Relief, Rebuild, Renew: Life after Katrina for Southwestern and Dillard University
It was Aug. 29, 2005. Just like any August, I started out in eager anticipation of a new semester and new classes. I anticipated meeting colleagues fresh from summer activities and gathering with excitement. Yet, we had only been in session one week when New Orleans was placed under its first mandatory citywide evacuation as Hurricane Katrina neared the coast.
Fast forward to three weeks after the storm. Property lost, family members separated, houses under water, nonexistent communications. Cell phones were inoperable, there was no access to e-mail and, in many cases, no access to television. Like everyone, I was concerned about family, food, lodging (both immediate and future), clothing and my students. Despite destroyed campuses, scattered students and furloughed faculty, we had to move forward.
In the midst of this tragedy, Southwestern University offered us relief to help rebuild in any way that Dillard University deemed necessary. Dillard accepted the offer by engaging faculty to spend three weeks in professional development in Georgetown, Texas. For me, personally, it marked a move toward the beginning of a sense of normalcy.
Southwestern facilitated sessions that engaged faculty from both institutions as a team to retool courses through increased utilization of technology. The time, expertise, technology and professional development served as a mechanism for recreating lost coursework, destroyed texts, materials, computers and other technologies. Enhanced Web pages, chat rooms, online conferences, enhanced electronic portfolios and video streaming are just a few of the sessions features that we now incorporate in our classrooms.
One thing is certain, and that is that wisdom, knowledge and appreciation are important by-products of adversity. I believe that the Relief, Rebuild and Renew motto that now propels post-Katrina New Orleans is one that bridges a new purpose for Southwestern and Dillard. Dillard University is forever grateful for the kindness of great colleagues, and we will certainly be there for Southwestern University.
Ramona Jean-Perkins is an assistant professor of education in the Division of Educational and Psychological Studies at Dillard University. She also serves as coordinator of university collaborations for Dillard.