Service & Advocacy

Student Watch

In the wake of great tragedy, one UW grad student sees even greater potential. After a devastating earthquake in January 2010 left much of Haiti in shambles, Gergens Polynice PhDx’12, a development studies PhD candidate, has been committed to making sure Haiti is rebuilt the right way.

Polynice, a native of Haiti, has been a successful American citizen for the past twenty years. He ran his own IT firm and was making money that his fellow Haitians could only dream about. Then he realized he had a higher calling: helping those less fortunate than him, specifically his countrymen.

Now, after returning to school, he’s studying ways to help transform Haiti from a country that’s the poorest in the Western Hemisphere to one that can sustain itself. He believes that the earthquake offers a rare opportunity to accomplish that.

“It’s a perfect way to start from scratch. I don’t think they should restore Haiti; I think they should transform it,” Polynice says.

Whether it’s the development of clean energy (Haiti’s mountains would be ideal for wind energy), better roads and infrastructure, foreign investment and less dependence on imports, or holding Haitians more accountable for what they do, Polynice believes that now is the time to change the course of the country’s history.

And to kick-start the transformation, Polynice is donating five acres of land (valued at about $30,000) that he owns in Haiti.

Published in the Spring 2011 issue


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