Hurricane Katrina Forest Recovery

As we work together to tackle the historic challenge that Hurricane Katrina has presented to the forestry communities of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, we hope that this blog will be a valuable resource and tool.

Thursday, December 14

USM Returning Some Classes to Gulf Park

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) will offer a limited number of classes this spring on its Gulf Park campus on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was heavily impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Pat Joachim, associate provost on the Gulf Coast, said staff members have been working diligently to open more classroom space and remove debris from the damaged buildings.

Though the university is only moving a few classes back to Gulf Park, USM representatives see this as a milestone in recovery. Southern Miss has been working to expand classroom space since it opened in its temporary location last fall. This coming spring, the university will open three additional buildings and two new quad units in its Student Service Center in Gulfport, making available much needed office and classroom space. In fall 2007, Southern Miss plans to reopen the Gulf Park Library and Advanced Education Center in Long Beach.

Balancing the need to preserve the campus while maintaining an affordable presence on the Coast has been a persistent challenge. The state has declared some of Gulf Park's buildings to be of historical significance, but the costs of operation, insurance and construction have risen dramatically since the storm.

Robert Bass, the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning's appointee to oversee restoration efforts, said insurance costs have risen four to five times what they were before last August, but he remains optimistic that the university will find a solution. Bass added that the university can expect an approximately five-year window of recovery, but within those five years there will be many milestones of progress.

"This is an extremely exciting time for Southern Miss and higher education along the Gulf Coast," Bass said. "We were hit extremely hard by Katrina, but it has given us the opportunity to start fresh and really be a catalyst to improve the overall quality of life on the Coast and provide some significant contributions to the state, as well."


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