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Business Intel

May 2018


Resilience With an Eye to Equity

Atyia Martin is chief executive officer and founder of All Aces Inc., providing consulting and training on a range of resilience-related concerns, including community engagement, crisis and emergency management, racial equity, and mental health and trauma support. Until January 2017, Martin had served as the first chief resilience officer for the city of Boston, working within the mayor’s Office of Resilience and Racial Equity. 

In addition to disaster preparedness issues, Martin’s work with the city entailed pinpointing connections among the systemic challenges that make cities vulnerable—racial tensions, drug abuse, unemployment, and lack of affordable housing, among many more. She oversaw development and implementation of a comprehensive resilience strategy for Boston, which includes a strong emphasis on social and economic resilience. 

Part of Martin’s role in that effort was to foster a citywide dialogue to build the collective capacity for change, with an emphasis on partnership building and meeting the needs of poor and at-risk communities. That process for developing the city’s resilience strategy engaged more than 11,000 people. 

From the beginning and throughout the process, Boston’s higher education institutions have been a strong partner, both in terms of participation in working groups and providing technical expertise in research and evaluation for appropriate targets to set and how to measure progress, notes Martin. This has included helping other city stakeholders build capacity for conducting grassroots research and data collection and how to analyze results and develop conclusions. (For more details on resilience work that colleges and universities are doing in collaboration with their communities, see “Joining Forces,” in February 2018 Business Officer.)

What amazed Martin was the amount of energy exuding from participants and the extent to which they were already able to frame concepts of resilience in ways that recognized potential threats—as if they had been waiting for an opportunity to share their ideas, says Martin. “Pulling back from the silos we used that have typically focused on emergency response, to considering recurring patterns of who tends to suffer most both in daily life and in the aftermath of a disaster, was huge and helped provide a shared framework for how to move forward,” says Martin. 

Find and Fill the Gaps

Pursuing resilience on a citywide scale requires honest assessment when it comes to identifying and prioritizing your biggest challenges. 

Make Resilience Habitual

Another example of enhancing equity in city services stems from a much more serious set of circumstances. No city wants firsthand experience dealing with a terrorist event, but the reality today is that all communities must prepare for one. Before Martin’s appointment as Boston’s chief resilience officer, she was director of the office of public health and preparedness at the Boston Public Health Commission, a role she held at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013. That tragic day in Boston’s history is still providing lessons about resilience for the city’s inhabitants, says Martin. 

On that day, the quick and coordinated actions taken by first responders, law enforcement, emergency managers, hospital personnel, and good Samaritans along the race route were all the city could have hoped for in the midst of such a tragedy. The weeks following likewise provided numerous lessons about the importance of making resilience habitual, says Martin. 

That scenario presented city officials with the need to rethink its public health response system, especially with regard to trauma response. In one instance, within two weeks after the marathon bombing, one of the neighborhood shootings occurred outside a dialysis center, disrupting operations. “While a typical approach might not entail calling in the full force of emergency response for a single shooting incident, we realized that for those individuals directly involved, that incident can be as traumatic as a large-scale terrorist attack,” says Martin. 

As a result, Boston has reshaped the city’s trauma response program to leverage the same kind of coordinated response infrastructure surrounding mental health for day-to-day situations that it would activate for a large-scale event. “This evolution in support of all communities around trauma response not only keeps the city in practice from an emergency response standpoint, but it also sends a clear message about equal treatment across neighborhoods,” says Martin. 

Boston is the first city in the 100 Resilient Cities network that has embedded racial equity and confronting racism in direct relationship to its understanding of resilience, says Atyia Martin, Boston’s former and first chief resilience officer. “Our belief is that we can’t call ourselves resilient if as part of our practice we are not looking at how everyone has equal access to the opportunities and services within our city.” 

SUBMITTED BY Karla Hignite, a contributing editor to Business Officer.


Generating Social Gains

The Yunus Social Business Center at Becker College, Worcester, Mass., is one of numerous centers around the globe that Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus—a vocal advocate for cause-driven business—has helped establish. In the same manner in which more college and university endowments are seeking investment opportunities in companies that turn a profit, while also generating positive societal and environmental benefits, social entrepreneurship is on the rise within the higher education curriculum. 

The emerging movement and its related service-learning opportunities are inspiring students to pursue entrepreneurial-focused careers that seek positive social impacts beyond financial gain. 

Among the growing number of formal programs across the country are ones offered through Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and the University of Virginia’s Frank Batton School of Leadership and Public Policy. 

Growing interest in the topic of social entrepreneurship is spreading throughout the sector. As one example, the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship has called for expanded programming to strengthen social entrepreneurship learning opportunities across disciplines at community colleges throughout the nation. 

SUBMITTED BY David A. Ellis, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Becker College, Worcester, Mass.

“Despite improved emissions efficiency per square foot, the addition of total square footage at eight in 10 college campuses, from 2007–16, has driven up overall energy usage at many of them. Nearly half (46 percent) of these “growth” campuses now consume an equal or greater amount of total fossil fuel than in 2007, and 56 percent now consume an equal or greater amount of electricity.”

—Sightlines’ State of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2017

Fast Fact

Quick Clicks

Value of Living Abroad

According to new research by a team of social scientists at Rice University, Columbia University, and the University of North Carolina, living abroad can clarify a person’s sense of self, increasing “self-concept clarity,” or the extent to which individuals’ beliefs about themselves are well-defined and stable over time.

In terms of professional advantages, the research shows that the longer people live abroad, the more self-discerning reflections they accumulate, and, as a result, the more likely they are to develop increased clarity about career decision making.

Leaders Support Key Role of Their Institutions

A recently released Inside Higher Ed survey of college and university presidents shows that about a third of presidents agree that more than 10 institutions will close or merge in the next year, while another 40 percent believe that at least five colleges will do so. 

While public confidence in higher education is waning—and a number of presidents indicate knowledge of less-than-stable institutions—the survey contains plenty of evidence that campus CEOs believe strongly in their institutions’ important role and their future. For example: 

By The Numbers

NACUBO's 2017 Tuition Discounting Study*

Source: 2017 NACUBO Tuition Discounting Study
Note: These numbers apply only to four-year private, nonprofit colleges and universities; public and for-profit institutions are not invited to participate in the study.