Southern University at New Orleans was founded as a branch unit of Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical College (Southern University) in Baton Rouge by Act 28 of the Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature of September 4, 1956. On September 21, 1959 SUNO opened its doors on a 17-acre site located in historic Pontchartrain Park, a subdivision of primarily African American single-family residences in eastern New Orleans.
Established as an open community of learners, classes began with 158 freshmen, one building and a motivated faculty of fifteen. The University offered ten courses in four academic disciplines, including Humanities, Science, Social Science and Commerce.
Expansion and Change
Over the years several events have affected the direction of SUNO. One occurred on November 8, 1960. It was then that the Louisiana Legislature adopted Amendment 26. This act prescribed that SUNO should remain an extension of Southern University, thereby precluding any impending status of autonomy for SUNO.
In January 1964, Virginia Cox Welch, a white high school teacher, filed a lawsuit in federal cout against the Louisiana State Board of Education. The litigation, Civil Action No. 14217, resulted in the opening of the University to all individuals regardless of race or color.
In 1975, by virtue of Article 8, Section 7 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, management of SUNO was transferred from the Louisiana State Board of Education to the newly-created Board of Supervisors of Southern University. The new constitution also designated SUNO as a campus of the Southern University System creating parity with the other Southern campuses. To this date, the Southern University System is the only HBCU university system in the world.
On the heels of the 2005 tragedies of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, all eleven of SUNO’s buildings were inundated with water. With a pre-Katrina enrollment that exceeded 3,600 students, almost half of those students returned home to continue their education at SUNO on the Lake Campus (then known as the North Campus) at 6801 Press Drive in buildings supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Having operated on the sister campus in Baton Rouge during the fall 2005 semester, SUNO returned to New Orleans on February 14, 2006. Another casualty of the storms was the loss of 21 academic programs.
Despite projections that SUNO would welcome only between 1,200 and 1,500 students, more than 2,100 returned home to continue their studies. With enrollment climbing faster than any other Louisiana four-year institution, SUNO not only began its move back to 6400 Press Drive but the University also experienced unprecedented growth. Despite the loss of academic programs, the University began programs that fit into the New Orleans rebuilding process. The University added such academic programs as Public Administration, Child Development & Family Studies, alternate teaching certifications, and Business Entrepreneurship, displaying a solid commitment to a rebuilding New Orleans area. The University also entered into a collaborative 2+2 agreement with Delgado Community College so that their graduates would experience a seamless transition to the four-year level in selected academic programs.
The University returned to the Park Campus in the winter of 2008, as development began on the Lake Campus. SUNO broke ground for its first-ever student housing facility which opened its doors to student and faculty in January of 2010. In Fall 2010, the University opened its Information Technology Center, as the enrollment topped 3,100 students for the first time since Katrina. In the spring of 2010, the University broke ground for its College of Business and Public Administration building, which opened its doors in Fall 2011 when more than 3,300 students filled SUNO classrooms.
Post-Katrina SUNO has not come without external challenges. In January of 2011, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced plans to merge the University with neighboring University of New Orleans (UNO). The plan, which was drafted as legislation, failed during the 2011 Louisiana Legislative Session. At the legislature’s urging, SUNO has begun plans to enhance its collaborative relationships with UNO and Delgado.
Southern University at New Orleans actively recruits qualified students without regard to race, color, origin, religion, sex, age or disability.