BUSINESS SCHOOL HOLDS UP…BUT MAYBE NOT THE FAVORITE WATERING HOLE
Rice University also lucked out to an extent according to Rodriguez. He notes that some parts of the school sustained minored modest damage, but nothing serious. “The living and learning facilities, the gym, and the library have all been fine,” he says. “Houston has a lot of experience with hurricanes and floods; we’re a little ahead of the game.”
The business school itself sidestepped costly fixes too. “We have some minor roof leakage in the building that will cause a little bit of damage,” Rodriguez points out, “but we’re already addressing that.” That’s not to say that the school didn’t emerge unscathed, however. The jury is still out on The Valhalla, a graduate bar that’s a favorite among Rice MBAs, which is just starting to be pumped out.
Rice isn’t the only MBA program assessing the damage from Hurricane Harvey. The University of Texas was lashed by the fleeting outer bands of the storm over the weekend. According to Dave Wenger, who heads communications for the McCombs School of Business, the campus is “water logged,” but has not experienced any disruption. However, the school also holds a Weekend MBA program in Houston and is still awaiting word on the condition of the facility there.
“Over the past 24 hours, our students, Tina Mabley (assistant dean), and I have been in communication regarding the situation in Houston,” writes Joe Stephens, the school’s assistant dean for the Texas MBA for Working Professionals, in a statement to Poets&Quants. We’re in “information collection” mode right now, tracking status of all our Houston students (so far, most are OK), and identifying needs and resources.”
BIGGEST WORRY: HELPING THOSE WHO LOST THE MOST
Still, the hurricane will have a marked impact on the Rice MBA program in the days and weeks ahead. For one, all classes have been cancelled through Wednesday, with some tentatively slated to start back up on Thursday. The school is also in the process of rescheduling several recruiter meet-and-greets, alumni events, and a first-year welcome ceremony.
While the worst may be over, Dean Rodriguez still has plenty of worries. The biggest is how the school will be able to address the needs of those who suffered the worst. “The cost of the storm has been asymmetric,” he points out. “Some people have kept power and didn’t lose anything. Others lost cars, homes, everything! We’ll have to figure out how they’ll go about the rest of their semester even after the waters recede. What are they going to do for transportation? Where will they live? What about clothes?”
That’s not to say that Rodriguez and his staff haven’t begun to answer those questions. “We’re getting there,” he admits. “We’ve already identified a fair number of rooms and apartments near campus so we can probably address that for lots of people. Transportation ought to be feasible too, but that’s going to be a little tough. I think with the schedule and classes, we’ll be able to make up all that up and get the normalcy back….but it’s still about addressing the needs of those who were hardest hit.”
PROFESSOR TAKES CANOE OUT FOR RESCUES
If there has been any silver lining for this tragedy, it has been how the Rice community has truly come together and brought out their best. Rodriguez notes that several staff members have volunteered at the Red Cross downtown. Doug Schuler, an associate professor of business and public policy, took his canoe out on Sunday to help pull out people trapped in their houses. And Lydia Musher, a lecturer in communication, housed 38 people on her second floor before they were eventually evacuated and placed in hotels.
It isn’t just the Rice community that has stepped up its game, Rodriguez adds. “I’ve had a lot of outreach from deans and representatives of other schools. They’ve been very kind in offering any forms of assistance that they can. That’s always comforting. I think there may be a need for their help at some point.”
Disruption aside, the hurricane has been a reminder of how much the school has to be grateful. As the winds die down and waters ebb, Rodriguez has grown increasingly hopeful…even as he peers out at the many hurdles that lie ahead.
“To be honest, for all the hardships, most everyone has been really lucky,” he admits. “I’m feeling a little more optimistic as time passes that at least we’ll be able to do the kind of recovery we want to do. It’s always just a little frustrating waiting for things to get just good enough to get things started.”