An innovative website promotes higher education in Southeast Louisiana

When people around the world think about New Orleans, they likely imagine Mardi Gras parades, spicy Creole food, jazz music, and other cultural characteristics that have made the city famous. Unfortunately, higher education—and New Orleans as a place to learn rather than to party—lies much further down the list for most folks.

But Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) and its partner organizations—such as Louisiana Economic Development (LED) and the Louisiana Board of Regents—are hoping to alter misconceptions with a new online tool that accurately presents southeast Louisiana as a region rich with academic opportunities. 

This past March, the nonprofit launched StudyNOLA—a website that compiles the 13 universities and colleges housed throughout southeast Louisiana. Like GNO, Inc.’s talent attraction site DestinationGNO, StudyNOLA proves that New Orleans is not simply a place for entertainment.

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“We are a metro, of only a few other metros in the nation, that has a high concentration of higher education institutes per capita,” says Josh Tatum, who supervises GNO, Inc.’s workforce development program. He cites Pittsburg, Atlanta and Boston as other examples of areas with abundant higher-ed offerings.

“Our goal with StudyNOLA and workforce development initiatives is to figure out ways to market, brand, and build capacity in our region to create strong workforce pipelines that are attracting new businesses, but also retaining existing businesses and indutries,” says Tatum. “StudyNOLA builds our ability to attract businesses, but it also illustrates the diversity of educational opportunities that one can take advantage of here in the region.”

Tatum notes that those diverse educational institutions include everything from law schools, architecture schools and medical and dental schools to two- to four-year private and public colleges and HBCUs. In addition, three MBA programs are housed in the region.

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Tatum and his team researched what states such as Texas and Colorado were doing to attract both international and domestic students, and used their findings to develop the concept of StudyNOLA. GNO, Inc. hired Development Counsellors International (DCI) to design the site, since this firm specializes in economic development websites and tourism marketing.

“What you will find is a one-stop-shop hub that has information about all the schools here in the region,” says Tatum, citing StudyNOLA’s direct appeal to international students. “There has been a huge international student population here in New Orleans. And so this site is meant to provide resources for those students that are looking to come study here, both international and domestic.”

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StudyNOLA connects prospective students to consulates, offers information on New Orleans by beautifully illustrating the local culture and provides clear guidance on what to do if there is an emergency—such as a hurricane. Site visitors can embark on virtual tours of neighborhoods and calculate the cost of living in the city. 

There is also a section featuring Q&As with student ambassadors. The students note their backgrounds, describe their academic journeys and aspirations, and share a glimpse of what it’s like to study in New Orleans.

When it comes to selecting a college or university, prospective students can take a quiz to see which school suits them best and, if they are curious about post-college opportunities in Greater New Orleans, can examine internship and professional opportunities. By using the “Your Career Path” tool, they will encounter links that lead them to job sites and an interactive map of regional businesses.


“You can go through the quiz and, say you’re looking for a small school in a rural area or a big school in a suburban area, there’s something out there for everybody,” says Tatum. To that end, he says students around the world may not even realize certain schools exist in southeast Louisiana. 

Susana Schowen, the director of Workforce Initiatives for LED FastStart, agrees that it is necessary to share this knowledge with the uninitiated for a multitude of reasons. 

“I think the idea of promoting New Orleans as a center of intellectual excellence, as a place where people can thrive and find a good quality of life while they are studying—and then find high-quality employment opportunities and the place that they would like to raise children—is a huge asset to all of our people here,” says Schowen. 

That focus is central to her own work, as LED FastStart is a state workforce training program that provides free employee recruitment, screening and training development and delivery for new or expanding companies.

Schowen says Louisiana has a limited number of people who are highly skilled in fields like advanced manufacturing, IT cyber security, and healthcare, but she notes that this is a problem on a global scale. 

“We handle that problem in two ways: in the short term, we recruit highly skilled mid-career professionals to move to Louisiana for jobs,” says Schowen. “Second, we grow our own talent pool through our colleges and universities.”

Not only does recruiting talented students help the local economy, it opens up opportunities for all Louisiana students, she says.


“We do believe very strongly in the power of diversity, so bringing in people from a wide variety of backgrounds will simply make them part of a stronger workforce and will contribute to innovation and excellence in the New Orleans region,” Schowen says.

Once students are sold on the idea of Greater New Orleans as the right location for their education, regional schools provide the training sought by Louisiana industries.

“The skills of the future are about thriving in highly dynamic environments and highlighting a place that has traditional academic and intellectual excellence—but also universities that understand they are moving into the future,” says Schowen. “Potential industry partners are ready to work with them. And that’s a very powerful message to our young people who are considering studying here: there are jobs here, and deep engagements, and they can be confident that their skills will be relevant to what’s needed in the future.”

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Both GNO, Inc. and LED FastStart are further aided by the Board of Regents, a state agency that fosters talent by promoting high-quality, affordable postsecondary education for all. One of their goals is to ensure that 60-percent of all working-age adults (ages 25 through 64) throughout the state hold a degree, or a high-value credential, by 2030. 

“We consider ourselves advocates for opportunity,” says Kim Hunter Reed, Louisiana’s Commissioner of Higher Education. “It is our job to talk about the power of education, and to advocate for talent development across the state—not as a higher education initiative, but as a state initiative.”

In 2021, Reed successfully led efforts to secure additional state funding of more than $100 million, the largest strategic investment in Louisiana higher education that the state has seen in more than a decade.

“When we think about education to employment, there are two sides of the same coin—that coin being opportunity,” says Reed. “We can’t really think about a vibrant region, vibrant communities and strong families without thinking about those credentials that allow people to have social mobility, and that allow people to reach their unlimited potential. And so the higher education experience is foundational to a strong region and a strong state.”

Reed is a fan of the StudyNOLA initiative and hopes students explore the site and consider the academic opportunities available to them.

“We have adults; we have veterans; we have foster youth,” Reed says. “We have a full range of individuals who are enrolling in our colleges and universities, and we want students to know there is a place for them in these institutions, and we look forward to serving them well.”

As Tatum, Schowen and Reed suggested, the entire Southeast Louisiana region will benefit from StudyNOLA’s success, since the schools promoted on the site attract the talent necessary to strengthen the workforce and economy.

But, as Tatum points out, StudyNOLA also shows what the region offers beyond the typical clichés and tourist attractions.

“We are more than just Bourbon Street. We are more than just the French Quarter and swamp tours,” says Tatum. “You can come here and study at some of the most renowned institutions and gain jobs that range from technology and healthcare to environmental management, and much more. I would say the site hits so many opportunities and goals that we are trying to achieve through economic development.”

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