September 02, 2005

Gulf Coast students look to SIUC for help

by Paula Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- At least three undergraduate students from hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast universities have already taken Southern Illinois University Carbondale up on its offer, announced earlier today (Sept. 2), to continue their studies — uninterrupted — on its campus.

Meanwhile, the University's two admissions offices on Friday fielded inquires from 16 more potential students who'd been enrolled in deep South universities devastated earlier this week by the storm and subsequent flooding.

"We're so happy to be able to provide some kind of relief to these students. With each passing moment, the situation in the hurricane-ravaged states grows more horrific. To be able to provide some calm and sense of normalcy even for a few at this moment is very important," said Carla E. Coppi, associate director of the SIUC office of International Students and Scholars.

Administrators say so far a total of 12 undergrads and four graduate students — who'd been attending universities down South — have expressed an interest in enrolling at SIUC after Hurricane Katrina leveled nearly everything in its path, forcing their schools to shutter themselves for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the most appreciative — a pair of female exchange students from France —are expected to be rescued this weekend from a Pine Bluff, Ark., Red Cross shelter, where they landed after storm surges and broken levees swamped New Orleans.

They are both graduate students enrolled in the business program at the University of New Orleans.

"They are ready to move to SIUC as quickly as possible," Benton native and SIUC alumnus Christopher Cripps wrote in an e-mail to administrators in the SIUC College of Business and Administration.

Cripps is now associate dean of international affairs and executive education at the Grenoble Ecole de Management in Grenoble, France. The French students are pursuing dual degrees from their home university and participating U.S. business colleges.

Because SIUC enjoys a warm, long-standing exchange program with Grenoble's business school, Cripps played matchmaker and in a matter of days worked with SIUC folks to arrange for the women to be picked up and brought to campus by Terry Clark, chair of the college's marketing department.

The women could be in Carbondale as early as Monday.

Chancellor Walter V. Wendler this week announced that SIUC would welcome all collegians displaced by the storm.

And to ease the transition, SIUC is offering these students in-state tuition rates, is expediting admissions and will provide help in finding housing.

Sisters Brooke E. and Brittany T. Lane — who were due to attend New Orleans' Tulane University — are among the first students to accept SIUC's offer.

Harrisburg natives, they'd both landed scholarships to Tulane. Brooke is a senior and Brittany is a sophomore.

As fate would have it, they were ready to drive to Tulane last Friday, Aug. 27, when a mandatory evacuation order was issued for New Orleans.

"We're thankful we weren't down there and did not have to evacuate," Brittany said in a telephone interview from her home Friday. "Usually, when they warn us of a hurricane in New Orleans, it never comes. I know a lot of people just weren't prepared for this kind of destruction because they've been spared so many times in the past."

The Lane sisters each enrolled this week for four fall semester classes at SIUC.

"We're trying to give them an opportunity to continue this school term so they don't lose a semester, regardless of the school they'd been attending," said SIUC's James L. "Jim" Carl, the assistant director of undergraduate admissions who's working directly with displaced baccalaureate transferees.

"It's still early in the process," Lane said. "A handful of these students are sitting in classes now and we've gotten additional phone and e-mail inquiries from others that we're answering today."

Serving others is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.