U department offers funds to aid displaced graduate student

The student is from Tulane University in New Orleans.

Lora Pabst

Colleges across the country have stepped up to help student and faculty victims affected by Hurricane Katrina. Now, the same spirit of compassion has trickled down to individual departments within the University of Minnesota.

The art history department offered to use its faculty research funds to provide a research assistant position and salary for a graduate student from Tulane University in New Orleans, said department Chairman Rick Asher.

Fall classes on the Tulane campus were called off after it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, according to its official Web site.

Asher and Gabriel Weisberg, an art history professor, came up with the idea.

On Friday, Asher sent an e-mail to University art history faculty detailing the plan.

“I am so moved by what (the faculty) has done and heartened by the instantaneous response,” he said.

The money for the research funds comes directly from the College of Liberal Arts and can be used for professor research trips and materials. Professors will now have to use personal funds for these expenses, he said.

The total salary for the accepted Tulane graduate student will be approximately $6,000 for the fall semester. Asher also hopes the student’s tuition will be paid for by the University.

Michael Gaudio, assistant professor of art history, said it is a small sacrifice for him to make.

“In the end, I’ll find a way to make it,” he said. “You have to balance it with what is happening in New Orleans.”

William Tronzo, a professor of art history at Tulane, said he has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the academic community and the University of Minnesota.

“You can never really wrap your mind around a crisis like this or anticipate what other peoples’ reactions will be,” he said. “This is such a kind, generous offer. It came out of nowhere.”

Other colleges from across the country, along with the University of Minnesota, also have offered to accept students from schools affected by the hurricane.

George Green, associate dean of the Graduate School, has offered to house two affected students this semester, possibly the graduate student from the art history department.

“My wife and I saw the TV coverage of people coming to Camp Ripley and we wanted to help in a small way,” he said.

The Institute for Advanced Study at the University is also offering research space and opportunities for professors who were displaced by the hurricane, said institute director Ann Waltner.

As of Tuesday, Asher chose a recipient of the research funds but had not confirmed the student’s acceptance. He hoped to speak with the student in the next few days so the student could move to Minnesota this weekend.