Professors, students to study Haiti relief for Quest

“Collaboration” often rings as a watchword on SUNY Oswego’s Quest day, coming up April 21. The crisis in Haiti has prompted one such connection, as three business professors combine the talents of their classes to study the relief effort there.

Classes discussing project.The humanitarian response to the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti involved a massive, intense, media-scrutinized mobilization of supplies and people. June Dong, John MacDonald and Ann-Lorraine Edwards, faculty in the School of Business, had what Edwards called “a brainstorm” to learn from Haiti and work with students in each other’s classes.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Dong, professor of marketing and management, whose students study the supply chain and operations management. “We can benefit from each other’s core competencies. I believe that humanitarian logistics is not too different in an abstract way from supply-chain management.”

“I thought, ‘Here’s a project students can really sink their teeth into,’” said Edwards, visiting assistant professor of business, whose interests include organizational behavior and communication. “I’m involving both my sections (about 70 students) in a role-play.”

The students’ public presentations, which include the simulation on how to deal with communication issues in a disaster like the earthquake, start at 10:45 a.m. and conclude by 3:15 p.m. on Quest day in Room 201 of of the Campus Center.

Busy Quest

More than 275 students and faculty will actively participate in Quest, the college’s annual daylong celebration of scholarship and creativity.

Other collaborations will include a Quest partnership with an ad hoc group of community and campus citizens playing host to the first Sustainability Fair, 4 to 8 p.m. in the Campus Center arena; a West Bengali folk group’s performance, sponsored by a variety of campus organizations, 7 p.m. in Sheldon Hall ballroom; and Quest co-sponsorship, with the Student Association Programming Board, of anti-sweatshops activist Jim Keady’s featured presentation, 1 p.m. in the Campus Center auditorium.

Meanwhile, Edwards’ students will continue to prepare for the role-play with the collaborative assistance of Jonel Langenfeld-Rial from SUNY Oswego’s theatre faculty.

Edwards’ classes, MacDonald’s risk management students and Dong’s sections of operations management met for two panel discussions earlier this semester to hear from and ask questions of representatives of the military, churches, media, housing—even a director from UPS—on the Haiti relief effort. Edwards said the intent has never been to critique the complex mobilization of supplies and people, but to learn lessons from it that are applicable to careers in business.

“We’re also giving students a license to become leaders—authentic leaders,” said Edwards. “With authentic leadership, the focus is on social and economic challenges.” She pointed out that in a crisis like the one in Haiti, lack of the customary top-down leadership and precise, highly organized communication of objectives “can cost lives.”

Marshall Hargrave, one of the student presenters, said his research has shown the effectiveness of pre-supplied—“prepositioned,” in supply-chain terminology—crisis hubs; for example, one in Miami to serve the Caribbean region in a natural disaster.

“Time is a major problem,” said Hargrave. “Once the disaster happens, you can’t get goods there that day.”

Student Mike Dattilo said organizing all the humanitarian organizations is a major challenge. The role-players have organized with a leadership group that includes a representative each from, hypothetically, medicine, shelter, food and transportation.

“Software helps,” Dattilo said. Besides handing out essentials like radios with lights on them, leaders need to ensure supply-chain software training and monitoring to provide just-in-time delivery and reduce unnecessary stockpiling and waste.

All events at Quest are free and open to the public. For more information and a schedule, see

PHOTO CAPTION: Lessons of Haiti—Ann-Lorraine Edwards, rear (gesturing), a SUNY Oswego School of Business faculty member who teaches organizational behavior, makes a point at a gathering of a few of the many students in her classes and those of June Dong, right (foreground), a business professor who teaches operations management. They, with John MacDonald’s risk management students, study common areas of interest in managing a humanitarian relief effort like the one following the Haiti earthquake, for presentations and a role-play April 21 at Quest. Students are, clockwise from left foreground, Jacqueline Michalski, Marshall Hargrave, Annie Walter, Daniel Arnold, Matt McGuckin, Mike Dattilo and Lauren Jemola.

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CONTACT: Professor June Dong, 312-5557,

(Posted: Apr 08, 2010)