News & Events

Displaced by Katrina, Visiting Students Find Support, Opportunities at UI

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the University of Iowa mobilized efforts to ensure that the education of students from the Gulf Coast would not be interrupted by the storm. As a result, 24 displaced students (13 undergraduate and 11 graduate or professional) are now enrolled at the UI, where they are attending classes, studying, getting to know their peers, and processing the events that brought them here.

"Immediately following the hurricane, we joined other universities across the country in considering the academic issues involved," said Executive Vice President and Provost Michael J. Hogan, who at President David Skorton's request has coordinated the campus response to the hurricane. "We worked to create the academic infrastructure to support as many displaced students as we could, for as long as it takes until their home institutions are able to re-open."

Many UI units, colleges, departments, and programs have joined in the effort—including everything from providing financial aid and housing assistance to connecting students with advisers and other UI students to help welcome them to the UI community.

"Every department I've contacted has had full triage services in place," said Pat Folsom, director of academic advising. "They're getting students into classes, arranging for them to get notes, tutoring, hooking them up with student organizations and peer mentors. It's made me very proud of this university."

The unusual circumstances have brought to light the collaborative and flexible nature of the entire UI community. "I am impressed with how well and quickly we were able to move," said Hogan. "Within 48 hours, The University of Iowa had plans in place and had reached out to students to make arrangements for continuing their education at Iowa."

The Graduate College and the Colleges of Business, Engineering, Law, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Public Health have enrolled displaced students from Dillard, Loyola, Tulane, and Xavier Universities, Louisiana State University (Health Sciences Campus in New Orleans), Southern University of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans.

"The University has relied heavily on high-level partnerships that existed pre-Katrina," Hogan continued. "We have been able to work closely with affected institutions along the Gulf Coast, federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and its Alliance for Graduate Education and Professoriate (AGEP), professional associations such as the American Association of Universities and the Association of American Medical Colleges, and our local Iowa City area community to make the necessary arrangements for the students."

Lisa Troyer, professor of sociology and administrative fellow in the Office of the Provost, has been working closely with various UI units in their efforts to accommodate displaced students. "These are bright scholars," she says. "The University of Iowa is pleased to be one of many universities and colleges across the country that are stepping up to play a critical role in helping these students continue their educational progress, while their home institutions rebuild."

The Office of the Provost also reports that in exchange for federal funding, some of the students will spend up to 100 hours each teaching and mentoring in the Iowa City Community School District this fall.

"It's a win-win situation. These students can continue their academic progress, while the UI and the Iowa City community benefit from their presence and skills," said Marian Coleman, equity director for the school district. Coleman learned of the arrangement at a meeting with 10 displaced students who came to Iowa through the UI Office of Graduate Ethnic Inclusion. "The school district is so pleased. These students will make a tremendous and positive difference as mentors."

Educational and mentoring connections are, in fact, what brought many of the displaced students to Iowa. Some had expressed interest in attending the UI to pursue graduate degrees prior to being displaced by the storm, and most made the decision to come to Iowa because of previous mentoring partnerships with UI faculty or alumni.

Further information about the UI response to Hurricane Katrina is available online.

UI faculty, staff, and students can contribute to the Hurricane Katrina Academic Relief Fund established by the Office of the Provost to assist UI efforts. Contributions should designate the Hurricane Katrina Academic Relief Fund and be sent to Grants & Gifts Accounting, B5 Jessup Hall, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.


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