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Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
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Landscape Architecture School offers to aid Katrina victims

A number of storm-battered communities along the Gulf Coast may soon be able to get rebuilding help from the nation's collegiate landscape architecture programs.

Ron Stoltz, director of UA Landscape Architecture, is spearheading the effort through the American Society of Landscape Architects. Stoltz said he'd like to see his and other schools "adopt" communities to help rebuild their public spaces decimated by Hurricane Katrina.

Scores of small cities and towns in Louisiana and Mississippi were already desperately poor before the storm. Few, if any, have access to professional help or the resources to pay for them and could benefit tremendously from college and university outreach programs.

Several schools already have expressed support for the adoption program, including Cornell, Iowa State, Mississippi State and the State University of New York at Syracuse.

Stoltz's proposal is that once communities are politically and administratively back on their feet, academic programs around the country would offer graduate student volunteers to assist with planning and design of parks, open spaces, schools, senior centers, and other public and environmental spaces. Many schools also have relationships with suppliers that can be counted on to donate materials.

"We could fly a faculty member and several students to the Gulf Coast to gather site/context data and the important design program information from local officials and to get to know the people in that community. The idea is to continue to work with that jurisdiction and develop a relationship within the means of each academic program," Stoltz said.

The Gulf Coast also won't be the first disaster project for the UA. In 2003, forest fires scorched the tiny mountain community of Summerhaven north of Tucson. Students working under professor Mark Frederickson developed a master plan to help residents and businesses there rebuild and still maintain the town's rural character. Those designs have been endorsed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

"On the Gulf Coast we are all interested in the three B's. That's 'Build Back Better,' hopefully not just restoring communities that would be devastated in the next storm," Stoltz said.

College of Education to run regional center

For the first time, an Arizona university will operate the Equity Assistance Center for California, Nevada and Arizona.

The College of Education was awarded the three-year, $2-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to run the center, which provides assistance to public schools in the areas of race, gender and national origin to promote equal educational opportunities.

"In spite of efforts nationwide, thousands of children are left behind in school because of their language backgrounds or a disability or other factors not of their making. This grant gives us the opportunity to make a difference for countless children and their families and for hundreds of school districts in California, Nevada and Arizona," said Richard Ruiz, principal investigator of the grant.

Ruiz is also a professor of language, reading and culture, and interim head of the teaching and teacher education department in the College of Education.

"We have a strong background in equity assistance, civil rights and social justice at the college, and this award is a tremendous recognition of the expertise we have here," Ruiz said. "Since we are a research university, this allows us to be responsive by wedding the best research with the best practices for K-12 students."

The center will most likely be housed in the Education building and will become operational in October.

The center's director is David Cherry, an attorney who was the director of equity development for the Tucson Unified School District and its 58,000 students and 9,000 employees in 104 schools from 1986 through 2003.

The center will employ five to six full-time employees in addition to graduate students.

"Most of the centers are run by universities, which have run them for decades. For example, the University of Michigan has run its center for 35 years. This is the only center that changed in this competition," Marx said.

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