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Rebuilding a Community

In the years following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, families in New Orleans focused on rebuilding: their homes, their jobs, and their lives.

That very spirit of starting anew led a pair of UW-Madison alumni to reach out to their fellow Badgers in the Big Easy, and try to rebuild another sort of community.

Wendy Krause Hathaway '04
October 18, 2010

Members of the WAA: New Orleans Chapter at Cooter Brown’s Tavern on Oct. 16, 2010

Bayou Badgers Renew New Orleans Chapter

In the years following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, families in New Orleans focused on rebuilding: their homes, their jobs, and their lives.

That very spirit of starting anew led a pair of UW-Madison alumni to reach out to their fellow Badgers in the Big Easy, and try to rebuild another sort of community.

Before August 2005, alumni in New Orleans were involved with an active chapter, dedicated to connecting area Badgers. But in the wake of Katrina, many residents relocated, or were just too busy repairing their roofs or restarting their careers, with little time to plan picnics or tailgate.

Serena Pollack ’97 is a post-Katrina transplant who moved from Chicago to Louisiana four years ago. Surrounded by both SEC madness, and a handful of Michigan graduates at her law firm, Pollack was inspired by their school spirit to reach out to her own red and white family in Louisiana. She and colleague Jeffrey Hoffman ’01 noted there were a fair number of UW alumni in the area, and decided if the city of New Orleans could start to get back to where it was before the hurricane, so could their Wisconsin Alumni Association chapter.

Pollack and Hoffman reached out to WAA over the summer and began working to get the chapter back up and running. Pollack describes it as a grassroots effort, mirroring the rebuilding across the city of New Orleans. “The response from local alumni has been amazing. From brand new graduates, to those 20 or 30 years older than us, they’re all just excited to get together with other Badgers.”

The newly relaunched WAA: New Orleans Chapter held its first event on October 16, when dozens of alumni packed in to watch Wisconsin dominate Ohio State. It was truly an electrifying moment for fans from Camp Randall all the way to Cooter Brown’s Tavern, where some Bayou Badgers celebrated the win with their own Fifth Quarter, New Orleans style.

Chapter leaders hope to organize a variety of events for area alumni in the coming months, including possibly a lecture series featuring speakers from Madison. Pollack says it is great how active these Badgers are, and how involved they want to be, with the university and with each other: “I’m excited to see what happens!”

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