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Columbia Now Home to Over 200 Students Displaced from Gulf Region

New York, N.Y. September 28 - Over 200 students displaced from Gulf region universities are now enrolled at Columbia University, taking classes as visiting students in everything from organic chemistry to English literature to social psychology. They come from a variety of institutions, including Tulane University, Loyola University and the University of New Orleans, and hail from states as far away as Texas, Nevada and California. The visiting students are taking courses at Columbia for credit, which they can transfer to their home institutions.

Although most of the students are undergraduates, at least 66 are enrolled in one of Columbia's graduate schools, including in the School of Arts and Sciences (18); the Law School (6); the Graduate School of Business (5), the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (4) and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science [SEAS] (1). In addition, the Mailman School of Public Health has admitted 23 graduate students and by special arrangement, the College of Physician & Surgeons has accepted four third- and fourth-year medical students from Tulane for their ten-week clinical rotation. Teachers College, an affiliate of Columbia, has admitted four visiting graduate students.

A total of 139 undergraduates have entered the University, primarily through the School of Continuing Education, where, like other visiting students, they are taking classes with regularly enrolled students in Columbia College, Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science [SEAS], and the School of General Studies.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger addressed the visiting undergraduate students and their families personally at a special orientation earlier this month. "It means a tremendous amount to all of us that you are here and we would invite you in every way to participate in the life of Columbia," Bollinger said. "I think you'll love this place," he added.

In addition to welcoming students, Columbia has accepted eight displaced scholars and academic researchers from Gulf region colleges, many of them Columbia alumni. The University has connected them with its academic departments and a faculty sponsor in their fields to help them continue their research. The scholars' disciplines span a wide range of studies, including English, architecture, earth sciences, law and political science, to name just a few.

Swift, Coordinated Action

As news and images of the devastation in the Gulf States emerged, Columbia acted quickly to convey its sorrow and act compassionately and effectively. Deans, faculty, administrators and staff support teams collaborated to create a smooth, seamless process for enrolling the displaced students. Faculty, staff and students organized other hurricane relief efforts, such as volunteer support and fundraising.

The University admitted these students in record time, waiving tuition, extending registration deadlines, offering academic and psychological counseling and extending the full range of student services, including temporary housing assistance and health services.

Third- and fourth-year medical students who arrived without stethoscopes, lap tops, scrubs or white lab coats found all that and more waiting for them at their orientation last Friday, including care packages of bed linens and school supplies.

In response to a questionnaire, 30 faculty and staff of the Mailman School of Public Health offered rooms in their homes and already five students have been placed in homes.

Other ongoing Columbia efforts to assist the Gulf region:

At the same time as the University was admitting students and accepting scholars, Columbia began in a series of ongoing efforts to raise funds and provide expertise to the region. Below are a few highlights of these efforts:

  • Fundraising: The University established a relief fund for families of Columbia members adversely affected by the hurricane. Students arriving for the fall semester immediately organized a memorial concert and a campaign, "CU Relief," to encourage students to donate the money they would spend on a Friday night out in New York City to the relief effort. To date, Columbia students have raised over $400, and additional fundraising events are planned.
  • Urgent Medical Care: "Operation Assist" is bringing urgent medical care, post-disaster services and advanced public health testing to the areas most devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Led by Irwin Redlener, MD, associate dean and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH), Operation Assist is a unique collaboration with Children's Health Fund (CHF). Two of CHF's Mobile Medical Units (MMU) and teams of medical providers were deployed to the hardest hit areas of Mississippi and Louisiana . MSPH is conducting on-site assessments and initial projects will include state-of-the-art mobile field laboratories: one for assessing toxic hazards in the environment; the other capable of advanced, rapid detection of infectious agents among patients being seen by the clinical teams.
  • Mental Health for Children: Neil Boothby, EdD, director of the Program on Forced Migration at the Mailman School has been asked by officials from both Mississippi and Louisiana to coordinate mental health efforts for children in the affected areas.
  • Nurse Volunteers: The School of Nursing's Center for Health Policy (CHP) is assisting national efforts to coordinate nursing volunteers in the Gulf region. Four Columbia nursing volunteers from CHP are now providing ongoing assistance in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Provost Alan Brinkley summed up the sentiment behind Columbia's diverse efforts in a letter to the Columbia community, noting, "All of us in New York were the recipients of the enormous generosity of people across the nation and the world after September 11, 2001, and I know that we will all do our best to reciprocate by helping those affected by the disaster along the Gulf."

Related Links

Student Benefit Concert

CU Relief -- Columbia University Students United to Provide Hurricane Relief

Mailman School's 'Operation Assist' Provides Emergency Medical Services in Gulf Region

Dean Fischbach Outlines Efforts by Medical Center Schools, Faculty, Students, Sept. 6

Provost Brinkley Details Relief Fund for CU Families and Aid for Displaced Students, Scholars, Sept. 2

Columbia Offers Educational Resources to Dislocated Students, Scholars, Sept. 2

Update on Columbia Relief Efforts for Katrina Victims, September 20, 2005

Published: Sep 02, 2005
Last modified: Sep 28, 2005

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