Prior to fall 2006 the last two semesters of Dillard University were spent at the Hilton Riverside Hotel as the school was in a state of disrepair due to the damage incurred by Hurricane Katrina. Hence, the decision to return to Dillard for this semester was one which not only students had to decide but teachers as well. As a result, while some professors have returned to campus others have not due to professional and in some cases personal reasons.
Professor Linette Rasheed of the English department and Professor Valerie Epps of the Social Science department are two professors who returned to Dillard for this semester. However, although both were eager and ready to return to the Gentilly Boulevard campus to teach, each has a different story to tell as far as how that journey was made.
“I’m committed to HBCUs,” said Professor Rasheed. She also stated that because she is a product of an HBCU she understands their mission and therefore thought that her return to Dillard University was a necessary one. She said that she began the fall 2005 semester with her regularly scheduled English and Humanity classes before the Hurricane struck. She had no idea that the next time she would teach would come the following year.
Rasheed spent one week in Baton Rouge, L.A and then moved to Atlanta, Ga. While living in Atlanta she said she was unable to obtain a job in academics until June 2006 when she began teaching again; she held online classes at the University of Phoenix and Axia College. Dillard University did not contact her until August before the fall 2006 semester began. Upon her arrival back to Dillard University her contract was renewed.
Teachers share their sense of commitment to the University
Rasheed, a witness to improvements being made to the institution, said that she is pleased. She said that although the circumstances are somewhat different that there seems to be a renewed commitment of faculty and staff to their students.
Epps shares these sentiments and said that there is “a sense of family” in her department; she also enjoys working with the students. She had been teaching for five years prior to hurricane Katrina and evacuated to Houston, Texas. January 2006 she returned to Dillard for Spring Sessions one and two at the Hilton Riverside Hotel while residing at the Marriott Hotel with her daughter. She described some conditions as inconvenient; however, the Dillard administration made her experience pleasant she said. Before returning to New Orleans Ms. Epps was in the process of teaching Developmental Math at Texas Southern University when Dillard contacted her to return for the Spring Sessions.
Dillard University and the Hilton Hotel administration made the transition of the school campus to the Hilton possible and in doing that they “made the best of a trying situation,” said Epps. As time wound down to the fall 2006 Semester there was no doubt in her mind about returning to teach. She said that salary was the least important issue and that her number one motivation was the students she taught while at the Hilton and the general student body. Ms. Epps further stated that there is a more improved attitude at Dillard and that “everyone is looking forward to the new and improved Dillard University”
Both teachers share the same love and compassion for Dillard University. They stated that there is a commitment and mission that needs to be fulfilled, no matter what type of circumstances they are placed in.