of their undergraduate career.

In addition, Dr. Lederer has collaborated with Professor Katie Johnson to conduct an evaluation of the impact of taking a Gender & Sexuality Studies course on students’ attitudes, beliefs, and willingness to engage in issues around sexual assault. Their findings give us concrete evidence to support our efforts to change the sexual behavior scripts at Tulane. Although she is just beginning her academic career, Dr. Lederer’s exceptional service significantly advances Newcomb Institute’s mission to educate students to achieve gender equity.

Each year, the Newcomb-sponsored chapter of the national honor society Mortar Board honors Tulane faculty with the Excellence in Teaching award.

Nicole M. Gasparini

Nicole M. Gasparini is an associate professor in the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane University. Her research explores how landscapes evolve over different spatial and temporal scales. She is originally from Buffalo, NY, and went to The University at Buffalo to earn Bachelor’s degrees in applied math and physical geography. Her service activities include mentoring scientists at all career stages, co-chairing the Terrestrial working group of Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS), advising the Tulane GeoLatinas Local Team and active involvement with the international GeoLatinas organization. Additionally, she serves as member of the advisory committees for HydroShare and OpenTopography, develops educational materials and trains scientists in the opensource Landlab modeling toolkit. She regularly organizes award nomination packets to increase recognition of underrepresented geoscientists.

Scott Nolan

Scott Nolan arrived at Tulane as an Adjunct Professor, was promoted to Visiting Professor, and was recently promoted again to Professor of Practice in the School of Liberal Arts. He worked full-time for 12 years at law firms specializing in complex civil litigation in New Orleans and Boston while earning his Bachelors, Masters, and PhD. His courses focus on American Politics and specifically courts, law, criminal justice, and the role of identities and sexuality in politics. He serves as faculty advisor for Tulane’s Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, faculty advisor for Tulane’s Mock Trial Club, a First Year Faculty Fellow, and spends significant time mentoring students across Tulane’s campus who are interested in legal careers and law school.

Mortar Board Class of 2021

Mortar Board is a national honor society recognizing college seniors for their exemplary scholarship, leadership and service. Congratulations to the Tulane Mortar Board Class of 2021:

Newcomb Senate serves as the liaison between the past and present Newcomb student body of Tulane University. The organization preserves Newcomb traditions as they support the current vision of the Newcomb Institute, while seeking to incorporate new traditions that promote strength and growth.

Every year Newcomb Senate selects a staff member to receive the Josephine Louise Award, for outstanding contributions benefitting the Newcomb student body.

Rachel Weber

Rachel Weber is the Assistant Director of New Student & Leadership Programs at Tulane University. She studied Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at the Ohio State University, and she earned her Master’s in Higher Education & Student Affairs from New York University. In addition to leading Team NSLP, during her time at Tulane, Rachel also served as the Resident Director of Josephine Louise Residence Hall, and has been an integral part of our campus’ multicultural affairs and LGBTQ student services.

The Newcomb Institute Awards recognize students who have demonstrated superior academic excellence, outstanding leadership, character, and integrity, and have created influential initiatives in university and community service.

View the Newcomb Institute Award Recipients.

Oak Wreath

Each year the Newcomb Institute recognizes members of the graduating class who have demonstrated excellence in scholarship, service, and leadership by designating them as members of Oak Wreath. Traditionally, members of Oak Wreath are honored at an end-of-year dinner, and they are asked to invite a faculty member who has had a profound impact on their time at Tulane to join them as a guest. While we are unable to host this dinner this year, we are delighted to be able to recognize these remarkable graduating students and the faculty members who contributed to their success.

Learn more about the Oak Wreath members.

Newcomb Institute Grant Recipients

Research, Conference, and Community Engagement Grant Recipients

Newcomb Institute administers a number of grant programs in support of research, conference attendance, and community engagement. Congratulations to our graduating grant recipients:

Newcomb Institute Interns

Newcomb Institute Class of 2021 Technology Initiatives Interns

Newcomb Institute’s Technology Initiatives promote feminist leadership in technology-centered communities through student programming and digital scholarship. Our paid Digital Research Interns and Information Technology Interns work on a team while learning valuable tech skills and building a digital portfolio. We also award grant funding to take a group of students to the Grace Hopper Celebration conference every fall.

Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health Interns

Newcomb Institute coordinates with local reproductive rights and reproductive health organizations in New Orleans to provide paid internships for undergraduates. Internship positions provide students with the opportunity to develop valuable skills, knowledge, and connections related to this field. Every year the RRRH interns present their research projects at our annual Conceiving Equity event.

Summer Internship Funding Recipients

The Newcomb Institute’s Summer Internship program provides opportunities for students to work with organizations across the nation focused on gender equity.

Newcomb Institute Student Workers

We thank and recognize our graduating student employees for their service to Newcomb Institute.

Student Organization Leadership

Newcomb Institute supports over twenty student organizations. Graduating students who have served in leadership roles in these organizations include:

Newcomb Scholars

Upon completing the program, the Newcomb Scholars present their research at the annual Scholars Symposium. Meet the Scholars and view this year’s Symposium which, like so many other end-of-year traditions, has moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of every school year, first-year Tulane students vie for a spot in the selective Newcomb Scholars Program, an academically rigorous, interdisciplinary learning experience focused on feminist leadership.

Newcomb College History

Harriott Sophie Newcomb and Josephine Louise Newcomb

Josephine Louise Newcomb founded the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College in 1886 in memory of her only daughter, Harriott Sophie Newcomb. Her gift to the Tulane University Board of Administrators created the first degree-granting college for women within a university in America.

The mission of the College evolved with political and societal events. During both World Wars, Newcomb women filled military roles abroad and support roles at home. During peacetime, the student body grew and became more diverse. The women’s movement encouraged Newcomb students to enroll in classes and pursue fields traditionally reserved for men.

Newcomb Institute began operating on July 1, 2006 to provide academic and leadership programs. Each year since its inception, the Institute has hosted speakers across academic disciplines and professions; presented events focusing on leadership, academics, and career preparedness; funded student research, faculty development, and community rebuilding initiatives, and upheld the traditions of the College through events such as Under the Oaks.

The Daisy Chain was part of Newcomb College commencement ceremonies since the College’s early days. The chains were made from clover, oleander, magnolia or daisies and were collected from campus gardens and neighbors’ yards. Later chains consisted of more than 1,000 daisies assembled by outstanding representatives of the junior class. Although daisy chains were once a frequent sight on women’s college campuses, the Newcomb Institute chain is one of the few remaining in the country.

The Commons, home of Newcomb Institute

Mission Statement

The H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College Institute shapes the future by educating students to achieve gender equity. It is our mission to develop leaders, discover solutions to the intractable gender problems of our time, and to provide opportunities for students through curricula, research, community engagement, and close collaboration with faculty.


The Newcomb pin is a longstanding tradition, carried forward from 1894 to commemorate the first Newcomb class pin.

The Newcomb Mortar Board decal—the blue “N”—is formed by three pillars representing past, present and future.

The two brown commencement robes normally seen on stage at the in-person ceremony are replicas of the robes made at the beginning of the 20th century and passed from class to class to be worn by the Class President and Class Speaker. The original robes were embroidered each year with the year of the graduating class beginning in 1910. They have been placed in the Newcomb Archives. Robes bearing the Newcomb crest that adorned the original gowns were made in 2001 and will continue to be passed from one graduating class to the next.

The Newcomb Leadership Commemorative Cord is a new way for our student leaders to remember their time at Tulane and involvement with Newcomb Institute. The threads of the cord weave together to bond each one into a stronger cord, symbolizing that we are strongest when we work together.

Traditions like the pin, the decal, our Daisy Chain, and the Brown Robes have bound together Newcomb Alumnae throughout the generations. Congratulations to the Class of 2021. Welcome to the Newcomb Alumnae Association.

Welcome to the Newcomb Alumnae Association

Newcomb College Alma Mater

The Newcomb College Alma Mater performed by Tulane University Ladies’ A Cappella (TULA)