Students Displaced by Hurricane Katrina Find a Home at Mason

Posted: September 30, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Thirty students displaced from universities damaged by Hurricane Katrina have registered for classes at Mason, and the university has received more than 100 inquiries, according to the Admissions Office.

Administrators across campus are working hard to help these students settle in and catch up. Two of the enrollees are graduate students and have found places in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

“I’m very proud that Mason was among the first institutions in the nation to put a policy in place allowing us to serve displaced students,” says Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions and enrollment development. “It is a tribute to the flexibility and cooperation that distinguishes our campus culture and the incredible dedication of staff and faculty across the institution.”

Many of the students are staying off campus with relatives or friends, says Darren Troxler, Admissions director of operations. Most have had some kind of Mason connection—they either know people who are enrolled here or who have attended the university.

For the most part, “they are in shock and very appreciative of Mason efforts,” says Troxler. “I’m glad that we could do something for them.”

Reception for Hurricane Katrina students
At a reception for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Sandra Hubler, vice president for university life, speaks with a student from Tulane University who has enrolled at George Mason.
Photo by Eric Goodman

The biggest challenge for all involved has been admitting the students provisionally. These students haven’t had access to their records, and in many cases, they had already paid tuition to their home institution. Another issue is financial aid, which may have already been disbursed or now needs to be redirected.

Troxler says this endeavor couldn’t have been as successful without the campuswide cooperation of a number of offices.

“The Admissions Office was proactive and quick about developing the policies to make this possible, but we couldn’t have done it without our colleagues in Advising, Student Accounts and Financial Aid. They’ve been amazing.”

Another essential component has been advising the students and getting them registered. Nancy Dickerson, director of the Academic Advising Center, leads this effort. According to Dickerson, a number of the incoming students are freshmen. “Some are from this area and were planning on attending universities in the New Orleans area.”

For freshmen, the Advising Center staff has been trying to find the students space in general education classes that will easily transfer. Upper-class students present their own challenge, as they are arriving without transcripts, and it is difficult to know if they meet the prerequisites for a course. Many of the academic departments have been helping the transfer students in their majors, and faculty members have been allowing these students to add into their classes and are working to help them catch up.

Now that it is several weeks into the fall semester many universities have stopped taking displaced students. However, the Admissions staff at Mason is continuing to respond to inquiries and admit students.

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