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LBJ School and McCombs Students To Aid Development in Haiti Over Winter Break

RGK Center’s Meadows Fellows program and McCombs School of Business to support Inter-disciplinary student teams

AUSTIN, Texas-- December 1, 2010-- Four LBJ School of Public Affairs students will travel to Haiti over the winter break as part of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service Curtis W. Meadows, Jr. Social Enterprise Fellows program.

The Meadows Fellows program will partner with the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin to create inter-disciplinary teams of student consultants to provide services on issues of strategy, marketing, finance, human resources, and sustainability for nonprofit organizations working out of the mountain community of Creve, located approximately 100 miles northeast of Port Au Prince.

The local community has identified several possible projects including the development of a micro-finance loan program for women, working with local carpenters to improve construction practices that help structures better withstand earthquakes, creation of a community library and literacy program, small-scale investment in wind and solar power, improvements in community water supply, and identifying U.S. and other international sources of funding to support these and other initiatives.

Wes Ven Johnson, a first-year Master of Global Policy student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, is among the four LBJ School students traveling to Haiti.

"Billions of people in the world live in poverty and face adversity daily," said Ven Johnson. "While we cannot solve all of the world's problems, we can address the ones that are within our reach. I am thrilled to be a part of the Meadows non-profit consulting team where I will help assess the needs of a rural Haitian community, develop a plan of action and advise on strategies for securing long-term support."

Victoria Lippman, a first-year Master of Public Affairs student, is a first-generation Haitian- American and says 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 6 years old,” said Lippman. “I can’t tell you what it means to me, not only to be returning after all these years, but to be returning as a student of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. 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. I am grateful to the LBJ School and the RGK Center for providing us with this opportunity. Beyond that, I am immensely proud to be a student of an institution that would be involved in such an endeavor.”

Two students from the McCombs School of Business will also take part in the trip.

"We are very excited to have two Texas MBA students participating in the Meadows Social Enterprise program this year," said Deidra Graves Stephens, Director of the Texas MBA and Leadership Program at the McCombs School of Business, which is also helping to fund the trip for both McCombs School and LBJ School students. "Our students receive so much from these experiences. They not only gain international business experience in Latin American, they also benefit from working with public policy students. It is important for our students to learn how industry and policy work synergistically to create solutions for the problems facing both business and society."

This project is taking place under the auspices of an existing collaboration between local community leaders and the Concerned Christian Citizens of Cedar Creek Lake, a nondenominational 501(c)3 that has been making twice annual visits to the community with volunteers from Texas and Louisiana since 2000.

It was LBJ School Professor David Eaton who first made contact with the nonprofit organization through talking with carpenters who were remodeling his home. The carpenters belonged to a church that was part of a consortium of other churches that form the nonprofit working in Creve to help build infrastructure such as primary and secondary school buildings with water wells, a small clinic, as well as helping to support the education of school children and the training of local healthcare workers.

“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 Eaton. “ Through this program, the students will be able to help a small Haitian community build on its existing partnership with a U.S. non-profit, as well as come up with creative ideas for leveraging additional resources toward future infrastructure and community investment.”

By Kerri Battles

Related:

McCombs Today: MBAs Team with LBJ Students for Work in Haiti Over Break