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Student Service Learning In The Wake Of Hurricane Katrina

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Hurricane Katrina

Tagged Division

Ocean and Marine

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1167.1 - 11.1167.11



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Paper Authors


Clay Bolton University of South Carolina

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Associate Director, Student Involvement and Leadership

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Charles Pierce University of South Carolina

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Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Student Service Learning in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina Introduction

Within seven weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, more than 100 students and staff from the University of South Carolina arrived in Biloxi, MS to participate in a service learning relief effort. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education defines service learning as follows:

Service learning is college student learning at any level and in any situation that is linked in a direct, hands-on fashion to the resolution of a problem or concern in a target community outside the institution.

During this trip, the students of the University of South Carolina fulfilled this definition through the use of their hands and their hearts to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region. With the aid and logistical support of the Salvation Army, this project was a true service learning collaboration with a non-profit organization and a major research university. Working with Salvation Army volunteers, students provided on-the-ground support to those directly impacted by this disaster. The particular hands-on work that was performed included general cleanup, home restoration, the preparation and delivery of food and water, the preparation of care packages, and the organization of the staging area and warehouse for the Salvation Army. At the same time, this relief effort offered a unique opportunity to use the observations and experiences of more than 100 students to fully capture the impacts of Hurricane Katrina on the infrastructure. In this way, non-engineering students were exposed to the role of civil engineers in disaster mitigation and relief. Thus the service learning aspects were expected to be multi-fold.

Chronological and Logistical Development of Relief Effort

A relief effort of this magnitude had not been coordinated before by the university, so there was no blueprint or model to follow. Making it more challenging was the fact that fall break was the ideal target for such an effort, but the four-day break (October 13-16) was scheduled less than seven weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. That being said, however, the critical planning occurred within the first two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. It was during that time period that the two main challenges, cost and logistics, were resolved.

The logistics of the relief effort were managed by coordinating with the local Salvation Army offices. The decision to focus the effort in Biloxi, MS was made in conjunction with Captain Ethan Frizzell of Columbia, SC. He had been assigned to Biloxi immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and he was familiar with the Salvation Army operations and needs in that region. The Salvation Army had purchased a football stadium, Yankie Stadium, from the city of Biloxi prior to the hurricane, and those facilities were converted into service operations headquarters to support the local public and volunteers. The Salvation Army offered to shelter the university relief team at Yankie Stadium, which was critical because hotels and motels in the region were either closed due to damage or full with evacuees and personnel from federal agencies like FEMA. Yankie Stadium provided a place to sleep on the ground under a large tent; bathrooms and showers; and three meals per day, served by the Southern Baptist Convention

Bolton, C., & Pierce, C. (2006, June), Student Service Learning In The Wake Of Hurricane Katrina Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--988

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