Hurricane Katrina blows Tulane student to the U

Stephen Christenson was a freshman at Tulane University for just a few hours.

Christenson, who was raised in Utah and whose family resides in Holladay, was there long enough to unpack and attend an orientation meeting before he was ordered to evacuate.

Traffic out of the city was building and lines were forming at gas stations, but Christenson and his family, who were in New Orleans to drop off their son, escaped a day before the hurricane hit.

“Most of my belongings I took to Tulane remain in my dorm room there,” Christenson said.

The results of Hurricane Katrina left Tulane’s uptown campus intact but destroyed the medical school downtown.

As a result of the devastation, Tulane President Scott Cowen canceled Fall Semester, leaving Christenson without a school to attend.

To meet his needs, the U accepted Christenson as a non-matriculated student, meaning he has not been formally admitted to work for a degree.

According to Kay Harward, associate vice president of student affairs, the U is focusing on Utah citizens who went to Louisiana for school. The U has accepted four other students besides Christenson.

The American Council on Education estimates 75,000 to 100,000 college students in the New Orleans area have been affected by the storm, and close to three dozen universities in the region have been seriously damaged.

Cowen, working from Houston, wrote on the Tulane campus Web site that it would accept credit from any regionally accredited school and encouraged students to take courses they would otherwise be taking at Tulane.

“I’d like to get some of my Tulane prerequisites out of the way while I’m here,” Christenson said. “I plan to enroll in about 14 to 17 credits, depending largely upon what classes I’m able to get into.”

Harward has asked the faculty to help these incoming students catch up with the rest of the class.

Although no date has been set for Tulane’s re-opening, Christenson plans to go back to Tulane eventually and believes New Orleans will rebuild.

“This isn’t the first major natural disaster to strike a metropolitan city,” Christenson said. “New Orleans’ ports are of particular importance to the nation’s petroleum industry, and furthermore, the city itself is home to millions whom I don’t think would abandon their home so easily.”

Since returning home, Christenson has donated to the Red Cross effort and wants to assist in the recovery effort once school resumes.

“Anyone who has a drive to volunteer in the disaster area would be greatly appreciated, I’m sure,” Christenson said. “Donations will also be crucial to supporting relief efforts.”