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06-17-2014

Clarkson University Business School Professor Studies Humanitarian Group's Approach to Disaster Relief

When Clarkson University Associate Professor of Operations & Information Systems Santosh Mahapatra was on sabbatical in India last fall, he was so impressed by the humanitarian organization Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) that he is now studying its approach to disaster relief.

Santosh MahapatraMahapatra realizes that natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean tsunami, or the Japanese earthquake that devastated Fukushima present a supply chain problem. Emergency assistance of food, water, medical help, housing, communications, and more are needed.

What he finds interesting, however, is the incredibly effective manner in which MAM responds to all types of emergencies around the globe.

“They find a local solution in each case,” Mahapatra says. “They provide timely relief and boost the survivors to move on with life. As the survivors recognize the value of their life and their abilities, they transform from being a victim to being an agent of help.”

According to the website http://www.amma.org, the head of this organization, Mata Amritanandamayi, is known as 'Amma' (Mother). Her international network of charitable organizations, Embracing the World, is a non-governmental organization (NGO) with special consultative status to the United Nations.

Mahapatra has been inspired by MAM's success and is now working with the Amrita School of Business in Kochi, India, to study it.

“I was asked to co-advise one of their doctoral students, and I said, 'Sure, why not.' There is a lot of hidden knowledge to explore," he says. "My objective is to utilize the scientific principles such as lean, TQM etc. in operations management to understand the humanitarian logistics dynamic. Every disaster brings a demand for materials and assistance, but each one has its own unique set of challenges so each solution is different.”

There's much to consider as Mahapatra merges inspiration with science when it comes to disaster relief and humanitarian supply chain management. The end result has to be on time and accurate for example, and the outcome must be deliberate, not an accident. He wants to develop a template so the experience and practices of this organization working in different disasters become a science.

“I am there to explore, understand and explain the art and science of disaster management,” he says. “Nature makes us learn by bringing challenges. No one can avoid a tsunami, but we can learn and plan how we react to it.”

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/smahapatra-2.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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