Bentley students wanted to know: what could they do to make a substantial difference for victims of Hurricane Katrina? They wanted a name, a face, and a place to put on their efforts. And they found it.
For the Spring 2006 semester Bentley is offering a new class called Rebuilding Business Processes - ID 299. The end result of the course will be a strategic business plan that will put an Alabama health clinic destroyed by Hurricane Katrina back on its feet.
ID 299 will include a collaborative effort by students in many different classes:
An Expository Writing class will write-up various grants
A Database class will build a plan for organizing medical records and billing
A Web Design class will design and build a brand new website
A Cyber Law class will look at trademarks and copyrights for the new clinic website
A Natural Science class will design a disaster relief plan that includes physical structure, water and power
A Political Science class will look at political components of disaster relief
Students enrolled in ID 299 will take the work done by these participating classes and develop strategic 1, 3 and 5-year business plans. At the end of the semester they will present their business plans to the clinic's director, Dr. Regina Benjamin.
Bentley students were introduced to Dr. Benjamin by Dr. Michael Rich, a physician working in Bentley's student health services. Dr. Benjamin is the director of a rural health clinic for low income families in Bayou La Batre, AL, a small fishing town on the Gulf of Mexico. For most of the 2,500 residents of Bayou La Batre, Dr. Benjamin's clinic is their only access to health care. On August 27, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit Bayou La Batre and destroyed the clinic.
But this wasn't the first, or the last time, tragedy struck the clinic. It was heavily damaged by Hurricane George in 1998. At that time, Dr. Benjamin obtained a loan through FEMA for repairs, but still owes $190,000. And this past New Year's Eve, just after helpers moved files and materials back into the renovated facilities, a fire broke out overnight and caused more significant damage.
Professor Ellen Foxman will co-teach the course with Shawn Hauserman, Coordinator of Academic Programs for Service-Learning. Hauserman flew to Alabama during the winter break to spend time with Dr. Benjamin and learn what was most needed. He says part of the goal of ID 299 is to plan for future disasters, "Another hurricane will happen. Our hope is to provide an infrastructure so that, to the best of our abilities, the clinic can stay up and running. We also want to expand the role of the clinic in the community as a healthcare resource and education facility."
Professor Foxman believes ID 299 is a one-of-a-kind class, "This course is extraordinary and unique in my teaching experience. It is the only course I have ever seen that really had its origin with students rather than faculty or committees. Also, the structure of ID 299 coordinates student groups in this class with students working on related projects in six other courses. We view this as similar to what students will encounter in multidisciplinary task forces or project groups in the workplace."
ID 299 is part of Bentley's overall fundraising and rebuilding efforts on behalf of the Gulf Coast. In the fall, the Bentley community came together for a panel discussion about the impact of Hurricane Katrina; Bentley student groups organized a "Camp for Katrina" fundraiser where they raised thousands of dollars from sponsors for camping out overnight on campus; and over the holidays, members of the Bentley community adopted a person or family in Bayou La Batre, Alabama and sent holiday gifts.
In addition, a group of students, staff and faculty meet weekly to discuss ongoing ways Bentley can help the rebuilding efforts in Bayou La Batre and throughout the Gulf Coast. Bentley's Vice President for Student Affairs, Kathleen Yorkis, says the efforts to help Dr. Benjamin started with a donation and grew from there, "Dr. Benjamin really needed money to help her achieve her goal of establishing a medical practice with high quality care for people who can't afford it. As a result of their first fund-raising effort, our students sent a check for $7,109.06 to the clinic. But the project has now gone well beyond that to an ongoing, sustained commitment."
Manny Carneiro, one of the students spearheading the efforts in Bayou La Batre, says it has been, and will continue to be, an incredible experience for all the students involved, "This is an opportunity for us as business students to be able to show what we're made of and apply our skills to real life situations. There is a sense of satisfaction when you have a tangible product to show for your efforts."
For more information on Bentley's efforts in helping out the Gulf Coast go to: