Marla Baskerville feels much better off than most residents of New Orleans displaced by flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but she's still greatly distressed by having to remain apart from her husband and home.
"We have no idea when we're going to go back," says Baskerville, a doctoral student from Tulane University who is continuing her studies at Georgia Tech College of Management while her husband stays in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for his state-government job. "We have no idea what to expect."
A native of Atlanta who's staying with her family here, Baskerville is one of four students from Tulane University enrolled at the College of Management this semester. Suman Banerjee, a finance professor from Tulane, is also housed here as a visiting scholar until his university can reopen (in January, Tulane officials hope).
When evacuating New Orleans with his wife and two young children, Banerjee thought he'd be able to return in only a few days, so his family took little more than the clothes on their backs. "I never thought I'd experience this much emotional stress in my life," says Banerjee, who is grateful that his college friend, Tech finance professor Rajesh Chakrabarti, helped find a place for him at the business school.
"We're thankful for any role that we're able play to in helping to restore some sense of normalcy for our guests in the wake of the radical catastrophe they are enduring," says College of Management Dean Terry C. Blum, who used to serve on the faculty at Tulane. "I lived in New Orleans for four years and believe Wynton Marsalis's remarks that New Orleanians are 'blues people' with incredible resiliency, and that we can collectively achieve a 'transcendent and abiding soul' that will give us a great opportunity to overcome the injustice and the suffering of so many."
Eli McKenzie, who'd barely begun his first year in Tulane's MBA program, says everyone at Tech has been extremely welcoming and supportive. Still uncertain about what his financial-aid package at Tulane will cover here, he was grateful when a professor let him borrow a book instead of having to buy it. Without a car, he also appreciated students helping him look for a residence closer to campus than his family's home in Decatur.
McKenzie, who had a full scholarship at Tulane, says he wanted to study at Tech in the interim because its MBA program is highly regarded and ranked. "I knew I needed to be at a place like this where I could get a quality MBA education in case Tulane couldn't reopen for a long time," he says.
McKenzie would have liked to return to New Orleans during the initial window of time (before Hurricane Rita) when evacuees were allowed to return to collect belongings. But he felt he couldn't take time away from classes that were already well underway when he arrived at Tech September 8. Based on news reports on his neighborhood, he's certain his car "was a submarine" and fearful about his second-floor apartment.
Baskerville, who's lived in New Orleans since beginning her doctoral studies in organizational behavior three years ago, is hopeful that her house escaped flooding because it sits on higher ground near Tulane. "I feel for all of those people who have nothing to come back to - no money, no job, no home, no insurance," she says.
MBA students at the College of Management recently conducted a fundraiser for storm victims on the Gulf Coast, contributing approximately $700 to the American Red Cross. "We felt like we should pull our resources together to help," says second-year MBA student Benoit Cotnoir, president of Graduate Students in Management, who notes that they are exploring further opportunities to assist victims through Habitat for Humanity.