Graduate School of Design students drive collaborative Nepal relief, awareness efforts

2 min read

Within hours of April 25’s earthquake in Nepal, students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) had initiated support and advocacy projects in GSD’s Gund Hall and began collaborating with students and faculty from within the university and beyond.

GSD Dave Hampton and Shanika Hettige oversaw the setup of a station in Gund’s lobby for Humanitarian OpenStreetMaps Team (HOT) task mapping of the affected region. Hettige also worked with GSD student Alberto Embriz De Salvatierra, as well as students from Harvard Business School, to create Nepal Quake Aid.

“Nepal Quake Aid is committed to connecting the larger Harvard community with the people of Nepal,” De Salvatierra said.

GSD efforts were sparked on the evening of April 25 when Joyce Klein Rosenthal, assistant professor of urban planning at the GSD, forwarded to students an email seeking assistance in data collection.

As mapping data flowed in, Hampton set up what was initially a makeshift mapping station in the lobby of Gund on Monday morning. Within hours, the cluster of tables evolved into a cross-campus inquiry hub.

Hettige spent twelve hours manning the station before traveling with Kirti Joshi, a Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Nepal, to Washington, D.C., for a summit on applying OpenStreetMaps data to disaster situations just like this.

“Although unfortunate circumstances,” Hettige said, “there is an opportunity here to assist in saving the lives of others, to actively do what I have always been working towards, and to create change in areas of the world I am passionate about.”