December 09, 2008

Part of the Katrina Recovery Team on site in January 2006.

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LEWISBURG, Pa. – A team of 18 Bucknell University students and the provost will travel to Louisiana in early January to help rebuild an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They will join Habitat for Humanity volunteers for a week in St. Bernard Parish, an area southeast of New Orleans.

Their goals are twofold: They want to help families move from trailers back to their homes as soon as possible, and they hope to better understand the complex human and environmental issues related to the hurricane and its aftermath.

Students will be able meet local residents and volunteers and explore the New Orleans area. “We’ll work from early in the morning until about 3 p.m.,” says student leader Dan Ryan, Class of ’09. “There will be time to experience and appreciate the rich culture of New Orleans. We will also have time to reflect on what we experience.”

Sharing story
The team will also visit with Bucknell student Jordan White, Class of ’11, and her family. White, her mother and brother evacuated their home in 2005, while her father, a cardiologist, stayed behind to care for his patients. The White family will share their story with the delegation.

This is the sixth Katrina recovery trip by Bucknell.

The students prepared for the trip by participating in a Sunday-evening series of educational sessions in November. As part of this “mini-curriculum,” they learned about some of the many facets of Katrina, including:

  • Mental health: University Provost Mick Smyer led a discussion on trends in mental health and aging before and after Katrina. Smyer and his wife, Pat Piper, will join the team in their rebuilding efforts.
  • Geography: Ben Marsh, professor of geography and environmental studies, described how the natural and man-made environment influenced the impact of the storm.
  • Diaspora, housing, health, education and levees: Students researched these aspects of the storm and brought their ideas to a group discussion.
  • Construction: Dennis Hawley, associate vice president for Facilities, showed students how to use some of the tools they will need for their work.

Hawley and four other University staff members will mentor students during the trip.

Organized and sponsored by the Office of Service-Learning, the project is one of many activities designed to educate students by providing opportunities to serve communities in need. Other service learning projects include the Bucknell Brigade to Nicaragua, alternative spring break trips, tutoring in local schools and international opportunities.

Understanding better
Ryan describes the benefits of service learning like this: “It gives students an organized way to put energy toward community service. At the same time, it provides a way to look inward and understand the situation better.”

In 2007, Washington Monthly ranked Bucknell as the seventh best liberal arts college in the country. The ranking was based heavily on the school’s success in fostering research and promoting an ethic of service and social mobility.

Contact: Division of Communications