Campus & Community

Stevens Presenters Describe Role of Student Engagement in Crises Like Hurricane Sandy

In many ways, Hurricane Sandy brought out the very best of the Stevens community. Despite the severe impacts of the historic storm to Hoboken and the surrounding area, every single student stranded on campus stayed safe, informed, engaged and entertained – in large part due to the efforts of the Stevens Office of Student Life, which especially rose to the occasion.

On March 19, Stevens Dean of Student Life Ken Nilsen and Assistant Director of Student Life Holly Nelson will present to other student affairs administrators in higher education about how the Stevens administration used campus programming to curtail the threat of the storm, even as on-campus students face a week-long power outage. Their presentation at the 2013 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla. – “Creative Solutions to Campus Crisis: Hurricane Sandy and Student Engagement” – shares creative methods for universities to deal with weather-related disasters in order to meet the physiological and social needs of student populations highly reliant on technology.

Without power for an entire week, Stevens students spent the hurricane and its aftermath trick-or-treating, attending dance parties, playing games, doing crafts, exercising, attending lectures, participating in study halls, and more. Despite limited resources, they largely were able to maintain their daily routines and even have fun enjoying time with their peers.

Stevens also helped more than 300 students become engaged in the volunteer effort to assist the City of Hoboken, where they delivered water to residents of high rise buildings, supervised and cooked meals for city shelters, organized and staffed a City command center, sorted and organized donations, worked alongside the National Guard to rescue stranded citizens, checked in on elderly residents, and served as members of the Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Their efforts had a tremendously positive impact within the community, and earned the university recognition from the City for its service and volunteerism.

Nilsen and Nelson will explain how – in addition to Stevens’ smart and effective emergency response preparedness and execution – the extensive on-campus programming provided to students was essential to ensuring the safety and welfare of students. They say the combination of social, leadership-building and volunteerism opportunities organized by the Office of Student Life not only helped students maintain daily routines, but involved them in a cause much greater then themselves. 

"During Hurricane Sandy recovery, the Stevens Office of Student Life made it a priority to keep students stuck in Hoboken engaged and active," said Nelson. "We promoted volunteerism, planned new events, followed through with previously scheduled events, and relied heavily upon student leaders on campus to lead workshops for one another. Though Stevens faced Hurricane Sandy without knowing exactly how campus would be impacted by a city-wide power outage, we were able to be creative and identified strategies for engaging students during a campus crisis. We feel it is important to share our experience and lessons learned with colleagues at other colleges and universities across the country. Presenting at NASPA provides a venue to start telling our story to help other institutions think about their own emergency response plans and the value of sustaining student life in a crisis."