People and Stories–Colorado State University Recovers from Flood (Number 1)

Kevin Oltjenbruns, associate dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences, will certainly be able to apply her experience of personal loss when she teaches class this fall. She teaches a graduate seminar on grief and loss, and she’ll be talking to students about what it’s like to lose books, articles, videos and personal items to flood waters.

As part of the facilitation team of the Diversity Infusion Curriculum Project, and as a faculty member in the department of human development and family studies, Oltjenbruns lost a substantial amount of research and teaching material, including hundreds of articles and other topical material. And, as associate dean, she lost administrative files and reports to the swirling water that inundated Gibbons Hall.

But in spite of the extensive damages, Oltjenbruns was able to talk about a lighter moment when she surveyed the chaos of her office and found a copy of a book, "Living Beyond Loss." The book was beyond salvaging, but she took a photograph of the cover to keep as a remembrance.

"People truly have been very generous and positive," she said. "They’re coming through like troopers, pitching in and helping in any way they can."

A promising new beginning for Project Promise

Watching Bob Richburg, director of Project Promise, energetically address a group of new recruits, you’d never guess that nine years of material from the project was lost to floods. Project Promise is an intensive, 10-1/2 month program that teaches people how to be effective teachers, and, after the flood, program staff members had very little time to come up with new classroom locations and teaching materials.

"The classroom where we stored all our papers and files for Project Promise was filled to the ceiling with flood water," Richburg said. "We managed to pull a few mementos out, but otherwise it was a complete loss."

The rubble and refuse were removed from the building and piled high outside. After Richburg stuck a small sign in the pile that said "Mt. Devastation," he rallied his troops and got to work.

"We had less than a week to get ready for the first day of the program," he said. "We spend about 1,050 hours with the same students over many months, so it wasn’t just a matter of getting ready for a few classes. We had to get ready to teach students how to become world-class educators."

Richburg said he felt blessed because by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the day after the flood, he had 23 calls from former students who wanted to help in any way they could.

"It’s been tremendous, the positive support we’ve had from staff members, former students and many other people willing to pitch in and help us recover," he said.

Barb McWhorter, associate director of Project Promise, said she lost five years of research that couldn’t be replaced, but that she and others managed to save some pictures and mementos that were important to them.

"We had half our book collection and bound journals in the basement, along with material from the electronic instruction lab," she said.

"There have been a lot of tears, but with a lot of support and help, we realized Project Promise would go forward. We’ve managed to keep our sense of humor, and, above all, we’re counting our blessings."