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Professor Teams with Alumnus to Encourage Economic Development in Earthquake-Ravaged Haiti

July 29, 2010
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John Mezias and Pedro Fabregas

Alumnus Pedro Fabregas (right) and American Airlines offered
support to Mezias (left) and the project early on.

When the catastrophic earthquake devastated Haiti in January, John M. Mezias, an associate professor of management at the School, was planning workshops for the Academy of Management (AOM) conference in August, which would to take place almost 2,000 miles away in Montreal.  As an executive committee member of AOM's international management division, Mezias was already considering ways to innovatively integrate the conference theme of "Dare to Care" with the multicultural flavor of Montreal.  Recognizing that Montreal is home to a large Haitian community, he tried to organize a business development workshop that would train Haitian volunteers how to teach the "ABCs" of business and economic development to would-be entrepreneurs, non-governmental agency (NGO) volunteers, or government officials. Lawrence L. Jules, managing director of Cornerstone Venture Partners, helped identify Haitian professors and NGO workers willing to attend this conference workshop and then run complimentary business development workshops in Haiti upon their return. 

"The AOM provides great opportunities to network for research and teaching, but virtually no opportunities for members to transfer our business knowledge to those who need it most," said Mezias. 

This type of workshop can help bridge this gap and facilitate knowledge transfer.  Volunteers will write and share short cases about their experience running these workshops in Haiti.  These cases ensure two-way knowledge transfer that can increase understanding of business development workshops.

"While this initiative can help Haiti, I hope this workshop will set precedent for conference sessions designed to leverage business knowledge of AOM members to facilitate economic development and self-help projects in areas most in need," said Mezias.

Abderrahmane Benariba, senior consultant at Service d'aide aux jeunes enterprises du Montreal Centre (SAJE Montréal-Centre), a management consultancy specializing in promoting, stimulating and supporting the start-up and expansion of small and medium-size enterprises, will lead the session which will cover topics such as business basics and business plan writing. SAJE Montreal-Centre has agreed to provide free use of its proprietary teaching materials, not only for this session, but for use in all workshops conducted by volunteers in Haiti.

In addition, the Economic Growth Initiative for Haiti, a local NGO, will provide free use of its facilities in Haiti for these workshops.  School of Business Alumnus, Pedro Fabregas, MSPM ‘08, president and CEO of American Eagle Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida, helped secure free roundtrip airfare for up to 12 Haitian volunteers. 

"Pedro offered to help early on, and American Airlines' support made it easier to secure corporate sponsorship for volunteers' other travel expenses" Mezias said. 

AOM waived the conference fee to all Haitian volunteers, and hotel accommodations are currently being arranged. The AOM conference takes place Aug. 6 - Aug. 11, 2010.

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