Area colleges raise awareness for sexual violence with campaign

Five universities throughout the New Orleans area are collaborating this week for the annual Take Back the Night campaign to raise awareness about rape and other forms of sexual violence on college campuses.

On Monday, the University of New Orleans will host a kickoff concert at the school’s outdoor amphitheater from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The concert will feature the UNO Jazz All-Stars.

On Tuesday, Dillard University will host a free spoken word and poetry slam in the university library from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Students from UNO, Dillard, Loyola University, Tulane University and Xavier University will share personal pieces written to raise awareness about sexual assault.

On Wednesday, Loyola will host its annual candlelight vigil starting at 6 p.m. The ceremony will start on the Marquette lawn and travel to the Tulane campus, where survivors will share their stories.

“I am really touched by the amount of support coming from people for Take Back the Night. You can tell it’s something that people really care about, and it’s really great for survivors because they get to see that they are not alone,” said Loyola’s Alison Cofrancesco, the Take Back the Night coordinator and a university staff counselor.

Philanthropist, real estate executive to get honorary Ph.D.

The University of New Orleans will award an honorary doctorate to real estate executive and philanthropist Robert Merrick.

Merrick is the chairman and CEO of Latter & Blum Inc., the largest full-service real estate brokerage in the Gulf South. Although not a graduate of the school, he has been a longtime supporter and has served as a member of the UNO Foundation board of directors.

In September, his company donated $100,000 to UNO. Half of the gift went to the newly created graduate certificate programs in coastal sciences and engineering, and the other half went to scholarships.

“Bob Merrick is a true real estate visionary and one of our region’s great humanitarians,” said UNO President Peter J. Fos. “As a lifelong New Orleanian, he also cares deeply about his community and has given generously to numerous causes, including public higher education, throughout his career.”

Earlier this year, Merrick gave $1 million to the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, the largest single donation from an individual in the organization’s history.

He will be honored during UNO’s fall commencement on Dec. 18.

UNO launches new online master’s program in hospitality

The University of New Orleans has launched a new online master’s degree program in hospitality and tourism management. Students can enroll now for classes, which will begin in the spring.

The online program was built following the success of the on-campus Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration, according to John Williams, director of the Kabacoff School and dean of the College of Business Administration.

“The program was created because of the great demand from hospitality industry workers who do not have the freedom to relocate in order to earn a master’s degree,” Williams said. “It allows students to keep working full time while obtaining their degree.”

The online curriculum will be the same as the on-campus hospitality master’s program. Students can complete the 30 credits in one year by taking courses in the spring, summer and fall semesters.

According to Williams, the existing master’s degree program has placed 100 percent of its students in jobs during its 11 years of existence.

For information or to enroll in the program, visit

Xavier president to be honored with award at law symposium

Norman Francis, president of Xavier University of New Orleans, will be honored this week during the 25th annual National Bar Association Wiley A. Branton Award and Issues Symposium.

Hosted by the Southern University Law Center, the symposium will be held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Francis will be honored during a noon luncheon Friday at the Cotillion Ballroom of the Southern Student Union. He will be given the Wiley A. Branton Award.

American Bar Association President-elect Paulette Brown will open the symposium, “Education: the New Civil Right,” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. She will be the first woman of color to serve as ABA president when her one-year term begins in August.