History

The Payson Center was founded in 1998 by Drs. William E. Bertrand and Eamon Kelly to research the role of information communication technologies in sustainable human development. Business executive and Tulane Board Member Martin Payson provided seed money to support the first few years of the Center's operations, and additional startup capital was secured through a disaster management and humanitarian assistance contract with the US Southern Defense Command. Since its inception, the Center has administered 59 projects in 25 countries, with a combined project budget of over $83 million.

The Center’s mission is deeply rooted in the belief that sustainable human development involves improving the quality of people's lives by expanding their ability to shape their own futures. While this generally calls for higher per-capita income via economic growth and development, it requires much more. Achieving sustainable human development often requires more equitable education and job opportunities, greater gender equality, better health and nutrition, a cleaner and more sustainable natural environment, more impartial judicial and legal systems, and broader civil and political freedoms.

We approach sustainable human development as a field of inquiry built on the constant interaction between theory, innovation, research, implementation and evaluation. For nearly two decades, Tulane's international commitment has been a principal focus of former university president Dr. Eamon Kelly and university vice-president Dr. William E. Bertrand. This focus continues through the establishment of the Payson Center. Dr. Kelly is the former Executive Director of the Payson Center and served as a former Chairman of the Board of the National Science Foundation. Dr. Bertrand is the former Director of the Payson Center and served on the Infectious Disease Advisory Board of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Drs. Kelly and Bertrand are both full professors and hold endowed chairs at the University. Their extensive experience has confirmed for Drs. Kelly and Bertrand the importance of scientific advancements and the technological tools they generate as the driving force behind globalization.

In July 2010, Professor Colin Crawford joined Tulane University as the new Executive Director of the Payson Center. Professor Crawford has significant expertise in international development. Early in his professional career, he worked in Tokyo and New York, concentrating in environmental and land use law. While at Georgia State, Professor Crawford co-directed the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth and was the founder and director of the Summer Legal Study Program in Rio de Janeiro. His teaching and research interests are in the environmental area, particularly comparative, cross-cultural environmental justice issues, with a particular focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. Professor Crawford’s appointment will further integrate the Payson Center into the Law School and will both enlarge and enrich the academic and co-curricular opportunities available to Tulane students.

With new technologies guiding the development field, the future economic survival of peoples and nations will depend upon the number of individuals equipped with the skills and competencies necessary for furthering social and economic development. The leadership of the Payson Center is committed to the belief that scientific and technological advancements are important to developing as well as developed countries and that new technologies may in fact have greater immediate significance for developing countries.

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