Progress at USM Gulf Coast during Katrina Anniversary

LONG BEACH, MS  (THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI) – As the 5-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast continues its efforts to repair and rebuild the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, along with the university's teaching and research sites throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"The top priority is to rebuild and enhance the Gulf Park campus. We want to have as many programs and services on one campus as possible," said Southern Miss Gulf Coast Vice President and Campus Executive Officer Frances Lucas. She added that the leadership team plans to break ground on various building projects within the next 12 months.

Several recent projects have been completed on the Gulf Park campus include a new gateway sign installed on the front lawn, street signs placed throughout campus, street entrance signs and lettering placed on buildings. The Technology Learning Center, completed in October 2009, is a new $1.6 million facility for the services provided to persons with disabilities.

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall August 29, 2005, several Southern Miss Gulf Coast locations were directly affected by the storm. With the majority of buildings on the Gulf Park campus left in ruins, the university relocated the campus' operations to the former Garden Park Hospital in Gulfport.

Two years after the hurricane, a major step of recovery at the Gulf Park campus occurred when the university reopened the Fleming Education Center to resume classes on campus. The three-story building suffered wind and flood damage from the storm. Since the structure reopened, more classes and offices have returned to the campus as additional facilities have opened. The Gulf Coast Library reopened to the public the following semester.

While student enrollment at Southern Miss Gulf Coast took a dip in August 2005, the years following have proved better than ever in the university's history. In fall 2009, Southern Miss Gulf Coast surpassed previous enrollment records with 3,066 students. More recently, the spring 2010 semester enrollment increased by 12-percent over enrollment numbers from spring of the previous year.

With enrollment on the rise, new construction at the Gulf Park campus will allow for additional classroom space. Planning and construction projects at the Gulf Park campus include a new $7.6 million Science Building to be placed in the northwest corner of campus. The building, announced in spring 2010, will feature 33,580 square feet of biology and chemistry laboratories, a marine science laboratory, faculty offices, research space and classrooms. Construction is scheduled to begin spring 2011.

The historical buildings, located at the front of the Gulf Park campus, received the most damage from the hurricane. After working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the university will repair and renovate Lloyd Hall and Hardy Hall. The university will reallocate funds from the Administration Building to enhance the renovation of Hardy Hall. Renovation and repairs of Elizabeth Hall will be underway in fall 2010.

The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL), a university teaching and research site located in Jackson County, lost 59,000 square feet of office and research space due to Hurricane Katrina. Since the hurricane, 44,440 square feet have been replaced, primarily at the Cedar Point site of GCRL. Currently, an additional 31,800 square feet of research and laboratory buildings is under construction and a replacement of the Hopkins classroom building is in the planning stages.

"While we restore and enhance the Gulf Park campus, along with our other teaching and research sites on the coast, our students will continue to receive the highest quality education," said Lucas.

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