Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Exciting New College Majors -- From Service Science to Sustainability

The September 4, 2009 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which I just finished reading (and it is a thick issue but a cover to cover read), has a feature article and accompanying pieces on "5 College Majors on the Rise." These college majors are: service science, health informatics, computational science, sustainability, and public health. All of these "new" majors are interdisciplinary and in the case of service science, computational science, and sustainability involve business schools, engineering schools, and departments of math, computer science, and/or resource economics working more closely together.

For example, the Chronicle of Higher Ed notes that Although the service sector makes up fully 80 percent of the economy, there has been little effort to study service as a science or to prepare workers who can improve productivity and increase innovation in the sector.

I would argue that it is also the responsibility of educational institutions to produce the educators of tomorrow who can educate the next generation in such fields.

At the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst for the past 11 semesters, we have been bringing speakers to campus who truly represent frontiers. For example, in the Fall of 2007, Dr. Brenda Dietrich of IBM, presented a lecture on Service Science, which was brilliant, and we were delighted to be able to host her. Dr. Dietrich was recently selected by Fast Company as one of 100 most creative in business.

As for "health informatics," we were delighted last Spring to be able to host Dr. Hari Balasubramanian, who spoke on topics related to health informatics. Another UMass Amherst faculty member, who has gotten tremendous press coverage, Professor Robert Pollin of the Department of Economics, also last term educated everyone in the audience about his research on green jobs. This UMass Amherst Speaker Series in Operations Research / Management Science is organized by the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, whose members include students from the Isenberg School, the College of Engineering, the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, Computer Science, and Economics.

In terms of educating the faculty of tomorrow (and today), I am delighted that my doctoral student, Trisha Woolley, will soon be defending her dissertation entitled, Sustainable Supply Chains: Multicriteria Decision-Making and Policy Analysis for the Environment. She has begun her new position as an Assistant Professor of Management at Texas Wesleyan University.