Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Urban Studies


College of Urban and Public Affairs

Major Professor

Lauria, Mickey

Second Advisor

Gladstone, David

Third Advisor

Miron, Louis

Fourth Advisor

Ward, Martha

Fifth Advisor

Whelan, Robert


This is an ethnographic study of urban education and community development in the city of New Orleans. In New Orleans, as in all American cities, the public schools are at the center of local politics and the policies that affect community life. Institutions of public education have come under fire for failing to prepare youth to compete in the global economy. This is particularly true in urban communities, where schools serve a higher proportion of students of color facing greater incidences of poverty, underemployment and economic distress. As education policymakers and business leaders look to improve education, many of the solutions put forth to reform schools focus on meeting state standards and instituting high stakes testing. A group of educators, community activists, artists, and young people in New Orleans have taken a different approach. By combining classroom learning with social action, the individual and collective empowerment of students serves as the focus of Students at the Center, a program designed by a writing teacher and his students, that operates within the public school system. Through community-based study on environmental, public health, neighborhood development issues, young people in the Students at the Center program begin to see the learning process, and the product of their education as tools for equitable social change through research, writing, youth media, and social action. This research examines the ways that taking part in community collaborations that emphasize local history, a sense of place, and the struggle for social justice affects students, teachers and residents as they strive to make education accountable to community concerns.


The University of New Orleans and its agents retain the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible this dissertation or thesis in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis or dissertation.