Nearly two weeks after a tsunami ravaged South and Southeast Asia, there is no indication that any members of the University community have died in the disaster. University officials concede, however, that they are not yet willing to make any definitive statements.
Administrators have had difficulty locating students in the affected areas, though they see this as a favorable sign. “I am happy and relieved to be able to say that so far I have not heard from any of the deans of students, whether in the College, graduate divisions or professional schools, of any students affected by the disaster,” said Martina Munsters, Deputy Dean of Students in the University.
These optimistic reports suggest that Chicago was markedly lucky. In a letter written in the aftermath of the tsunami, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman feared that as many as 1,000 students, faculty, staff and visiting scholars may have been affected by the tsunami.
Apprehensively, Stanford remains hopeful for the safe return of one of its students, who stayed in Thailand after the completion of his student program there. James Willis Hsu, a second-year in the University’s business school, is the only student abroad who remains unaccounted for.
Kristin Bloomer, a Ph.D. student in Chicago’s Divinity School and South Asian Languages and Civilizations Department was in Chennai, India, doing research in a region directly affected by the tsunami. She plans to continue her research in the community, which is located on the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu.
Also living in Chennai, Jonathan Ripley, a recent M.A. graduate in South Asian Languages and Civilizations was working for an AIDS education program, which has now refocused its efforts on tsunami relief.
Dean of Students Susan Art knew of only one student whose town was affected. The student herself was not hurt, Art said. Two other students were delayed several days in their flight to Chicago from India.
The deans at the Graduate School of Business echo the University’s overall sense of relief. The GSB is composed of 125 full time students from areas affected by the tsunami. The deans at the GSB have attempted to e-mail full-time, part-time, and executive MBA students from the impacted areas. “In addition, students who returned to Chicago would alert us if a colleague was missing and we have not had any such inquiries,” said Stacey Kole, the deputy dean for full-time MBA.
Deans at the GSB also reached out to the applicants in their database who listed an address in the countries affected, expressing concern for their well being. Deputy Dean at the GSB Mark Zmisjewski will meet with students in Singapore this Saturday in an effort to initiate a fundraising campaign. The proposed fundraising effort will connect students across the Hyde Park, downtown Gleacher, Singapore, and Barcelona campuses, Kole said. This effort will be guided largely by students in Singapore who will help identify agencies to which funds will be allocated.
The University has extended its application deadline for students whose families, schools and communities were affected by the tsunami. The application deadline for these students is now January 21.