Skip to content ↓

Post-hurricanes, MIT gets to work

Aerial image of Grand Isle, La., taken on Aug. 31, 2005, two days after Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Aerial image of Grand Isle, La., taken on Aug. 31, 2005, two days after Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Image / NOAA

The students in the Experimental Study Group seminar "New Orleans -- Sinking or Rising City?" are hoping to learn just what it means to miss New Orleans.

Together, the group is studying the background of the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"I'd like group participants to learn more about the history and culture of New Orleans," said lecturer Holly Sweet, who organized the seminar. The group of about 10 will also spend some time studying what went wrong after the hurricane and how some of the problems might have been prevented.

Students will listen to the music of New Orleans, watch film clips, sample Cajun food and hear from a variety of speakers on topics ranging from political issues to the volunteer experience.

"Eventually, I hope the students will get more involved beyond the study group in some way that will prove helpful in the short and long run," said Sweet.

Sweet's study group is just one of the educational initiatives that have cropped up in response to the disaster in the Gulf Coast region, which was slammed on Aug. 29 by Hurricane Katrina and then again by Hurricane Rita on Sept. 24.

A series of MIT symposia addressing "Big Questions After Big Hurricanes" starts this week, co-sponsored by the Katrina Response Advisory Group, which was appointed by MIT President Susan Hockfield, and is convened by Vice President Kathryn Willmore.

The first symposium, to be held Friday, Sept. 30, is titled, "How Can We Improve Disaster Response?" and will include a discussion of the federal response to Katrina and recurring problems with disaster response systems.

Subsequent symposia will address "How Can Communities, Cities and Regions Recover From Disaster?" (Oct. 5); "How Can We Plan for Safe and Sustainable Regions?" (Oct. 18); "What Does Current Scientific Research Have to Say About the Present and Future Risks Associated With Hurricanes?" (Oct. 31); and "What's so Natural About Natural Disasters?" (date to be determined).

Each of the first three symposia will be held in Kirsch Auditorium from 4 to 6 p.m. The location for the Oct. 31 section has yet to be determined. For more information, visit

The Department of Urban Studies and Planning is also planning events related to the hurricanes. On Oct. 3, "The Future of Architecture in New Orleans," will feature a panel of architects and historians from New Orleans. And on Oct. 17, the former planning director of New Orleans will talk about the city and its challenges.

For more on MIT's ongoing response to the disaster, visit

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 28, 2005 (download PDF).

Related Links

Related Topics

More MIT News