Contingency Course Puts Students at the Helm of a Crisis

March 26, 2020

Students experience the urgency of managing crises in a newly conceived Miami Herbert Business School graduate course.

By Michael Malone

Albert Einstein once said that “it’s in a crisis that inventiveness is born, as well as discoveries and big strategies made.” Graduate students registered for a new course, “Contingency Planning: The Coronavirus Challenge” will be challenged to invent, discover, and strategize beginning Friday with the launch of this one-credit, short-term elective.

“These students will one day be in senior management positions possibly dealing with these scenarios,” said Robert Plant, department chair and associate professor of business technology in the University of Miami Patti and Alan Herbert Business School. “It’s one thing to watch—and it’s another to be responsible for addressing a crisis.”

“This is a pivotal time in both management and society, and the course raises a lot of relevant questions relating to decision-making,” pointed out Plant, who championed the idea for the new class with Patricia Abril, vice dean of graduate business programs. “Hopefully students will gain insights and maybe not be caught flat-footed when they’re in a position to manage a crisis.”

In addition to Plant providing instruction on the business and technology implications relating to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Dean John Quelch will teach about business response to government-imposed restrictions relating to the 23andMe case. Abril will discuss legal ramifications of crises. And, Joseph Ganitsky, director of the Master of International Business program, will share lessons learned from the 2014 deadly Ebola outbreak and his experience with Hurricane Katrina when he lived in New Orleans.

“Some of us have personal experience with these scenarios, and these are things we do to help students,” Ganitsky said.

Faced with the cancellation of planned student trips to China, Brazil, London, and California, faculty members and administrators exercised their own creativity and developed the new elective as an alternative experiential continuum to already completed coursework.

“Disaster recovery is part of the tech world—tech things fail and as they do you need to learn how to recover,” Plant said. “Hopefully this course is not an overdose of the problem outside that we’re all facing; but instead, students will gain insight for the next time—and there’s always a next time.”

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