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“Universities and Disasters: A Katrina Case Study” to Develop “How-To” Guide for “Next Time”
April 28, 2009, Volume 55, No. 31

The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) is hosting “Universities and Disasters: A Katrina Case Study,” a discussion group, April 29-May 1.

This multi-faceted effort to create an all-inclusive “how to” guide includes participation by other institutions, such as the University of Southern Mississippi, Southern University at New Orleans and the University of Memphis, as well as non-profit organizations: the Salvation Army, the Mississippi State Department of Health, the Bucks-Mont Katrina Relief Project and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The group will create a “how-to” guide to direct institutions of higher education on how they can be of most help to a community in need when a monumental disaster strikes. It is an interdisciplinary effort across multiple schools within the University of Pennsylvania, including Social Policy & Practice and the schools of Engineering and Applied Science, Arts and Sciences, Design, Nursing and Dental Medicine.

“This is something that we’ve been working on for the past three years through our Feldman Initiative, the Penn in the Gulf project, and with John DiIulio, the head of the Fox Leadership in New Orleans program,” said Dr. Richard Gelles, SP2 Dean. “The University has sent more than 1,000 students to the Gulf Coast to assist in the post-Katrina recovery efforts—everything from building houses to reconnecting residents with essential social services.”

Participants will present their research-based papers, receive suggestions and prepare chapters for a book that university leaders can use to respond after a disaster. Topics will include the immediate response, such as food, clothing and shelter; the initial response when coping with the dislocation of people and systems; the health-care response; the politics of helping, engaging the local authorities; and what happens “next time.” The guide to post-disaster recovery efforts will be published by Penn Press in the late fall.


Almanac - April 28, 2009, Volume 55, No. 31