March 31, 2011

New Orleans Recovery Topic of Inaugural Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Lecture Series

Mary C. Waters, the M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology and former chair of the sociology department at Harvard University, presented the inaugural address of the Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Lecture Series on March 31st. Waters' lecture, "Five Years After Hurricane Katrina: What 'Recovery' Looks Like for Survivors," offered insight into the psychological and sociological resilience of the people of New Orleans as well as the post-traumatic growth of the city since the 2005 natural disaster.

According to data compiled as part of Waters' research, nearly half of the New Orleans' residents sampled suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within a year after the hurricane. Although the vast majority was evacuated before Katrina hit, the psychological and physical toll remains. Results from a follow-up survey completed in 2009-2010 showed that a third of the residents continue to suffer from PTSD; only 13% of the population are back living in their homes and just 35% overall have returned to the city.

"New Orleans is recovering, but it's a changed city," said Waters. "Some of the city's poorest residents haven't come back and won't come back."

Waters' research was a collaboration between professors at Princeton University, Washington State University and the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Originally, respondents were asked to take part in an "Opening Doors Sample" to gather statistics on community college student enrollment for the Louisiana Department of Social Services. After Hurricane Katrina, the data offered valuable insight into key demographics of New Orleans' residents. Ninety-two percent of the sample population were women, 85% were African American, and nearly half lived in the city's Ninth Ward, an area that suffered catastrophic damage due to Hurricane Katrina.

Despite the trauma that continues to impact New Orleans and its people, Waters emphasized that post-traumatic growth and social and psychological resilience remain strong. She said that many people have tried to find the good that came out of Hurricane Katrina and have discovered new possibilities, personal strength and an appreciation for life they did not possess before.

The Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Lecture Series is endowed by Dr. Raymond Hakim in honor of his late wife Catherine, a 1970 Emmanuel graduate. The series is sponsored by the Department of Sociology and focuses on issues of sociology, social justice and policy on the local, national and international levels.

Catherine passed away in 1992 after a battle with metastatic breast cancer. In her memory, Dr. Hakim also established a chair in nephrology at his alma mater, McGill University, as well as a named professorship within Vanderbilt University's Department of Medicine, where he served as a full-time faculty member in the Division of Nephrology until 1996. He believes his late wife would be touched by the lecture series named in her honor at Emmanuel.
"Catherine always had fond memories of Emmanuel College," said Dr. Hakim. "We thought it would be great to commemorate her memory and the memories she had of Emmanuel by establishing a lecture series in her honor in an area she loved."