Perhaps nowhere else was the full devastation of Hurricane Katrina more evident than at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus at Long Beach.
On Aug. 29, 2005, Katina damaged or destroyed some 30 buildings on the USM-Gulf Park campus. Throwing in the damage from the hurricane on the main Hattiesburg campus, Southern Miss sustained approximately $100 million in damage at a time when the state budget and higher education allocations were tight.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, many wondered if the Gulf Park campus would ever be restored; perhaps it would relocate away from the beach. The clouds over Gulf Park were thick.
But, USM persevered, and eight years later the Coast campus is finally restored.
This past Aug. 29, university administrators, faculty, staff, students and community leaders remembered Katrina by celebrating the reopening of Elizabeth Hall, the last Katrina-damage structure to be renovated and the fifth major post-Katrina construction project to be completed.
The building projects, all of which began in 2011, rang in at approximately $26 million. The cost of the Elizabeth Hall rehabilitation alone was $1.7 million.
“We are delighted to announce that we have fully returned to the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus following the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina,” said Dr. Frances Lucas, Southern Miss Gulf Coast vice president and campus executive officer. “We worked hard to restore the original beauty of this campus, and update the classrooms for more stimulating student engagement. Our Gulf Park campus is an inviting intellectual hub for the Mississippi Gulf Coast and we welcome all coastal neighbors to come visit with us.”
Elizabeth Hall, which houses the College of Arts and Letters, is also home to the university’s Film Program, which currently occupies 10 rooms. These include two offices, a room designated for film animation, two film editing suites, a room for film recording and mixing, an equipment room, two video editing suites and a studio space.
The Film Program, part of the Entertainment Industry curriculum in the university’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism, offers the only bachelor’s degree in film production in the state of Mississippi.
“It has been a great pleasure welcoming faculty and staff of the College of Arts and Letters into our new home in Elizabeth Hall,” said Dr. Robert Pauly, associate dean for the College of Arts and Letters at Southern Miss Gulf Coast. “After persevering through nearly eight years in temporary facilities, it has been a very positive and uplifting experience to return back to our campus.”
The first buildings to be completed on the Gulf Park campus were the Science Building and Nursing Building, both located on the northwest corner of campus. The Science Building, a $10-million new construction project, features nine teaching laboratories, research space, approximately 20 faculty and administrative offices and an 80-seat instructional classroom.
The $1.5-million Nursing Building is a renovation project featuring two laboratories, faculty offices and student learning and study areas within the 10,000-square-foot facility.
The historic restoration projects for Hardy Hall and Lloyd Hall were completed in spring 2013. The $10-million project for Hardy Hall included renovations, as well as new construction for the Barnes and Noble Bookstore and an adjacent parking lot.
The three-story building also houses dining services, the College of Education and Psychology, and administrative offices including Admissions and Student Services. Lloyd Hall is a $2.4 million project that provides 10 classrooms for students.
“We are all eager for the start of the fall semester, which marks the first time since Hurricane Katrina, that we will begin an academic year with all of our faculty, staff and students together on one campus,” added Pauly.