Saturday, February 21, 2015

Resilience in a Winter of Disruptions

At the Isenberg School of Management, we pride ourselves on our students being resilient and "gritty" even.

This winter has certainly put the faculty, students, and staff to the test.

For example, is reporting that: Temperatures dropped to -19º at the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee Saturday morning. This broke the previous record low of -6º set back in 1950. To put this cold in perspective, -19º is the coldest low we’ve ever had in the lower Pioneer Valley in February.

This February,  we have had 2 cancellations of classes at UMass Amherst on a Monday (I teach Mondays) due to big snowfalls, and  a burst pipe that flooded our Isenberg School atrium and a computer lab below. I am not even acknowledging the later start times because the parking lots and roads and walkways needed clearing.

Because of the frigid weather and snowstorms, I have also had to reschedule 2 guest speakers in my Humanitarian Logistics class and I so much appreciate the speakers' flexibility! The most recent speaker had to deal not only with a loss of communications (computer and phone) in his healthcare organization but also with a flood in one of the principal rooms because of a burst sprinkler pipe! He told me that he will have many stories to share with my students later this week.

And, yesterday, I heard from one of my former doctoral students, who is now an Assistant Professor and lives in eastern MA. In the middle of the night last weekend (after Valentine's Day) his living room and basement were flooded when the sprinkler went off. He and his wife and young child now have to relocate to a hotel for a month so that the walls in the flooded rooms can be torn down and replaced because of all the water damage.

Somehow in western MA, our mobility, despite the horrid February, has not been drastically affected. (I will not share with you the multiple schedules that had to be updated for prospective faculty interview candidates because of flight cancellations. The search is now over and our offer has been accepted so we will have a great new colleague in the Fall).

The situation is even worse in Boston and Cambridge in eastern MA!  The winter of 2015 with 7 feet of snow already having fallen in eastern MA (and topping records in Buffalo)  has had a tremendous negative effect on public transportation with suffering commuters having to contend with complete shutdowns of the MBTA for days on end, major delays, and with serious disruptions to businesses and individuals. Police even had to transport certain healthcare professionals to work!

I was contacted by a journalist last week to offer suggestions on how to remove the snow so offered ideas on the use of freight trains to transport the snow out to warmer climes and, posisbly, drier ones, as well.

Last week,  I was telling my students (we were discussing risk management and emergency preparedness) about  Jane Garvey, who used to live in Amherst and was head of the FAA during 9/11 and responsible for managing air traffic control that horrific day.  I had the great honor of receiving an award named after her, the Jane Garvey Transportation Leadership Award,  which I treasure. Last night, on the evening news, because of the MBTA issues this winter, Governor Charlie Baker (who has been contending with water leaks in his home as well), appointed a panel to review the MBTA and Jane Garvey is one of the seven members of the panel with the charge to find long-term solutions for the MBTA's financial and operational woes.

In today's Daily Hampshire Gazette, Jane Garvey is quoted as saying about the MBTA transit sytem:
" It's a system that is so critical to the economy and so critical to the state and the region. We all have I think an interest in seeing it run well." I completely agree with Garvey. (I wrote a post on her a while back.) I had the pleasure of meeting her at a dinner party hosted by a senior colleague of mine, Professor Joe Balintfy, who has since passed away. He was a neighbor of hers on Blue Hills Road in Amherst.

I have spent 3 years living in Cambridge - the first two when I was a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Transportation & Logistics at MIT (under a wonderful NSF Visiting Professorship for Women grant that I had received) and then a Visiting Scholar at the Sloan School at MIT. In 2005-2006, I was at the other institution in Cambridge, on my sabbatical, as a Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University. The MBTA Red Line was how I got around when I was not walking from place to place or taking a Peter Pan bus back to Amherst on some weekends and holidays. And now the Peter Pan busses, based in Springfield, are being used to shuttle commuters in eastern MA because of the MBTA transit fiasco!

And just to end on a positive note, yesterday, one of my colleagues and collaborators at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Professor Jonas Floden, emailed me the photos below which he took close to his home on the island of Donso. Yes, there are spring flowers now in Sweden!

So, just hang in there - we will make it through this winter in Massachusetts!