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Tulane MBA Student Takes her Final Elective Course at Baylor University

Nov. 16, 2005

With only three hours remaining in her MBA program at Tulane University, Executive Director of Strategic Planning for Tulane's Office of External Affairs and native New Orleanian, Rhonda Coignet, still plans to graduate from Tulane in December 2005 thanks to taking her final elective course at Baylor University.

When Coignet learned that classes at Tulane were cancelled for the semester, she took advantage of her unexpected free time to take an elective course titled "Seminar in Human Resource Management" taught by Dr. Cindy Wu, assistant professor of management.

"I started my MBA degree in Fall 2002 and worked full time throughout the program," Coignet said. "I took six hours each semester except for one semester. I originally planned to graduate in August but by taking only three hours one semester, I still had three hours left to take in Fall 2005."

Coignet's emphasis in her MBA degree at Tulane was general management but she had not yet taken a course in human resources, so Baylor's HR graduate course was an excellent choice to stay within her area of interest.

"I am so glad to have this opportunity at Baylor to complete my degree," Coignet said. "Everyone at Baylor was so supportive of my enrolling and helpful in finding the right course to add value to my degree."

Originally planning to stay with friends for the weekend in Waco to wait out Hurricane Katrina, Coignet never imagined the challenges that lay ahead for herself or her city and university. In the first few days after the hurricane hit, she watched the news coverage along with the rest of the country learning about the devastation to her home and to the campuses of Tulane, Loyola, Dillard and Xavier Universities.

"The city of New Orleans was so energetic and alive, so it was amazing when I returned to see the damage for the first time," Coignet said. "The devastation was unreal. The city was so unnaturally quiet."

The damage to Coignet's home and to the campus of Tulane was relatively light compared to much of the city. She understands how lucky she is to still have her home because so many homes were flooded with six, seven or eight feet of water.

After graduating from Loyola University with a degree in communications and public relations, Coignet left New Orleans to work in New York. "But, there is something about the city of New Orleans that gets to you deep down," she said. "People always come back and I've now been at Tulane for nine years. I believe New Orleans and Tulane need each other and I want to be a part of the rebuilding."

After starting the semester living in Waco, Coignet moved to Houston to join Tulane's president, core deans and vice presidents who had established offices at Tulane's Houston campus, which is home to the university's Houston-based Executive MBA program. While commuting between Waco and Houston for her Tuesday-Thursday class, Coignet became responsible for identifying housing for Tulane faculty, staff and students who had lost homes in New Orleans.

"Initially, more than 1,000 people responded to our survey saying they needed help in finding a place to live," Coignet explained. In preparation for their return to New Orleans, Coignet is working with a variety of resources to match people with available housing accommodations.

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