A contingent of facility and students from the University of Miami’s (UM) Miami Herbert Business School traveled to Grand Bahama for a weekend of meetings and activities, engaging with their counterparts from the University of The Bahamas (UB) Northern Campus, as well as a number of proprietors on the island in an effort to commence a partnership that will hopefully, prove mutually beneficial for all parties involved.
The purpose of the visit was to establish the Bahamas Resiliency Project, which officials are hopeful will positively impact the business sector and ultimately, create more resilient businesses moving forward.
According to Zhivargo Laing, Executive Director Senior Policy Fellow, Government and Public Policy Institute, who was influential in merging the two institutes, during a press conference at the Castaways Resorts and Suites on Friday, February 7, while discussions were had prior to Dorian with respect to starting such an initiative, following Dorian’s passing the time seemed ideal to forge forward with their plans.
“For some time, the University of The Bahamas (UB) and the Business School at the University of Miami (UM) were having discussions how we could collaborate on any number of fronts to advance public policy, training and education in The Bahamas. Immediately following the storm, I received a call from Dr. Patricia Abril (Vice Dean, School of Business, UM) saying, ‘We want to help, but we want to do something meaning, something lasting; something that can make a real impact.’
“And so, we put our heads together and determined that while lots of people would be concerned about making residences in The Bahamas more resilient, how do you make it possible for them to withstand storms like Dorian going forward, since this is a cyclical reality for us. While they will be focused on the houses and residences, we wondered about the businesses. You can get the houses up and running but what if you cannot get the businesses up and running. They are the employers of people; they are the providers of goods and services and so forth.
“We came up with the thought to pursue what we call a Business Resiliency Project. How do we help businesses in The Bahamas become more resilient in the face of this ongoing threat of these storms and the effects of climate change, as a matter of fact,” Laing revealed.
He informed that over the course of many meetings, the decision as made to unite business students at the graduate and undergraduate level at the University of The Bahamas, and faculty to build case studies using real, live businesses in the country now trying to get back after the storm.
In the process of building those case studies, it was also their hope to develop a training workshop for business resiliency and to offer recommendations to the Government of The Bahamas as to what can be done, more broadly, to make the business community more resilient.
“Also, to be helpful to these businesses themselves, as they try to recover from the storm. That is the context of our being here today,” said Laing.
Vice Dean, Graduate Business Programmes and Professor, Business Law, Dr. Abril, added that she is eager to see this partnership take flight as she and her team are firm believers that when like-minded individuals partner for a common goal, wonderful things can be accomplished.
“The truth is, the role of the university, in our case, the role of the business school is to solve complex problems in society. We, at the University of Miami also view our role as being a good citizen, in the hemisphere. And so, it was actually a very natural conversation.
“We had been talking over many months about what is the right moment and the right thing to collaborate on. After the hurricane, it was a natural thing to say, ‘Let us do something meaningful, something lasting.’ What is meaningful and lasting is firstly, what you need and secondly, a collaboration of fresh minds from the University of The Bahamas and from the University of Miami.
“Good things come, when people gather around a table from different places and we believe that very strongly. That is why we are here; we were just commenting on the energy in the room; it was just buzzing and that is what changes the world. We believe that passionately, and that is why we are here and have forged such a good alliance,” said Dr. Abril.
UM’s Associate Professor of Professional Practice, Management Science, Alex Niemeyer expressed his gratitude to UB for welcoming he and his students to engage in such a unique programme.
“Thank you to all of you for the very warm welcome but also for the opportunity you are providing for us. As a business school our job is to educate business leaders and there is only so much that you can do in a classroom and talk about things in concept.
“One of the focus areas that we have on the UM Business School is to actually create real student projects. Our students are working out in the real economy. Now that the opportunity came up to not only do that with the average corporate client which is going to be something that all of our students are going to experience anyway, but also the opportunity to work with a unique situation in a unique economy. I think many of us have a lot to learn about, and it would be a very enriching experience,” said Niemeyer.
“We had a vast over subscription for this course and all of the students actually went through a very rigorous process, in terms of why they should be allowed to participate in this course. I was very blown away by the commitment that everyone showed and the passion they had for helping here in The Bahamas.
“Thank you for the opportunity for making that happen; we will do our very best to deliver something that is meaningful for the companies that we work with, but also for The Bahamas as a whole,” he said.
Vice President, University of The Bahamas Northern Campus, Dr. Ian Strachan was also on hand expressing his gratitude for the continued partnership that UB North has already established with UM in other areas.
He welcomed the faculty staff and students noting, “We have felt the brunt of the storm and in some ways, I feel that our campus has become the poster child of Hurricane Dorian. We are definitely the first stop on the disaster tour, but seriously speaking, this storm and the crisis it has spawned has really created great opportunities for our country, for partnerships. It has created great opportunities for us to really use our imagination and for us to dream and be bold. It has been truly inspiring to see the degree to which the world wants to help and wants to partner with The Bahamas to try to rebuild and rebuild better.
“As a person in higher education, I am especially proud and pleased by the level of commitment, engagement and willingness to help, that I see in higher education, from institutions like University of Miami that we are also working with in multiple ways. In fact, we have had graduate students from the School of Architecture come down and help us design a master plan, in the last two years and that continues, in various ways.”
He continued, “I think that the relationship that UB needs to forge, particularly with higher education institutions in the state of Florida, should be a unique one because of our proximity, our shared experiences and the ties that bind Bahamians to Florida, particularly South Florida.
“I think that it is a no brainer and so, I want to thank you for the passion you are showing, your concern, your interest and I am happy that the Government and Public Policy Institute is doing the kinds of things that we hoped it would, in terms of bringing the world, to The Bahamas and enriching the experience for our students, so that they can have a broader horizon and that they can be sharper.
“This is wonderful. This is the University playing the role that it needs to play in national development, in helping to build capacity; the capacity of not just our students and faculty but also having a felt, real tangible impact on the economy and the society, generally. I am very pleased today to be here.”
A number of local proprietors involved with the project were also present for the press conference. They too shard their thoughts on being selected and what they hoped to gain from the forged partnership.
Proprietor of Arma Seafood Import Export Company, Anjoun Armaly shared, “I came in not really knowing what to expect but I must say that I am very excited to be a part of this opportunity. So far, in just speaking with a few persons, I am excited to lean and I know that they will have a lot of good information that I can take back and get my business back up and going and be a lot more resilient. I really appreciate the help and look forward to working with each and every one of you.”
Proprietor, Jamaica Bahamas Import and Export Winston Pinnock stated, “This has already been a very interesting experience.
“Having sat and spent some time sharing our story of what we have been through and our own company and what we are doing to recover, it is an interesting experience and I am happy to share our story.
“I think that it is helpful for others to know what we are going through. It is good to know, as Dr. Strachan said, it is impressive when the outside world is seeking to understand what we have gone through and is willing to be of some help; whether that is technical help or otherwise.
“I want to say on behalf of those that have the blessing of running companies here on Grand Bahama, I still believe that it is one of the most wonderful place to call home, despite Dorian. I want to say, ‘Thanks’ for having an interest in what we do here,” concluded Pinnock.