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Community rallies to help New Orleans area students

by Kenneth Best - September 12, 2005

The UConn community has welcomed 40 students from Connecticut who attend five New Orleans-area colleges and universities affected by Hurricane Katrina. Up to 15 more were expected to enroll by the end of the day on Friday. The students will be attending classes at Storrs, Stamford, Waterbury, and the School of Law.

UConn Helping Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts
The University is offering a variety of opportunities for aiding victims of the hurricane. A website is being maintained to provide information about all of these efforts. Go to the website.

Most of the students are undergraduates from Tulane University, but some are from the University of New Orleans, Xavier University, and other colleges and universities in the affected area. There are eight law students.

The students are being classified as visiting non-degree students and are enrolled through the College of Continuing Studies. Tuition-related fees are being waived as long as the students have paid their home institution fees, says Dolan Evanovich, vice provost for enrollment management.

“The special program creates a temporary home for these students so that they can continue their education uninterrupted,” Evanovich says. “The goal is to get them back to their home institutions in the spring semester.”

The UConn Co-op is loaning the students textbooks until the end of the fall semester, with the option of later purchasing the books or simply returning them at no charge. Required supplies for courses will be provided to the visiting students at a 25 percent discount, says Bill Simpson, president and general manager of the Co-op.

The visiting students will have full use of all UConn recreational facilities, including exercise equipment and swimming pools, as well as the opportunity to participate in intramural activities, says Neal Eskin, associate director of athletics.

“It’s been remarkable how agile and responsive so many diverse areas of the university have been in such a short a period of time to help these students,” says John Barry, director of university communications. “We first met on Thursday, put the critical elements of our program together on Friday, and then welcomed students on Tuesday.”

Lee Williams, dean of students, says “It’s gone incredibly smoothly. There’s a real spirit of cooperation and understanding of the immediacy of the problem. People have done what we’ve needed to do to get these students in with a minimum of hassle and maximum of support. Everyone’s focused on the welfare of the students.”

Steve Jarvi, assistant vice provost, says the visiting students were provided with academic advising in a manner similar to how all entering students are offered guidance, but with an eye toward finding the most appropriate match between UConn courses and those at other institutions. The advising sessions were held last Tuesday.

“The major issue was finding available seats and the appropriate courses,” Jarvi says. “Only one student had a transcript with them. We had juniors and seniors who knew exactly what they needed in a lab course. The freshmen and sophomores needed a bit more help. It was largely a case of making educated decisions about what would best serve the students.”

Jarvi says freshmen and sophomore students were understandably subdued and apprehensive through the early part of the process.

“But you could see it change as faculty accepted them into classes and residential life stepped in to get their housing settled,” he says. “They began to relax a bit. They’re still anxious because they’re in a new place. The juniors and seniors are not so worried, because they’ve been around a campus before.”

He encouraged the visiting students to return to his office with any questions or concerns during the remainder of the semester.

The School of Law has eight students from Tulane Law School, ranging from first-year students to third-year students, says Ellen Rutt, associate dean of the UConn law school. The school received more than 100 inquiries from students at Tulane and Loyola law schools.

“The faculty, staff, and students have cooperated wonderfully with these students by sharing notes and helping out,” Rutt says. “Many of them are picking up their books two minutes before class.”

Rutt notes that while most first-year law curricula vary according to particular institutions, UConn’s and Tulane’s first-year courses match exactly, which will allow the visiting students to stay on track. One student has the advantage of having taken law classes at UConn this summer.

She says upper-division law students from Tulane have enrolled in classes that match or closely match courses they were scheduled to take in New Orleans.

The University community’s efforts to help Katrina’s victims have been expanding each day, says Matt Farley, coordinator of UConn’s Office of Community Outreach. A goal of $75,000 in contributions has been set for the fall semester.

“There’s a lot of momentum, and over the next few days it will grow,” he says. “The drive is primarily financial, but is for materials as well. There are jars and mugs at dining services facilities, on the campus shuttle buses, and at the Student Union information center, where people are encouraged to contribute money. For donations of goods, the Student Union is the central collection point. People are also gathering items in their buildings and bringing them to the Student Union.”

The UConn Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, in conjunction with the Connecticut chapter of the American Red Cross, collected donations at the UConn-Liberty football game at Rentschler Field. Husky student-athletes, coaches, and staff from the Division of Athletics were posted at all entrances to the field.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked for donations of bottled water, non-perishable food and snacks, batteries, blankets, tarps, and tents.

Tulane University, one of the hardest hit, is led by Scott S. Cowen, a 1968 graduate of UConn’s School of Business. He has relocated to a hotel in Houston with other administrators to plan a return to Tulane’s main campus in New Orleans for the spring semester.

“I am particularly grateful for the outpouring of support that the Tulane community has received from my colleague presidents at colleges and universities throughout the country,” he says in a posting on the Tulane website.

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