Before getting too far into this entry, let me just say that I and all of my colleagues in Admissions and across MIT have those people affected in the Gulf Coast in our minds and in our hearts. It’s an emotional time for everyone; I’ve been at the verge of tears over this awful, awful situation. The feeling of anguish and helplessness can be overwhelming.
Life outside of the Gulf Coast moves on, and the Office of Admissions is still charged with admitting a Class of 2010. And even for students who have had their lives devastated by Katrina, many are still worried about college admissions. I’ve received emails from students displaced from their homes and schools who email with the question: “What now? I don’t know what to do.” My reply back has been, “I don’t know either.” This is an unprecedented disaster, and it’s just too early to tell what the best course of action will be.
You may have seen our official office response on MyMIT:
Our hearts go out to those students and their families who have been affected or displaced by Hurricane Katrina. We can only imagine the extent of the damage and we realize that it will be months before any sense of normalcy returns. Please know that for students directly affected by this disaster, we will be as accommodating and flexible as possible regarding applications to MIT. Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions regarding your specific circumstances.
What does this mean? We’re willing to work with your individual circumstances, whatever they may be. Get in touch with us when the time is right for you and we’ll be happy to work with you and accommodate your situation as much as we can.
I have spoken to some of the incoming students from affected areas. A freshman from Bay St. Louis, MS, interviewed me yesterday for an article in the MIT student newspaper. His parents are safe but many questions remain. I also saw a freshman for New Orleans. The mall that he did his pre-MIT shopping at last Saturday was partially destroyed. Amy Perez in our office saw another freshman from New Orleans yesterday; his parents were here in Boston for MIT’s Parent Orientation, far from Katrina’s wrath. Sometimes, good things happen.
This morning I presented the on campus Information Session to a room of about 50 prospective students and parents. Given all that has happened, how can you not talk about the hurricane? Among other things, I talked about some MIT research projects that are trying to ameliorate the effects of disasters and prevent future calamities. Some things I mentioned:
- Professor Lawrence Vale of the Department of Urban Studies & Planning (DUSP) began a project called Resilient Cities to examine how cities recover from disasters like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. Vale has been quoted in many articles this week; see Google News.
- Professor Kerry Emanuel of the Deartment of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) and his students do some very interesting research on modeling hurricanes, including forecasting.
- Many students here work on weather forecasting. The IAP class in weather forecasting is very popular with students from all majors, and students fare well in the National Collegiate Weather Forecasting Contest.
- Professor Jan Wampler of the Department of Architecture and his students have sprung into action to help rebuild several devastated communities, including Honduras after Hurricane Mitch and Turkey after the August 1999 earthquake.
Also, MIT has been working on ways to accommodate displaced students from colleges and universities on the Gulf Coast. An AP article today said that “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.” Offices around the Institute, including Admissions, have been working feverishly to develop plans to welcome some students. That information should be on the MIT homepage very soon.
Again, my thoughts and best wishes go out to all of the families affected by Hurricane Katrina. Let us know how we can best support you going forward.