Navigating a Category 4 Hurricane the Fuqua Way

Marina with a dog during a hurricane relief supply run to Walgreen's
My classmate Marina getting ready for a Hurricane Florence relief supply run

After what seemed like a furiously paced Term 1 during the summer and an even quicker term break, I was looking forward to going back to campus for the Term 2 residencies in the fall. Since the first one was our Partner Weekend, I had planned on flying my family down to the area for a few days, making a mini vacation out of this trip.

However, nature had other plans. Hurricane Florence, the wettest tropical cyclone on record to hit the Carolinas passed through the area that weekend. Hence, keeping in mind the safety of students and employees all campus activities were proactively canceled.

While this was an unfortunate event that impacted millions of people in the area and is likely to continue to impact the region (including several classmates of mine) in different ways for months to come, this was also an opportunity to learn how the Fuqua family handles adversity.

And boy, did we do well! Through this very difficult time for my friends in the region, the tenacity and caring attitude of the Fuqua family stood out.

How We Stayed on Schedule

Residency weekends each term are key for both the students and professors. Barring a few hours set aside for sleep, the rest of the time is spent on immersive learning, catching up with your cohort, and building traditions (I’ll just leave it at that 😉). Also, as everyone in the program has a very busy work schedule, moving a residency weekend is never a good option.

So how did we manage to get through a natural event of epic proportions? Through some ingenious thinking and leveraging some of the best-of-breed technology infrastructures that Fuqua has, and thanks to the hybrid format of the program, we managed to stay on schedule. The hybrid component couldn’t have been incorporated at a better time than now. While this was not ideal, it was a better option than having to reschedule and make up the residency which would have meant spending the Christmas holidays taking our Term 2 exams.

Tenacity During the Storm

The sheer grit and tenacity on display that weekend was amazing. I had teammates in the affected areas mulling evacuation plans whilst simultaneously delivering group projects. The fact that we had more than 75 percent of the cohort attend all the hybrid classes was amazing. Not to mention that the professors and the program support staff had to go above and beyond to ensure that the learning process was not impacted. Lectures were quickly adapted to fit the virtual delivery format and the lecture sequences adjusted to ensure some of the hands-on subject matter would get covered in detail during the following residency.

bags of dog and cat food, litter, toys, and other pet supplies ready to deliver to hurricane victims
That’s a lot of dog biscuits!

Our Caring Culture

They say adversity brings out the best in people. Hurricane Florence seemed to bring out the best I’ve seen yet from our cohort. If ever there was a time when we felt more like family than a group of classmates, this was it.

Updates were being actively shared. Teammates were watching out for those in the hurricane’s path. Homes were being opened to members of the cohort who were affected. And efforts were being made to help everyone stay caught up with the curriculum. Fuqua also worked with the JB Duke Hotel and offered a few rooms for students likely to be affected by the hurricane so they could have a safe harbor. Post-hurricane, Marina Jackman and Shawna Laczko, a couple of classmates of mine, worked tirelessly to help animals that were abandoned and affected by the storm. They raised over $4,000 in supplies for animal rescues and shelters in the surrounding counties. And through the help of volunteer transporters, they sent the supplies to the coast and those groups desperate for help.

What can I say? Being associated with this group of exceptional students and caring people is a privilege—and one of the best decisions of my life!

Marina with her young child, collecting hurricane relief supplies
Marina collecting supplies
Shawna with a van full of hurricane relief pet supplies ready for delivery
Shawna getting ready to make a delivery
Headshot of Swithin George, a student blogger in the Weekend Executive MBA program at Duke Fuqua

Swithin George

Weekend Executive MBA, Class of 2019

I currently head the Enterprise Integrations arm of the Enterprise Architecture team at Caesars Entertainment.... Read More

Learn more about Swithin | View all of Swithin's Posts