Happy Huddling during Hurricane Harvey at the University of Houston
Dr. Erica Jordan, a faculty-in-residence at the University of Houston, and her husband, Eric Middleton, remained on campus for the duration of the storm and flooding that resulted from Hurricane Harvey in late August. The campus was closed from the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 25 through Monday, Sept. 5, although roughly 2,500 of the campus’s nearly 8,000 residents stayed in the halls during the storm.
“We watched first-hand as Residence Life Coordinators and Resident Advisors (RAs) worked tirelessly to keep the students safe and informed, deal with building maintenance issues related to the storm, and help evacuate students in other buildings that suffered flooding all while trying to keep our residents in Cougar Village I encouraged and entertained,” said Jordan. “Many of the RAs had only been on the job for a few weeks, so their performance was particularly impressive and speaks to the great training they received from our RLCs, Shemeka Phipps and Kandace Kendall. The building’s security and other staff also did a great job helping to keep students safe based on our observations.”
Jordan said they were extremely fortunate as a building because they did not lose power, did not have major flooding, and UH generously housed the dining staff, so there was always food available. But, after a few days, she and her husband noticed they were spending an unusual amount of time sleeping, eating and being glued to the television watching the storm coverage.
She said, “It became clear to us that even though we felt extremely grateful that we had not suffered physical damage from the storm, we were definitely stressed out about how it was affecting our home of Houston. We also felt pretty helpless because we couldn’t yet leave due to the flooding. We realized that if we were having those feelings, our residents, first-time freshmen who had only been on campus for a week before the storm hit, were likely feeling the same way.”
Jordan then received an announcement that, Dr. Erica Ciszek, the Faculty-in-Residence from the neighboring building Cougar Village II, was hosting a “Weather the Storm Karaoke” session. She and her husband thought this was a great idea and decided to plan some programming for their own building. The RAs in CVI had been doing programming throughout the storm, but with everyone on campus 24/7 they knew that every little bit of extra programming would help.
Jordan and Middleton partnered with the RAs to co-host a “Battle of the Sexes” game. They had no particular attachment to that game, but it was the only game that they owned that a large group could play. This event helped them to get to know more of the residents.
The next day, the RAs hosted “Cereal and Coloring,” in which the residents created cards for evacuees that would be taken to a shelter along with donations. Jordan and Middleton attended and got to talk one-on-one with several residents there. A few days later, they partnered with the RAs to co-host a "Storm Share Session," which was an RA’s idea. This provided a space for residents to talk about the storm and brainstorm about ways to help the community after the flood.
After those events, they hosted “Stress-Relief Karaoke,” the largest CV1 faculty-in-residence event ever. Many of the residents attended, and they sang from 10 p.m. until 1:45 a.m. Dr. Aaron Becker, the faculty-in-residence from another neighboring building, Moody Towers, and his wife Laney also joined the fun. The two women did a duet to “I Will Survive."
“Ultimately, even though Harvey was a stressful experience that we would not repeat and that has had impacts on our city that have been extremely difficult,” said Jordan, “We were glad we were able to be here on campus to help support the residents as best we could. It was a unique beginning to our faculty-in-residence life, that’s for sure.”