Five Years Later, Villanova Business Classes Continue Work Toward Katrina Recovery

VSB professors Robert Nydick and Daniel Wright, along with hundreds of Villanova students,have rolled up their sleeves to assist in the Katrina recovery efforts

Business courses have shown students how to apply decision-making methods to help solvereal-world problems in Gulf Coast communities

VILLANOVA, Pa. – After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast Region in August 2005, Villanova University – like many higher education institutions – pledged its support.  This University aid came in a number of ways, from taking in college students displaced by Katrina to raising money for disaster relief organizations and planning service trips to the Gulf Coast Region.  A professor in the Villanova School of Business took the support a step further, incorporating hands-on assistance for the Katrina recovery effort into his business classes.

“I’ve always wanted to make sure that my courses were as practical and real for our undergraduates as possible,” said Robert Nydick, Professor of Management and Operations in the Villanova School of Business (VSB).

Just days after Katrina hit, Nydick approached a member of the University’s hurricane relief team and arranged a trip to the Gulf Coast Region.

“The idea was to take my class there to work with disaster relief organizations and assess what their major needs were,” said Nydick.  “VSB students were then able to apply the decision-making knowledge they were gaining in class – along with the use of decision modeling – to solve a very real business problem. The end result of their work was a solid assessment and recommendation on where University funds should go to most effectively support people in need.”

Six weeks after Katrina hit, Nydick and 12 students flew into Mississippi and drove to New Orleans where they met with local leaders and disaster relief organizations to assess the region’s most pressing needs and rolled up their sleeves to work in the recovery efforts. Upon returning to the University, the students made a recommendation as to what organizations the University should contribute.

This was just the beginning of the efforts Nydick and his students would make towards the Katrina recovery. Five years and nine semesters later, his classes still are going to the Gulf Coast Region where they work with a number of organizations, including Habitat for Humanity. Not only do Nydick’s students learn about business decision making within a real-world context; they build houses.

“I’ll always remember one trip when we arrived to find a concrete slab, and 48 hours later, we handed the keys of a completed house over to a Habitat homeowner,” said Nydick. “The experience has had an enormous impact on our students’ lives, and it really made a difference in that community.”

The trip has grown considerably from the original journey five years ago with 12 students, to between 30-40 students and alumni twice a year. Fellow VSB faculty member Daniel Wright has since joined Nydick in leading the trips.

“Villanova students have a special quality of being genuinely willing to help those in need,” said Wright. “This willingness has helped transform the Gulf Coast community.”

The students pay their own way on the trip. In addition, their fundraising efforts have raised more than $45,000 toward Katrina recovery efforts since that first year.

Villanova University Support for the Katrina Recovery:

  • In addition to those trips taken by Professor Nydick’s class, the Villanova Center for Campus Ministry has coordinated numerous service trips to Louisiana and Mississippi to assist in the Katrina recovery efforts—trips that began in October 2005 and have continued every March and October since that time.
  • Villanova took in 27 students from colleges in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. While many later returned to school in the Gulf Coast Region, several of those students stayed to finish their degrees at Villanova. In addition, the Villanova School of Law hosted five students displaced by Katrina. 
  • The University set up a “Villanova Hurricane Relief Fund,” and with the help of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, raised thousands for various relief organizations.

Villanova University, a co-educational Roman Catholic institution, was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. A premier institution of higher education, Villanova provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others. A wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered through the University’s four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova School of Law. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.