After five service trips to the Gulf Coast, campus panel discussions, fundraising efforts, and a course on the Politics of Disaster, there was no doubt Public Service Director Ave Bauder ’81 was well prepared to discuss an institution’s obligations in time of disaster—he and many from the HWS community had worked hard to serve those living in the region ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. This semester, Bauder, along with Dale Watkins ’09 and Shena Vagliano-Fielding ’10, presented their efforts and the observations they have gained from working in Katrina’s aftermath at the American Association of Colleges and Universities Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
While the trio has traveled several times to the devastated region to aid in clean up efforts, this was the first trip that incorporated sharing their work with other institutions of higher education. Well read on the topic, Watkins and Vagliano-Fielding were members of Assistant Professor Cedric Johnson’s First-Year seminar titled “Politics of Disaster, which explored the political and social issues around the tragedy and incorporated a service trip to New Orleans during Fall Break.
Watkins, who served as the service-learning colleague for the class, believes their presentation provided a valuable aspect to the conference. “Although many other schools had great service programs, few could match the quality of our first-year seminar program, especially with the service-learning component that we added this fall, said Watkins. “We provided a model for others to strive for and came back with many new ideas to work with; the conference was a great success in my eyes.
He and Vagliano-Fielding also enjoyed the chance to network with students from other institutions dedicated to public service and civic engagement. “Even though we have been named a College with a Conscience by Princeton Review, there is always room for expansion and being able to engage with other colleges and universities is the best way to start this.
In addition to their presentation, they were able to attend other conference sessions, including one by President Scott Cowen of Tulane University, speaking about the affect Katrina had on Tulane and their response; and another led by Walter Isaacson, biographer and former editor of Time magazine who spoke on “How Benjamin Franklin Learned About Democracy’s Values.
The Colleges’ aid to the region has not ended. In March, Bauder and Johnson will return with an HWS contingent to work again on homes in the area and speak at another conference, the “Gulf-South Summit at Tulane University. There they will present “HWS Responds: How One Northern Liberal Arts College Responded to Hurricane Katrina and How It Has Impacted the Lives of its Students.
“The recovery efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are hard to comprehend. Each group I travel with is shocked at the extent of damage and the lack of progress, said Bauder. “We all have learned much and have much to share with our colleagues across the country.
The students’ participation at the conference was made possible through funds from the William Smith Deans Office, the Class of 1992 Public Service Endowment, and a gift from former HWS Provost Ruth Freeman LHD’05.