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Tornado recovery continues

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus is still undergoing landscape changes after an EF-4 tornado struck the campus in February.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus is still undergoing landscape changes after an EF-4 tornado struck the campus in February.
Van Arnold/Office of University Communications

Many changes have occurred on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus since an EF-4 tornado struck in February.

According to The Talon article written by Amy Martin, The University of Southern Mississippi’s Foundation Manager of Communications, the USM Foundation has raised over $1.7 million for the beautification campaign.

$140,000 was donated by alumni, friends and parents of current students.

Loren Erickson, the superintendent of landscaping at USM, said the university is implementing the five phases of The Landscape Restoration Plan. This includes the gateway phase, the rose garden phase, the Lake Byron phase, the District phase and the Marsh Hall phase.

According to Michelle Shinall, assistant director of marketing and campus relations for the Physical Plant, the rose garden phase will be completed by Homecoming.

The rose garden phase includes adding a brick walkway through the center of the garden, a seating area, a wider pathway for pedestrian and bike travel and the completed Golden Eagle statue.

According to Martin, the Lake Byron phase will expand the shore and add a recognition wall at the north end of the lake.

As for the district phase, trees will be added for shade and irrigation to support renovated or new turf.

Erickson said tailgating in The District will be allowed but a completion date is yet to be determined.

“Now that we are well on our way to getting the new and old landscaping to mesh and look even better than before, I am encouraged and excited to see the transformation continue,” Erickson said in The Talon.

Other changes include the transitioning of college departments and the demolition of the Elam Arms Residence Hall across from campus.

“Due to the tornado damage from the George Hurst Building, the ROTC department has moved to Southern Hall,” Shinall said.

Shinall said the art department is scattered around in different university facilities.

“Once all repairs are complete, all of the department of art and design, including the Art Museum, will be housed in George Hurst,” Shinall said.

The area where Elam Arms once stood will eventually be turned into a green space.

“A lot of the material from the building will be recycled, and the concrete from the building will be used for asphalt on roadways,” Erickson said.

Erickson said they decided to save the grates from the pool area at Elam Arms Dorm and construct them into a rose art trellis for the courtyard at the Power House.

Martin agrees that the beautification campaign was a huge success. The USM Foundation continues to raise money for additional changes.

“We were so pleased with the support and it really shows the strength of this community and regardless of where people go, they still come back and help,” Martin said.

On Aug. 29, Qdoba Mexican Grill will donate 15 percent of all sales to the Beautification Campaign.

For more information regarding the Beautification Campaign, visit the USM Foundation website at For more information on the Landscape Restoration Plan, visit the USM Physical Plant website at

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Tornado recovery continues