Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Building Communities at Dillard in the Post-Katrina Era

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Building Communities at Dillard in the Post-Katrina Era

Article excerpt

When I saw that huge mass of clouds from hurricane Katrina on a crash course for New Orleans, I had my doubts as to whether the city, let alone Dillard University, would survive a direct hit. The impact of Katrina was potent enough to devastate our facilities and cause more than $300 million worth of damage to the university. Our new president, Dr. Marvalene Hughes, immediately went to work absolving all uncertainty about the university's survival. In her words, "Dillard will be back bigger and better than ever"

We knew we would not return to campus for the 2005-2006 school year. Ultimately, a decision was made to form an alliance with the Riverside Hilton Hotel in New Orleans. The second floor of the Hilton was converted into 20 classrooms, while additional classes were held in the nearby World Trade Center of New Orleans. Today, courses that require labs or other accommodations are held at consortium institutions. To support students' academic needs, the university maintains academic advising services, a writing center, a tutorial center and a computer lab. Additionally, two accelerated 13-week sessions are being held to keep students on track academically.

Five hundred of the Hilton's 1,616 rooms are occupied by our students and staff, including the provost, the chief of staff and the vice president of campus life. We are thankful that we have been able to maintain the cost of tuition and boarding, which amounts to $21,000 a year for an on-campus student.

Just as the hurricane changed our rives forever, so has this unique living and learning environment between faculty, staff and students. This experience has certainly helped us re-evaluate what it means to live in a community. We live on some of the same floors, work in the same academic environment, take meals together and attend social functions at the hotel. Many institutions build multimillion-dollar facilities to create the kind of living and learning environment we have developed.

Immediately following the hurricane, Dillard formed alliances with a number of host institutions throughout the nation, including Morehouse College, Howard University, Louisiana State University and Paul Quinn College. These host institutions agreed to admit out students for up to one year, with the understanding that our students would return once our campus was reopened. …

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