Penn Hosts "Universities and Disasters: A Katrina Case Study" to Develop "How To" Guide for "Next Time"

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Media Contact:Jill DiSanto-Haines | | 215-898-4820April 8, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice is hosting “Universities and Disasters: Katrina Case Study,” a discussion group, from April 29 to May 1 at the University City Sheraton, 36th and Chestnut streets.

The group will create a “how to” guide to direct institutions of higher education on how they can be of most help to a community in need when a monumental disaster strikes. It is an interdisciplinary effort across multiple schools within the University, including Social Policy & Practice and the schools of Engineering and Applied Science, Arts and Sciences, Design, Nursing and Dental Medicine.

“This is something that we’ve been working on for the past three years through our Feldman Initiative, the Penn in the Gulf project, and with John DiIulio, the head of the Fox Leadership in New Orleans program,” Richard Gelles, dean of Social Policy & Practice, said. “The University has sent more than 1,000 students to the Gulf Coast to assist in the post-Katrina recovery efforts –- everything from building houses to reconnecting residents with essential social services.”

Topics will include the immediate response, such as food, clothing and shelter; the initial response when coping with the dislocation of people and systems; the health-care response; the politics of helping, engaging the local authorities; and what happens “next time.”

This multi-faceted effort to create an all-inclusive “how to” guide also includes participation by other institutions of higher learning, such as the University of Southern Mississippi, Southern University at New Orleans and the University of Memphis, as well as non-profit organizations like the Salvation Army, the Mississippi State Department of Health, the Bucks-Mont Katrina Relief Project and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Participants will present their research-based papers, receive suggestions from the others in the group and prepare chapters for a book that university leaders can use to respond after a disaster.

The guide to post-disaster recovery efforts will be published by Penn Press in the late fall.

Editor’s note: This event is not open to the public. It is by invitation only and members of the press are welcome to attend any portion of this event. Journalists interested in attending may contact Jill DiSanto-Haines at 215-898-4820 or by April 24.