New Orleans Fellows Program

Renovated homes on Baronne Street show a Central City housing typology that is attracting market-rate developers. Photo by CoLab.

In the years since Hurricane Katrina, students, and alumni from DUSP have worked on a range of rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. CoLab's contribution has been to support students and community partners via fellowship programs.

See NOLAwiki for further details.

During Summer of 2007, CoLab placed fifteen MIT undergraduate and graduate students in the newly formed New Orleans Office of Recovery Management. Students wrote 23 target area recovery plans, completed a survey of 8,000 parcels, drafted the GreeNOLA sustainability plan, and wrote recommendations on food security and soil remediation.

In the 2008 report, Assessing Post-Katrina Recovery in New Orleans; Recommendations for Equitable Rebuilding, PhD candidate Anna Livia Brand highlights DUSP's work in New Orleans since Katrina and offers policy recommendations to address serious shortfalls in the government's response to date.

Predicting that students and partners would benefit from a longer term of engagement, Professor Karl Seidman, CoLab, and the MIT Public Service Center launched a one-year extended NOLA Fellows Program in 2009.

In the first year of the NOLA Fellows Program, five students worked with organizations based in Faubourg St. Roch, the Lower Ninth Ward, Broadmoor, and Broad Street.They worked on affordable housing finance strategies, a thermo-coupling business plan, main street revitalization, wetlands restoration, and youth organizing.

  • Bernadette Baird-Zars worked to further define and present the possibilities for homebuyer financing for 125 green and affordable homes being constructed in Broadmoor and in four additional communities in New Orleans by EnviRENEW, a project of the New Orleans Salvation Army.
  • In Faubourg St. Roch, Jackie Dadakis helped develop a Thermal Coupling business plan to target moisture infiltration in New Orleans' homes. This climate specific is ultimately a wealth generation strategy for low-income families struggling with rising energy costs.
  • Aditi Mehta worked with Broad Community Connections (BCC), a Main Street organization, to develop a market study for a grocery store in the neighborhood with severely underserved food access. She also did a participatory photo project, documenting the experiences of residents and business owners along this historic business corridor.
  • Working with the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED), Anna Livia-Brand developed redevelopment plans for a major economic corridor and also a funding strategy for this initiative. She also supported efforts to restore the local bayou and wetlands that border this community.
  • Lakshmi Sridaran helped the Young Organizers' Congress develop their vision, mission statement, and strategies for organizing across racial and spatial boundaries on shared struggles for justice. She also assisted with developing plans for a community center in the Lower 9th Ward that will serve as residential space for local youth and a venue for intergenerational exchange.

Lakshmi Sridaran and Anna Livia-Brand also conducted action-based research on deepening democracy in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast. Their community engagement and documentary approach utilizes a multi-media framework, including interviews, photographs, and video. They aim to build upon the innovation and resilience of communities who have created rich forms of civic engagement for the purpose of working toward long-term justice and equity.

In fall 2009, CoLab NOLA fellow, Jacqueline Dadakis, founded the NOLA @ MIT student group. Its mission is to keep MIT engaged with New Orleans over the long term. In spring 2010, the group put together a three-part speaker series entitled, “Cambridge and the Post-Katrina Gulf Coast.” The NOLA @ MIT group brought twelve professionals from the gulf coast to participate in three panel discussions. The event drew an audience of over 150 students and faculty.

In addition, Jacqueline and Aditi worked with Washington University, St. Louis architects on a proposal for revitalizing an abandoned grocery store on Broad Street. Their proposal won second prize in the 2009 Chase Community Development Competition. As a result, Broad Community Connections was awarded $15,000 to move forward with development.

In 2010, CoLab and the MIT Public Service Center provided programmatic support to another NOLA fellow, Laura Manville, who is working with the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NONDC). Laura looked at alternate housing finance strategies related to preservation, energy efficiency, and new market tax credits. Laura intends to build upon this work through her thesis where she will study how to make historic rehabilitation work in working-class neighborhoods.


Dayna Cunningham