Students from earthquake-ravaged Haiti to receive scholarships from Purdue and the Voila Foundation

April 22, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Two students from Haiti will receive scholarships to study earth science at Purdue University as part of a long-term effort to educate the next generation of scientists about the earthquake hazards faced by that nation.

Purdue and the Voilà Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, are partnering to fund three years of graduate study for two students selected by a committee from the State University of Haiti. The students will begin their studies this fall.

"The devastating earthquake on Jan. 12 underscored the importance of academic research in evaluating the potential for hazardous events and in providing the critical information needed to properly prepare and prevent the tragic loss of lives," Purdue President France A. Córdova said. "The students benefiting from these scholarships will be empowered with the knowledge they need to return home with the expertise to make a difference in the future of their country."

Purdue is providing two three-year graduate tuition scholarships. The Voilà Foundation is providing each student with $25,000 per year for three years - for a total of $150,000 - to cover travel and cost of living as well as additional expenses for research.

The students will study under Eric Calais, the Purdue professor of geophysics who has studied the Haitian faults since 1989 when he wrote his doctoral thesis on the Cap Haitien fault and first reported the risk for a major earthquake there in 2008. On Jan. 12  Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7 earthquake that caused massive destruction and killed more than 200,000 people.

"Unfortunately, earthquakes are not isolated events, and we need to take into account that the earthquake hazard in Haiti remains high," Calais said. "To reduce the risks we need to acquire scientific data to quantify the threat level and construct better buildings in the short term, but for a long-term impact we also need to create a local resource of experts in seismic hazards. We need to train Haitian students and build the country's capacity to deal with the scientific and technical aspects of earthquakes and the related risks."

The State University of Haiti does not offer an earth science degree but is working on developing a natural hazards curriculum, Calais said. The terms of the scholarship include an agreement by the students to return to Haiti for at least two years, and a next step in their careers could be teaching related courses at the university and doing research using the geological and geophysical data sets now being acquired in Haiti.

Bernard Fils-Aime, president of the Voilà Foundation, said expertise in seismic hazards is a crucial need for the country and an area in which there had not historically been a large knowledge base.

"Education has always been a cornerstone of Voilà's corporate social responsibility programs in Haiti," Fils-Aime said. "Through our partnership with Purdue, we hope to build a foundation for future Haitian seismologists, deepening the next generation's understanding of the geophysical conditions of Haiti and the ongoing risks the nation faces. These scholarships could lead to the first Haitian seismologist or earthquake engineer."

Priority will be given to graduates from the State University of Haiti with a science background who are interested in studying geophysics and earthquake science related to Haiti.

About the Voilà Foundation

For over a decade, Voilà, one of Haiti's leading wireless communications service providers, has been committed to improving the lives of the Haitian people through youth and education initiatives supported by The Voilà Foundation, now an independent 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity in the United States. In December 2009, Voilà and parent company, Trilogy International Partners, based in Bellevue, Wash., received the prestigious "Award for Corporate Excellence" from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in recognition of Voilà's record of corporate social responsibility in Haiti.  Following the tragic earthquake on Jan. 12, Voilà and Trilogy, through The Voilà Foundation, will fund initiatives that provide immediate relief to the homeless and injured and to underwrite programs that will deliver lasting social benefits.


Writer:  Elizabeth Gardner, 765-494-2081,

Media contacts:  Purdue News Service, 765-494-2096

                                Voilà/Trilogy International Partners, Kim Olsson, 425-458-5956,


Related Web sites:
Eric Calais Haiti Earthquake

Related news releases:
Purdue researchers returning to Haiti to examine possibility of another major earthquake

Purdue researchers studied Haitian fault; warned of potential for a large earthquake