Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — It is just a cup of coffee.

tornado-emilyEmily West hands out coffee. Photo provided by Emily West.

But for Emily West, that steaming paper cup is her way to help the city that has given her so much, after Sunday's tornado left devastation in its wake. She was compelled to do something, rather than stay in her own home, which was undamaged.

"I felt my time would be better put to use helping people who had no help," she said. "Here I was with my power on, and a roof over my head, and I wanted to help those who didn't have that. Kokomo has given me everything; a place to start my life, and it was time for me to give back."

West and fellow Indiana University Kokomo students Megan Riley and Dereck Pearson handed out cups of coffee to those whose homes were damaged or destroyed, and to the hundreds of volunteers working to clean up and rebuild.

"They were so grateful even for the smallest thing, like a cup of coffee," West said. "It was so comforting to them. This has definitely shown me the power of community. It is humbling and eye opening to see the place you call home, pull together in the face of disaster."

West was one of the many IU Kokomo students providing a helping hand after Sunday's tornadoes. With classes canceled Monday because of a campus power outage, student volunteers hauled debris to waiting dump trucks, swept away broken glass, read to children at the American Red Cross shelter, and comforted those whose homes lay in ruins.

Members of the Saudi Student Club quickly organized to help wherever they were needed.

"These are our neighbors whose homes were damaged, whose businesses were damaged," said Talal Al-Hammad, one of the Master of Business Administration students from Saudi Arabia. "We feel like this is our community, and we want to be of service in any way we can. We helped people salvage good items from their homes, and clear away what could not be saved."

They were shocked by the devastation, because their home country does not have tornadoes, and none of them had seen one before Sunday. He was glad they could do something, and noted that both the Bible and the Koran speak to the importance of helping one another.

"We are all human beings, with no difference between races, colors, or religions, when these disasters occur," he said. "There was a call, and we answered that call to help our neighbors."

One homeowner asked them where they were from, and when he heard they were from Saudi Arabia, asked why they were there. Club members told him they were IU Kokomo students, giving back to the community.

The man looked to the sky and said, "Thank you God," and told them he was glad they were there.

"We were pleased with the reaction," Al-Hammad said.

They also helped a fellow M.B.A. student, Brandon Driscoll, clean up storm damage at his Kokomo home.

LeeAnn Cook, Martinsville, was relieved when her apartment escaped damage in the tornado, and felt compelled to do something to help those in her adopted hometown who were not so lucky.

"Kokomo feels like home," she said. "I've never experienced this level of devastation, and I can't imagine what these people are going through. So many people have helped me while I've been here, and now it's my turn to reach out and give a hand."

She organized members of the Enactus business student organization and Phi Sigma Sigma sorority to help clean up around Hoffer Street and Home Avenue, loading debris into city dump trucks. She was touched by the response, with hundreds of volunteers working, and other people driving in to bring food and coffee.

Cook said volunteering was just the right thing to do, and she plans to offer her assistance again.

"Everyone is so appreciative of all the help," she said. "If that was my family's home destroyed, I would hope anyone who is willing and able would do what they could to help them."

Sorority members used proceeds from a recent auction to provide lunch for those staying in the Red Cross Shelter Monday, and purchased toiletries for people who lost their homes.

Chapter Archon Jessica Hatt, Kokomo, said helping with disaster relief is a way members can live their tenants of leadership and service to others.

"This is our community," she said. "This is where we live, and work, and play, this is where our families live. Everyone in our community is affected."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo encourages its students, faculty, and staff to help those impacted by Sunday's tornadoes, through the Cougar Tornado Relief program.

The campus community may donate cleaning products, toiletries, and other items needed by Kokomo residents displaced by the storm, starting Wednesday, November 20. Donation boxes will be available in Alumni Hall, and also at Saturday's Homecoming basketball game. All donations will be given to the United Way of Howard County, which will distribute them.

"We couldn't think of a better way to welcome back our alumni, who are returning to campus Saturday for homecoming, than to give back to those who have lost their homes and businesses," said Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke. "We encourage everyone to be generous in helping our community."

Items needed include paper towels, cleaning products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, hairbrushes, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, diapers, wipes, and formula.

Food and clothing will not be accepted in this program, as other organizations are taking care of those needs.

United Way officials will be available at Saturday's basketball game, at noon in the Cougar Gym, to accept monetary donations. Checks can be made to Howard County United Way, with Howard County Tornado Relief on the memo line. Checks may also be mailed to the United Way at 210 W. Walnut St., Kokomo, IN 46902.

Members of the campus community who want to volunteer may call 2-1-1 to register and receive an assignment.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — An Indiana University Kokomo faculty member joins an illustrious group, including former presidents, Noble laureates, artists, and business leaders, as a William J. Clinton Distinguished Lecturer.

Karl BeselKarl Besel

Karl Besel, director of the Master of Public Administration program, will talk about new urbanism and the impact of traditionally planned communities, the subject of his recent book, at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

He was honored to accept the invitation, and will speak in April 2014.

"The Clinton School has a really strong public speaker series," he said. "They have had some high-profile speakers in the past, and it is humbling to be chosen. They are focused on what they can do to revitalize communities."

In addition to former President Bill Clinton, the speaker series has included former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, journalists George Stephanopoulos and Bob Woodward, actor and philanthropist Michael J. Fox, and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus.

Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said the campus is proud of its outstanding faculty scholars.

"Dr. Besel is an excellent example of the faculty who interact with our students every day in the classroom," she said. "The mission of the IU regional campuses is to enhance the regions they serve, by conducting research related to our communities. Karl's research on urban planning does just that, by expanding our knowledge on urban revitalization efforts."

Besel and co-author Viviana Andreescu, an associate professor at the University of Louisville, began writing Back to the Future: New Urbanism and the Rise of Neotraditionalism in Urban Planning, during his 2009 sabbatical. It reviews recent urban planning trends, and connects them to their roots in historical preservation communities.

"The timing was good for a book like this," he said. "There has been steady growth in the number of planned communities. People like these high density developments, where they can walk where they want to go, and don't need to own a car."

This trend is not just prevalent in suburbs, but in downtown neighborhoods, as part of revitalization efforts. That is what drew attention from the Clinton School, he said.

"They are interested in what they can do to be part of revitalization efforts," he said. "A lot of these are minority communities that have gone by the wayside."

The book includes a case study of one of the first communities to receive federal revitalization money, in Louisville. When it received that money, it prompted area banks to be involved, which led to clean up of these areas, he said.

"Within 10 years, the crime rate went down significantly," he said. "If you're going to address crime and make areas more livable, you have to provide decent housing and decent neighborhoods."

The Clinton School was created under the vision of former president Clinton, who wanted to create a global institution that legitimized the practice of public service within the academic system. Students combine classroom instruction with public service projects. It is located at the William J. Clinton Library, Little Rock, Ark.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Faryal Sharif sets a daunting task for herself this month. She adds one more activity to her already busy schedule of college classes and a job, by writing a novel in 30 days.

Faryal Sharif writes her novelFreshman Faryal Sharif writes her novel with a laptop or a note pad using colored pencils.Sharif, an Indiana University Kokomo freshman, participates in National Novel Writing Month, for the fifth year in a row. She's successfully completed the program, also known as NaNoWriMo, twice.

"The idea is that everyone is always saying 'I'm going to write a novel someday,' but very few people actually sit down and do it,' she said. "It forces you to make the time to just do it."

To accomplish the task, she tries to write approximately 1,700 words daily, though she admits she's a little behind this year.

"Now I'm balancing being a college freshman, working at the AMC theater in Marion, and writing my novel," she said. "If I can get this done, and keep up with my school work, and possibly sleep a little, I will feel like I can do anything. It will really boost my confidence that I can handle college."

National Novel Writing Month is coordinated by a not-for-profit organization of the same name, which has the mission of encouraging people to write. In 2012, nearly 350,000 people worldwide participated. More than 250 novels written during the event have been published, including Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants. That book was which was made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in 2011.

Writers may choose any genre, and Sharif, 18, usually writes a young adult mainstream book, "because I relate to that." Her current work in progress is mainstream fiction, telling the story of a teenage boy who is displaced from his home to live with a mysterious man who has links to his family's past.

To participate, Sharif created an account on the organization's website,, and then updates her word count regularly, working towards a goal of writing a first draft of at least 50,000 words by midnight November 30.

She's happy to have made some friends on campus because of NaNoWriMo, connecting with other participants, including Maria Ahmad, coordinator of student life and campus diversity; and Brian Arwood, student body president. Sharif, who is from Marion, hopes to recruit others to participate next year, so there is a writing community to support each other.

Ahmad is proud IU Kokomo is represented in the program.

"How cool would it be to hear an author say that he or she began a novel as a student on our campus?" Ahmad said. "It is a good experience for students to participate in something happening nationwide, because you feel like you are part of something bigger. Faryal's participation may inspire others to commit some time to writing their own novel, or beginning to explore that skill. This could also be a great start to forming a writing club or network."

Sharif said the greatest reward for finishing is personal satisfaction.

"There is no huge reward, other than knowing you set a big goal and achieved it," she said. "It's more of a personal reward. Other than that, you get a certificate and an authorization to buy the official T-shirt."

This year, she may take advantage of another perk — an access code to get a free proof copy of her completed novel from Amazon Create Space.

Sharif, who has not decided her major, hopes to be a published novelist in the future. She sees improvement in her writing each year she's participated in NaNoWriMo.

"It's fun to keep what I've written, and to see how much better I write compared to my first attempt, from when I was 13," she said. "It's also helping me keep up with my work at school. I'm motivated to finish, so I can get some more work done on my novel."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.