Katrina students settle in at USF

A luncheon was held Friday in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Since Katrina, USF and its surrounding campuses have taken in approximately 100 graduate and undergraduate students, according to Glen Besterfield.Nick Zwolak, a graduate student studying biomedical engineering, is trying to get used to being at USF instead of Tulane.

“It feels really weird,” said Zwolak. “I walked around going to classes and thought it was strange I was here and not at Tulane.”

Zwolak, who enjoyed playing Frisbee on the levee in New Orleans, said he doesn’t know how the city will be able to support students when they return.

Besterfield, who is an assistant dean of undergraduate studies, said it was difficult to get a specific number of exactly how many “hurricane students” will be attending because once a student is added into USF’s system, it usually takes about 24 hours for the student to appear in the system and students are still being added.

“A majority (of the students) are non-degree seeking,” said associate director of admissions Pat Grossman. This means that students are taking classes at USF so they will not fall behind, and are still planning on getting a degree from home institutions.

Grossman added that those students who are non-Florida residents are being classified as Florida residents for tuition purposes, due to a mandate from the governor.

Still, the tuition break for non-Florida residents was not the only accommodation made. “We blew through class capacities in some cases (to get these students in),” Besterfield said.

The main priority has been to get students in classes so they can get caught up.

But according to Besterfield, paperwork and immunization shots must be filed in compliance with

Florida requirements before students can begin classes.

Besterfield also said for students to “hang tight” in regard to tuition and financial aid information from their home institutions. “We’ll feed you the information as we get it. We don’t want your needs to hurt your academics and that’s what Student Affairs is for,” he said.Michael Halstead, a sophomore from Tulane majoring in sociology, said the staff at USF has been making the transition “very easy.”

“I couldn’t ask for anything more. USF was the most accommodating university in the state,” he said.

After lunch, an orientation was given on how to get around campus and where to get the best Cajun food in Tampa.

Student Affairs showed them how to access their account on OASIS and how to navigate myUSF, showing the students a special feature just for them: a message board for hurricane students.

The message board was made to keep them up to date with the latest news at their home institutions as well as informing them about different social activities at USF.

The students affected by Katrina are welcome to stay permanently, Besterfield said, but would need to change their status from non-degree-seeking students to degree-seeking students.

The undergraduate students’ main point of contact through the admissions process was Senior Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Jody Glassman, who put in long hours last week to help get the students on track.

“It was rewarding to work with them and see that they were relieved to have a place to go,” Glassman said.

Provost Renu Khator was also on hand to encourage the students and to help them feel welcome.

“Character is not built by counting the difficulties you have; it’s seeing what you can do with those difficulties,” Khator said. “There’s no place like home. This is your home university.”