Sunday, March 29, 2009

Amherst as the Center of the Universe and Powerful Women

On Friday, March 27, 2009, the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter had the pleasure of hosting Professor June Dong. Her talk on supply chain disruptions generated numerous questions and brought issues such as traceability in food supply chains to the fore. In addition, she emphasized that the framework today that needs to be captured is that of supply chain versus supply chain competition. She also identified how the work that we had done regarding the Nagurney-Qiang measure could be applied to identify the most important nodes and links in supply chains and the impact of their "removal." What a pleasure it was to host one of our former PhDs -- Dr. June Dong received her PhD from UMass Amherst in 1994 and is a Full Professor at the School of Business at SUNY Oswego. She has held the prestigious Chow Fellowship and various appointments in China.

One brilliant female speaker would have sufficed but we were being "spoiled." Late that afternoon, Sheila Bair, the Chairperson of the FDIC, spoke at the Isenberg School. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, she is a colleague of mine and on leave from the Isenberg School. The Flavin auditorium was filled and even retired faculty and numerous students attended. Along with Dr. June Dong, and another colleague, Jennifer Taub, we found seats towards the front of the auditorium and enjoyed Sheila's presentation immensely. It was on-point, articulate, and punctuated by jokes from her recent experiences. The Q&A was dynamic, illuminating, and very interesting. In my discussions with Taub and Dong we came up with that toxins in food supply chains that Dong had remarked upon in her talk (from the infant formula poisoning in China to the salmonella in the peanut plant in the US) are similar to the toxic financial assets that Bair had talked about. Nothing like network theory to help to identify similarities and differences between applications!

Yesterday (Saturday), as we were catching our breaths from a week that included a PhD dissertation defense, distinguished speakers, and deadlines for proposals to book chapters and paper revisions, we decided to have dinner in downtown Amherst. Sitting in Amherst Chinese Foods, which is owned by Dr. Chang, who also runs his own farm in Whately, my daughter looks out of the window and exclaims: "there is Sheila Bair with her daughter and some friends and I think that she is coming to this restaurant." Indeed, that was the case. Sheila Bair owns a home on Main Street in Amherst and it was a delight to see her and her daughter the day after her presentation at the Isenberg School.

As we left the restaurant we chatted and strolling back to our car I heard a "Hello Professor Nagurney -- how are you?!" Lo and behold, it was one of my undergraduates who had taken my Transportation & Logistics class last semester. He was standing in front of his place of work (yes, we do have a wine/liquor store in downtown Amherst). I informed my family that this student was a Commonwealth College student at UMass Amherst and last semester traveled to St. Andrews, Scotland, to visit his girlfriend. Later in the evening, I pick up my New York Times and there is an article on and photo of Dr. Louise Richardson, the President (first female) of the University of St. Andrews! The article noted that she was one of seven children and that she had received her PhD from Harvard and had been a faculty member there. However, it missed that she had been Executive Dean of the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University where I had been a Fellow in 2005 -- 2006. I know Louise from my time at Harvard and she is an expert on terrorism and just a delightful person with an accent that sings!