Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) was founded as a branch unit of Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical College in Baton Rouge (SUBR) by ACT 28 of the Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature on 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 15. The University offered 10 courses in four academic disciplines: Humanities, Science, Social Science and Commerce.
Expansion and Change
Over the years, several events have affected SUNO’s direction. In January 1964, Virginia Cox Welch, a white high school teacher, filed a lawsuit in federal court 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 Historically Black College and University (HCBU) system in the world.
On the heels of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, all 11 of SUNO’s buildings were inundated with water. The University operated on the SUBR campus during the 2005 fall semester, and returned to New Orleans February 14, 2006. Despite projections that only 1,200 to 1,500 of the 3,600 students enrolled before the storm would return, more than 2,100 came back to continue their education on the new Lake Campus in trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
With enrollment climbing faster than any other four-year institution, SUNO not only moved back to its original location, known as the Park Campus, in the winter of 2008, but it also experienced unprecedented growth.
The University built its first-ever student housing complex, an Information Technology Center and a new College of Business & Public Administration building on the Lake Campus. It also began to renovate the University Center, Library and the first floor of the Bashful Administration Building. The renovations were complete in Fall 2014. The last of the FEMA trailers was hauled off the Lake Campus June 2, 2014. On January, 13, 2014, the University broke ground on the Small Business Incubator Center, which officially opened June 3, 2015
Rising in Triumph: New Construction Enhances Historic Campus
In November 2015, the University broke ground on the Millie M. Charles School of Social Work Building, the first of four buildings to be constructed with an $82 million disaster recovery grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In 2017, the University broke ground on the Natural Sciences Building and the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Building. Completed in December 2017, the new Millie M. Charles School of Social Work Building was dedicated Jan. 14, 2018. A new Education Building also is slated for construction.
The construction of these four buildings bodes well for SUNO's long-term future, and will greatly aid the University's mission of providing higher education opportunities to students in this city, state and beyond.