Hurricane Katrina has devastated communities in the southern United States and the effects have been felt strongly across the nation and on the Mills campus.
In the days following Katrina, the administration began working on ways to assist displaced college students from the affected areas and revisiting emergency action plans for the campus. President Janet Holmgren said that in light of this terrible tragedy the "best thing we can do is to focus on education and develop leadership for the future."
Alumna and trustee Lauren Speeth, class of '81, met with Holmgren on the Tuesday after the hurricane. Speeth asked Holmgren if Mills might be willing to admit a good friend's daughter who was now unable to attend Tulane. Holmgren said this was a good way for Mills to help people from the Gulf Coast and decided to pull her staff together to form plans to make a general offer to students who could not attend college because of the evacuation in the region.
On Aug. 31, Renee Jadushlever, vice president for information resources, sent a community-wide e-mail explaining the administration's decision to extend "an offer for fall semester admission with non-matriculated status to undergraduate women from the Bay Area who are enrolled in Gulf Coast colleges affected by Hurricane Katrina." The e-mail stated that the offer was extended to students who are residents of the affected areas as well. Admission was offered to those students who completed the accelerated application process, and courses and accommodations would be offered pending space and availability.
Holmgren said that the administration received approximately 50 inquiries and 10 to 12 applications as of Sept. 8. Three displaced students, who are originally from the Bay Area and whose applications were approved, began classes at Mills last week. The student Speeth inquired about decided to go to another school that she was originally accepted to over the summer.
In a phone conversation Speeth responded to Mills' relief efforts: "The generous outpouring of support and offers of help [from the Mills community] make me proud to be a trustee."
"It's a very fragile time when you're a new student and something terrible happens. You need someone to scoop you up to get you back on your feet."
Speeth feels the administration has shown dedication to being this helping hand.
Holmgren expects that more students residing in the Gulf Coast will apply for the Spring 2006 semester. Holmgren said alumni have offered housing and other assistance to these students. Trustee Lorry Lokey, father of alumna Ann Lokey, class of '85, offered financial assistance for school expenses for students from the Gulf Coast admitted to Mills.
Student Activities Director Alexis Bucknam and the sophomore class are organizing a blood drive, according to Dean of Students Joanna Iwata. The administration is also working with the local Red Cross to train interested students in disaster relief and many students may volunteer on the Gulf Coast during winter break.
Holmgren announced a "campus-wide response to Katrina" that will take place Monday, Sept. 19 at 12:15 p.m. in the Student Union. Holmgren will conduct a community-wide dialogue and staff will answer questions and sign up students for volunteer events.