STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS—During his first year at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Daryn Dodson made a solo trek to New Orleans to document how the area had been upended by Hurricane Katrina. A year later, over spring break in 2006, Dodson organized a group of fellow GSB students who spent 10 days in the city, gutting flood-damaged homes as part of a service learning trip.
But Dodson remained struck by the immense challenges small business owners in the region faced. After graduating from the GSB in 2007, he took a job with Idea Village, a nonprofit working to stabilize local companies.
Earlier this week, Dodson received a personal thank you for his efforts from President Bush. During an August 20 speech in New Orleans to detail the Gulf Coast recovery effort, Bush singled out Dodson’s efforts to rebuild the city’s business community.
Rather than remain in the Bay Area and join the region’s lucrative high-tech boom, Bush said, Dodson “felt the need to come back to New Orleans to help. This bright man decided, instead of trying to seek his own personal wealth, to come here and help people realize the blessings of entrepreneurship, all aiming to add value and to create jobs here in New Orleans.”
Dodson acknowledged the heady honor of being mentioned by name in a speech given by the President of the United States. But, he added, “I will be back to work tomorrow. My goal here is to make this program sustainable.”
At Idea Village, Dodson works to help the thousands of small businesses in the city’s hard-hit Ninth Ward, whose future was threatened by damage caused by the storms. “I saw this community that had achieved the American dream wiped away by a hurricane,” Dodson said. “I had to do something in a profound way.”
Dodson is now working to recruit about 120 MBA students to come to New Orleans and assist small business owners with technical assistance and business strategy consulting during the next year. Students from Stanford are on board to come in March, with MBA students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology arriving in February and students from DePaul University slated to help in January.