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KNOXVILLE — A group of 67 students and four faculty members from UT’s full-time MBA program were en route to Santiago, Chile, for a 10-day international immersion experience when the magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit on Saturday. Another three faculty members had arrived in Santiago on Thursday.

All faculty and students are fine.

Except for the three faculty members still in Santiago and three students who opted to spend the week in Lima, Peru, all have returned to Knoxville.

When the quake hit, the three planes carrying the students and faculty were diverted to either Atlanta, Miami or Lima.

The three faculty members on the ground in Santiago — Tara Mohrfeld, the MBA program’s director of operations and global initiatives; Dick Reizenstein, associate professor emeritus of marketing; and Jack Mills, a lecturer and former Procter & Gamble executive — were in their downtown hotel when the earthquake hit. The hotel maintained power, and that area of Santiago sustained limited damage.

Reizenstein, Mohrfeld and Mills remain well and are receiving good service from the hotel where they are staying. They will return to Knoxville as soon as air travel allows.

“As soon as (the pilot) said there was an earthquake, and we were turning around, I didn’t know what to think,” said Erin Flanagan, a student who was on one of the planes en route to Chile. This was going to be her first trip outside of the country.

“I turned to one of my fellow students, and we were just worried about the people — the three staff members that were already down there.”

Amy Cathey, executive director of the full-time MBA program, also was on one of the diverted planes.

“It made all of us realize how very lucky and blessed we were to be able to avoid the disaster,” she said.

The purpose of the MBA trip is to familiarize the class with the complexities of doing business internationally through experiential learning. Students were expected to evaluate a specific business issue and meet with educators and government officials as well as with high-level leadership in both local and foreign companies to discuss how business is conducted in this specific global business environment.

The students will resume classes on March 15, as originally planned.

“The students will have the option to complete the international portion of their curriculum based on their learning over the past few days,” Cathey said.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,