MBAs Team with LBJ Students for Work in Haiti Over Break
During their winter break in January, a team of six University of Texas graduate students—including two from the McCombs School—will travel to Creve, Haiti, a small town 100 miles northeast of Port Au Prince. The students will work in interdisciplinary teams with a Texas-based nonprofit to lend their expertise on issues of strategy, marketing, finance, human resources and sustainability.
Local community leaders from Creve and the Concerned Christian Citizens of Cedar Creek Lake (CCC), a nondenominational 501(c)3 organization from North Texas, have worked together for more than 10 years. CCC volunteers visit Creve twice a year and, so far, have completed improvements including two schools with water wells, a small clinic and training of local health care workers. They also help to support a local student in his graduate studies in the U.S.
“Each member of the team has a particular area where they are skilled or passionate,” said Kate Stark, a first-year MBA student. “It ranges from engineers to expertise in volunteer management or a whole variety of things, so the hope is that together it will be a comprehensive solution for the next step.”
The Creve community has identified several projects that are important to them, including the development of a microfinance loan program, construction of a hospital, improvements to the water supply, creation of a community library and literacy program, and small-scale investment in wind and solar power. A key aspect of the students’ work will also be identifying sources of U.S. and international funding to support the ongoing development of the projects.
“These graduate students have an opportunity to interview local community leaders in Haiti, conduct research and grapple with how to select among what we consider basic necessities, such as access to clean water and tools that can spur future development such as steady electricity and microfinance enterprises,” said David Eaton, professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, which is spearheading the trip.
The students are fellows in the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service Curtis W. Meadows, Jr. Social Enterprise Program at the LBJ School. Stark and her classmate, Sameer Sankaran, will join Johnie Jones, Katie Kizziar, Victoria Lippman and Wes Ven Johnson from the LBJ School. Students selected for the Meadows Program bring their own unique skills to the team working as management consultants with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Latin America. In past years, students have volunteered in Mexico, Peru and Guatemala.
Lippman, a first-year master of public affairs student, is a first-generation Haitian-American and said she is grateful for the opportunity to return to her nation of origin.
“Although members of my family have since returned to Haiti many times on humanitarian missions, I haven’t been back since I was six years old,” said Lippman. “My father, who died in 2005, was once a politician in Gonaives, Haiti, and I know that he would take great pride in seeing me return as a representative of the school.”
Eaton learned about the nonprofit’s work in Haiti from carpenters who were remodeling his home. They belonged to a church that was part of the group of churches that make up Concerned Christian Citizens. Eaton seized the opportunity to connect the group to the LBJ School.
“Through this program, the students will be able to help a small Haitian community build on its existing partnership with a U.S. nonprofit, as well as come up with creative ideas for leveraging additional resources toward future infrastructure and community investment,” Eaton said.
“MBA students are fortunate to have such a wonderful opportunity to participate in the Meadows Social Enterprise Program,” said Deidra Stephens, director of the Texas MBA + Leadership Program at McCombs. “We are grateful to the LBJ School of Public Affairs for allowing our students to work with public policy students on important issues facing NGOs, as well as to gain international business experience in Latin America. This experience allows MBAs to learn how business and policy work together for the benefit of society.”
Stark believes interest in nonprofit work is growing at McCombs. “Students are really interested in this type of thing. They want to give back. They want to have a positive impact,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to bridge the McCombs community, the Net Impact community and other students that are like-minded with the university to pool their resources and reach out to the greater Texas community and the world community in Haiti.”The image of Haitian schoolchildren was taken by Susan Warner-Lambert for Save the Children and used with a Creative Commons license.