This year, we have witnessed a number of natural disasters that have devastated communities, from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana; Hurricane Irma in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and the Caribbeans; and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and parts of Florida to wildfires in Montana, California, Utah, Oregon, and other states.
There will be a long road to recovery for our colleagues, member institutions, and students in the affected areas. The displacement of students, even temporarily, can have a chilling effect on the lives of these individuals and their families. It can also alter the path toward degree completion. However, there are things that we can do as a higher education community, like we did after Hurricane Katrina, to provide support and resources to help institutions and students get back on track.
Effective and timely assistance for campus communities in addressing the damage done can make a difference in how quickly the challenges for students can be overcome. AACRAO is working on a number of projects to ease the transition of displaced students and provide guidance to institutions in preparation for and in response to emergency situations. The association has developed a resource page for institutions both affected by or working to accept students displaced by natural disasters. The information will also be useful for other situations of displaced students, including refugees, asylum seekers, and school closures.
Next week, I will travel with a number of AACRAO staff representatives to Lebanon for an international convening regarding a project to help young refugees return to university. Article 26 Backpack aims to revolutionize the way refugees and other displaced and vulnerable people store and share elements of their professional and educational identity, including digital copies of transcripts, diplomas, training certificates, CVs, and statements of purpose.
I will report back following the consortium meeting with additional information to serve as a continued resource to our members, who play such a critical role in the lives of students looking to reclaim their education.
Read more about Student Displacement in AACRAO's recent publication, Student Displacement: A Guide for Higher Education Administrators