Tim Steinhelsner was just about to start his second year at Tulane University in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in August, and the city issued evacuation orders. “Everyone at Tulane was sad and shocked but we didn’t have much time to think about it because we had to scramble to find a university to go to,” he says.
Steinhelsner and four other displaced students (three from Tulane, one from Dillard and one from Xavier University) accepted offers from U of T to waive tuition and find them accommodations. U of T extended its offer for the winter term, but all but one student will be returning to New Orleans.
In some of the many other Katrina relief efforts at U of T, students, faculty and staff from the faculties of pharmacy and medicine donated close to $3,000 worth of blankets, personal items and clothing to a shelter for evacuees in Paincourtville, Louisiana. Lori May (CertBus 1996, BA 1998 WOODS, TESL 2000), former co-ordinator of the Doctor of Pharmacy program, initiated the appeal after hearing about the shelter’s dire need.
With funding and assistance from alumni affairs, the campus bookstore and its suppliers, and volunteer labour from U of T students, the university also provided 100 knapsacks full of school supplies to displaced children in Mississippi. The idea for the project came from Dr. Darren Jagessar (BSc 1998 UTM), who worked as a chiropractor in Vicksburg, Mississippi, until a planned move to Mississauga, Ont., just before the storm. At the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, a fundraising drive garnered $2,500 for Habitat for Humanity’s rebuilding program along the Gulf Coast.
The University of Toronto also responded quickly to news of the South Asia earthquake in October. U of T student groups formed a coalition within a week of the earthquake to collect donations, setting up booths at Robarts Library, the Bahen Centre, Sidney Smith, the Medical Sciences Building and various campus residences. The number of campus groups involved was extensive, ranging from the Pakistani Students Federation to Kids in Developing Societies, the Arts and Science Students’ Union and the Muslim Students Association. Campus clubs and associations also organized fundraising alliances at both University of Toronto at Mississauga and University of Toronto at Scarborough. MBA students at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management organized and performed in a musical stage show, which – after proceeds were matched by Dean Roger Martin and his wife, Nancy Lang, and the Canadian government – garnered more than $14,000 for earthquake survivors.
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre