01 Jun 2006
HBS Students Help Rebuild New OrleansTopics:
“The first thought I had when I heard about the destruction left by Katrina was, ‘Let’s do something about it,’ ” says Anthony D’Avella (HBS ’07). “Here was an opportunity to put our classroom knowledge to work.”
Last January, D’Avella and 56 other MBA students did just that when they traveled to New Orleans with the HBS Hurricane Relief Trek. Some students worked with Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission, brainstorming economic development strategies. Others helped rebuild homes, secure bridge loans to businesses and individuals, assess public education reform needs, and assemble different aspects of the city’s recovery plan into a report to be submitted to President George W. Bush (MBA ’75).
The trip inspired an ongoing effort that has sent some students back to New Orleans. Brendan Kennealey (MBA ’06) returned during spring break to help create an economic redevelopment plan for the Broadmoor neighborhood, which was badly flooded when the levees gave way. He says he and his classmates are also trying to find investors for a venture-capital fund that would help existing businesses rebuild and support start-ups. The fund would help restart the hard-hit New Orleans business community.
Several faculty also made the trip to New Orleans, including Professor Herman (“Dutch”) Leonard, whose work on crisis management led him to study businesses that rebounded quickly after the hurricane. One product of his research will be a library of cases for use by communities coping with future disasters.
“The idea is that we’d be able to fly in and talk to local business leaders and say, ‘These are some things that folks in New Orleans found useful and that you might find useful as well,’ ” he explains.
HBS professor David Thomas, senior associate dean, Director of Faculty Recruiting, also joined the trek. He hopes that similar opportunities for students to get experience with real-world problems become a regular part of the HBS experience. “I would love to see four or five treks each year where students go and investigate some kind of central challenge to the broader society,” Thomas says. “How about a trek to the Sudan, or a trek to look at public education in places where school systems face major challenges?”
D’Avella adds that the work in New Orleans has allowed him and his classmates to learn about leadership by doing in addition to discussing cases in the classroom. “It gives us an opportunity to really put the HBS mission statement to work and take a leadership role by looking at how to leverage our expertise in a socially relevant way,” he says. “To have students mobilize and try to effect change and get crucial support from the administration and faculty says so much about the School.”
Class of MBA 2007, Section A
Class of MBA 1975, Section C
Class of MBA 2006, Section H