Tulane students return home for spring

Three hours into their arrival at Tulane University and brimming with excitement, first-year students Kate Frankola and Arthur Leslie were asked to leave. They were given index cards explaining that Hurricane Katrina had made a sudden change in direction and intensity, and that an evacuation was necessary. Little did they know that it would be taking their lives into a new direction — literally.

Over the next few weeks, Frankola and Leslie, along with the rest of Tulane’s students, scrambled to get into contact with universities that would take them in. Carnegie Mellon distinguished itself for these two because the university was able to guarantee housing.

Michael Murphy, Carnegie Mellon’s associate vice-president, explained that this was only because CMU students were so willing to offer space within their rooms or apartments. “It was a real testament to the Carnegie Mellon spirit,” he said.

Murphy was in charge of contacting and working out the transition with Tulane students. “We did make sure that each student had an advisor and administrative contact in Student Affairs,” he said, “but the reality is that they were so quickly embraced by our students that it made for a very smooth transition.”
Now these same students will make another transition, as they are all returning to Tulane for the spring semester. However, they confirmed Murphy’s praise.

Leslie, originally from Montgomery, Ala., found the community at Donner House, where he lived, especially welcoming. “I really enjoyed interacting with Tulane freshmen and CMU freshmen,” he said. “It was nice to have both groups.”

Damon Motto, a junior studying chemical engineering, found that the students at CMU were a lot friendlier than the students at Tulane. “Everyone here was real helpful and accepting,” he said.
The only difference Motto found between the two schools was the difference in social atmosphere. He said, “A social event here is movie night in Donner, while at Tulane it’s a fundraiser at the Boot [bar].”
Frankola agreed. “It seems here that people need an occasion to party.”

While Tulane students may have been slightly disappointed by the social life, their main reason for coming to CMU was to learn.

Murphy said, “Our biggest issue was making sure that we spoke with each student and ensured that we had a curriculum that fit with their needs, so that they could ultimately graduate from Tulane on schedule.”

Their grades for this semester will be pass/fail and have been worked out to transfer easily to Tulane.
Most Tulane students felt that, while it was challenging, the work wasn’t overwhelming.

Motto felt that the classes were not any more difficult than the engineering classes at Tulane.

Scott Hatfield, a senior graduate student pursuing his masters degree in fine arts, categorizes CMU’s fine arts program as rigorous. “The arts are a lot more prioritized here compared to other schools,” he said.

Frankola also acknowledged the strength of CMU’s academics: “I feel like if I can handle academics at CMU, then I can handle them anywhere.”

There are some things that seem to be unique to New Orleans and have made the choice to return home an easy one.

Hatfield’s face immediately lit up when asked what he was most excited about returning to in New Orleans. “The 24-hour pubs,” he said. “Especially Snake & Jake’s; make sure you write that down!”
Motto is excited for the food. He said, “The campus food at Tulane isn’t that great. In fact, CMU’s is a lot better, but nothing beats the Cajun-style food of New Orleans.”

While all are excited to return to Tulane, they all agreed that their experience at CMU was a positive one and plan to keep in touch with the friends they’ve made here.

Frankola, who is a Pittsburgh native, said, “I like how it’s very diverse. Not just ethnically, but there are people with all sorts of interests and religious backgrounds. I really feel like everyone can find a group of friends here.”

Murphy was impressed with how well the Tulane students were able to integrate into CMU life. “I know that it has been a terrible tragedy and a great disruption in their lives, making their positive attitudes and commitment to immersing themselves in the life of the campus especially inspiring,” he said.
There will be a special dinner for all Tulane students this coming week, hosted by Student Affairs.
Leslie said, “I’ll always remember spending my first semester of college at CMU.”