Hurricane Maria’s Aftermath | An MBA Candidate’s Perspective

What could five MBA students do to help hundreds of thousands of people who had been without running water, reliable power, and basic services for over a year when organizations like FEMA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Department of the Interior, and countless other government contractors had already failed? Well, the truth was, we didn’t have a clue (I know I didn’t) but we were about to find out.

Notre Dame MBA Candidates On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico after rapidly strengthening into one of the strongest storms ever recorded. The small island territory which had already been struggling with decades of corruption and decaying infrastructure, didn’t stand a chance. Much of the island was destroyed, and although Puerto Rico had boasted a densely-packed population of 3.3 million people prior to the storm, nearly half a million would make their exodus in the months that would follow it.

Many hoped aid would come quickly, believing the federal government had learned valuable lessons from Hurricane Katrina over ten years before, but complexities which surfaced between the federal government and the territorial government of Puerto Rico were proven to be quite formidable. Rigid bureaucratic policies designed for FEMA responding to state emergencies proved ill-suited for the unique situation confronting the government of Puerto Rico, and, for the most part, prevented the needed personnel and resources from reaching the island to offer assistance. This left the people of this already struggling island to largely fend for themselves.

Over a year later, on October 8, 2018, myself and my four classmates—Dan Weathers, Corey Waldrep, R.J. Dulin, and Tyler Shields—were dropped into San Juan, PR, to see what kind of difference we could make. We had all volunteered for this assignment, and were all selected based off of our backgrounds as veterans with experience in working in remote, struggling areas with limited resources. Specifically, our task was aid in the restoration of access to clean water. Even a year later, much of the island still did not have basic access to this valuable resource. The water infrastructure and supplies remained dysfunctional, and many citizens were forced to rely on weekly water deliveries that were unreliable at best.

We began our trip learning about the organization we would be partnering with and gaining familiarity with their strategy and the simple device we would be distributing. Waves for Water (W4W) was a non-profit organization founded by professional surfer Jon Rose when he experienced the 2009 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Sumatra. Thanks to his desire to help and the water filters in his possession, Jon was credited with saving over 15,000 lives in the 24 hours following the event. Since that time, Waves for Water has responded to numerous natural disasters and remote areas in an effort to give struggling people access to clean, sanitary water.

MBAs Supporting Puerto RicoThe device they used was simple: a $50 Sawyer filter that can be bought online. However, because of the filter’s unique design (similar to that of a dialysis machine) it could supply enough clean drinking water to a hundred people for up to five years. This was our task—to assist Waves for Water in getting these filters into the hands of struggling Puerto Ricans who needed them, all while looking for opportunities to improve Waves for Water’s operations.

We traveled all over island, from Puerto Rico’s capital and largest city of San Juan, to the east coast community of Isabella which was one the hardest hit communities, to remote areas in the island’s interior, where getting clean water was especially challenging. We helped seniors in a nursing home with limited resources, farms in remote and rugged areas, and even went door to door in an effort to find people who needed help. The first thing that struck me was how suspicious people were upon first meeting them. After months of being abandoned and promised help that ultimately never came, it was understandable how suspicious and disheartened these people were when someone from elsewhere offered help. However, the second (and more powerful) thing that I walked away with, was just how grateful these people were after they understood our mission and what a difference our water filters could mean for them.

It has been a while since Hurricane Maria, but people outside Puerto Rico have moved on. Conditions on the island are nowhere near normal, and they won’t be for many years. As Americans, we tend to have news appetites for only so long. Once a particular event runs its course we typically move on to something else. However, sometimes that event is of a level of seriousness that it deserves our national attention and focus for a sustained period of time. If, by writing this, I only can accomplish two things, I will be happy. Those things would be: 1) Hurricane Maria was devastating, and people in Puerto Rico are still dealing with its effects, even today, and will be for years. Please keep them in your hearts, and do not forget them. And 2) something as small as a $50 water filter can mean the world someone who was struck by tragedy and faces a long road to recovery. We often wonder how to help people in horrific natural disasters half a world away, but, as you can, if five students with these water filters can make a difference, anyone can.

Pursuing the common good in Haiti

By: Sylvia Banda

(Editor’s Note: The Round 3 admissions deadline is coming up! In honor of the occasion, enjoy this bonus post from MBA IRISH ECHOES, and be sure to check back over the next few days for more content.)

A beautiful mountainside view during a visit with a community organization in Fondwa, Haiti. (Photo courtesy Sylvia Banda)

What is the common good? While business school may seem like an experience built for honing in on quantitative and financial skills, my experience has continually challenged me to think broader in scope. In fact, as part of my time in the Notre Dame MBA program, I enrolled in a multidisciplinary course offered by the University’s Center for Social Concerns. The course, The Common Good Initiative (CGI), explored ways in which individuals pursue the common good, particularly in challenging situations.

Through the course, I had the chance to travel to Haiti with seven other graduate students from programs in sociology, biology, theology, and law. Haiti being the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere means it is a frequently discussed “failed nation state” case study. While it is oftentimes cited for its struggles, my experience in Haiti illustrated the apparent and inspiring examples of people pursuing the common good. The common good is a phrase used in Catholic Social Teaching to encompass the conditions of social life which enable human flourishing. Our group interacted with Notre Dame’s Haiti Program and a number of organizations seeking to enhance life in areas from Global Health to Education.  Continue reading “Pursuing the common good in Haiti”

Dispatches from Chile: What we took away from the trip

By: Elizabeth Sadler

Notre Dame MBAs during their 2016 mod abroad. (Photo courtesy Elizabeth Sadler)

I was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, and I was thrilled to learn that the Notre Dame MBA program offered a mod abroad as part of the curriculum. The mod abroad is a manifestation of the opportunities that small and agile MBA programs like Notre Dame afford its students.

To be honest, I didn’t do much research about Santiago, Chile, prior to arriving. Having Santiago has home base for two months was invaluable. The day after landing in-country, we were back at the airport on our first adventure to Argentina and Uruguay. During the course of the mod, we visited San Pedro de Atacama, Chile; Buenos Aires and Mendoza, Argentina; Machu Picchu, Peru; and Montevideo, Uruguay.  Continue reading “Dispatches from Chile: What we took away from the trip”

An ND MBA glossary, vol. 1

By: Nitesh Srivastava

The Mod 1 and Mod 2 class schedules for the Class of 2017, with an interterm in between. (Photo courtesy Nitesh Srivastava)
The Mod 1 and Mod 2 class schedules for the Class of 2017, with an interterm in between. (Photo courtesy Nitesh Srivastava)

The Notre Dame MBA program has a distinctive culture; as such, students, faculty, and administrators sometimes use jargon that may be unfamiliar to prospective students and others outside the program. We at MBA IRISH ECHOES strive to bridge the gap between our world and yours, so I have put together a brief glossary of Notre Dame MBA-specific terms: 

1. Mod: In the Notre Dame MBA program, each semester is divided into two modules (or mods for short). As a result, rather than say “first semester” and “second semester,” students say “Mod 1,” “Mod 2,” “Mod 3,” and “Mod 4.” Because each mod is only about seven weeks long, classes go by quickly!  Continue reading “An ND MBA glossary, vol. 1”

Dispatches from Chile: A mod abroad

By: Steve L’Heureux

Notre Dame MBAs in Chile, 2017 (photo courtesy Steve L'Heureux)
Notre Dame MBAs in Chile in fall 2016. (Photo courtesy Steve L’Heureux)

During Mod 2 in the fall, the Notre Dame MBA program offers second-year students the opportunity to study at the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile. About a dozen classmates and I are nearing the end of our stay, and I simply cannot recommend it enough. Sure, as I sip wine in Argentina or soak in the thermal springs of the Atacama Desert (all the while thinking about the students stateside unpacking their winter jackets), it seems obvious why a mod abroad in Chile beats out the alternative. But the value from the mod abroad program goes so much deeper than warm weather and full-bodied Malbecs.  Continue reading “Dispatches from Chile: A mod abroad”