By Lauren Wethers (LA ’15, *16)

In less challenging years, it is common to see a line of students every Friday waiting to hear from Newcomb’s speaker of the week in between classes. Fridays at Newcomb, a weekly lunch lecture series featuring speakers from across disciplines, offers both a meal and an interesting topic delivered by either a Tulane professor, visiting faculty member, or a local New Orleans leader.

Like so many other campus traditions, this one has had to look different over the past year and a half. Rather than gathering in person, audience members joined a Zoom webinar from the comfort of their homes. The topics, however, remained just as engaging.

One standout event was the 2021 Custard Lecture, funded by Marla Custard (NC ’91), featuring Tulane professors, Drs. Katherine Johnson and Alyssa Lederer. Dr. Johnson earned a dual degree PhD in Sociology and Demography from Pennsylvania State University, while Dr. Lederer received her PhD in Health Behavior from the Indiana University Bloomington School of Public Health. Their talk, entitled “Can a curricular intervention reduce sexual violence among college students? A multi-method evaluation of Tulane’s GESS 1900: Sex, Power, and Culture” discussed the results of their collaborative study. Together they evaluated the impact of an entry-level gender and sexuality studies course on students’ beliefs and attitudes regarding sexual assault, as well as how likely they were to actively engage in issues surrounding sexual assault when the opportunity arose. The study found that the course led students to have significantly lower heteronormative attitudes and beliefs and a greater awareness of campus resources related to sexual violence.

The talk provided the opportunity to not only showcase the work of two outstanding Tulane professors, but students as well. Several students participating in the Newcomb Reproductive Rights & Reproductive Health Internship program have contributed to the work of Johnson and Lederer, assisting with developing and refining the survey administered to students.