A Profitable Partnership

TIDES service learning project

Tiffany Liu (BSM ’21) is one of 30 Freeman School TIDES students who worked with Upturn Arts campers last spring to create artworks for an auction fundraiser.

In the last eight years, Upturn Arts has grown from a two-week dance camp for kids into a thriving nonprofit that provides after-school, holiday and summer arts programming to over 1,300 children in New Orleans, many from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Founder Dana Reed is the driving force behind the organization’s success, but she shares the credit with an unlikely source: Tulane University undergraduate business students.

“We definitely wouldn’t be where we are without them,” Reed says. “They’ve supported us in every capacity you can think of, from bookkeeping to grant research to event planning.”

Reed is referring to the students in Professor of Practice Ashley Keller Nelson’s TIDES class, More Than Just Business, who for the last five years have partnered with the organization to provide thousands of service hours over the fall and spring semesters.

The TIDES program, short for Tulane Interdisciplinary Experience Seminars, is a series of small, interdisciplinary courses designed to engage first-year students with unique learning opportunities. In 2013, Nelson began working with Reed as a way to provide the honors students in her TIDES class with an inside look at running a small business.

“What attracted me was Dana’s willingness to let students take on meaningful projects,” Nelson says. “The students have opportunities to develop business skills while gaining experience they can add to their resumes.”

Instead of using the students in established roles, Reed encourages them to seek out projects that match their professional interests, whether those interests in are accounting, finance, strategic management or marketing.

“I think it’s important to focus on the strengths of the students and what they want to learn,” Reed says. “I think that’s made a huge difference in our outcomes.”

“Dana cares more about giving the students experience than benefiting from their work,” adds Grace Fuselier (BSM ’18), Upturn Arts’ program and events manager. “I think that’s something special, and that’s the key to why this relationship with the TIDES class works so well.”

Fuselier should know. After working on its fall fundraiser as a freshman in Nelson’s class, she did an academic service learning internship with Upturn Arts following her sophomore year to gain experience in event planning. At the beginning of her senior year, Reed hired Fuselier part time to coordinate the organization’s fundraisers. When she graduated in May, Reed offered her a full-time job.

Upturn Arts project

Upturn Arts student Will Pult shows off the artwork he created for a fundraising auction organized by Freeman School TIDES students.

One of the initiatives Fuselier helped oversee was a fundraising project organized entirely by the TIDES class: An auction featuring artworks created by Upturn Arts students. The Freeman students wrote a business plan for the proposal, pitched it to Reed to win her approval, led the workshop at which Upturn Arts students created the artworks, and then volunteered at the event to ensure everything ran smoothly. The auction, part of Upturn Arts’ spring fundraiser,
was a huge hit.

Since Nelson began working with Upturn Arts in 2013, the TIDES students have provided nearly 5,000 volunteer hours, representing over $115,000 in donated service. The 11 fundraisers the students have helped organize and staff have raised more than $195,000, enabling Upturn Arts to offer 828 scholarships and provide 33,120 hours of arts education for children.

While those numbers represent a huge impact for Upturn Arts, Reed says the TIDES students are equal beneficiaries.

“I’m overwhelmed by how excited the TIDES students get about our projects,” she says. “Coming into our space and working with our students makes it a much more personal experience for the Tulane students. I think they realize they’re doing more than just helping with a fundraiser. They’re making a difference, both for a small business and in the lives of some really wonderful kids.”

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