Saturday, November 19, 2016

Building Student Leaders in Operations Research and Analytics Through INFORMS Student Chapters

Being a successful graduate student, especially a doctoral student, requires a lot of hard work and skill, but also a sense of community and enhancing one's professional development. Sooner or later, one will be on the job market and, whether you choose to be an academic and enjoy the amazing life of being a professor, or enter into a business or government career, having  a spectrum of skills is always advantageous.

This past week, many of us, over 5,700, in fact, had the pleasure of taking part in the INFORMS Annual Conference,  in Nashville, Tennessee, November 13-16, 2016. One of the highlights, even for me, a Chaired Professor at the Isenberg School of Management, was going to the Student Chapter Awards Ceremony and reception that followed last Monday evening. So many universities were represented and one can see from those students who came and were recognized and honored how these are leaders in all senses of the word - from their work ethic, their creativity, their abilities to build teams and to identify interesting activities, and how to disseminate their chapters' accomplishments, and to sustain them, grow and nurture them, and create lifelong ties that continue to support them throughout their careers.

I had written in an earlier blogpost that we were very excited that our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter was receiving its 11th award in as many years from INFORMS. And not only did several members, including present chapter officers as well as past chapter officers, come to celebrate that evening with us but even alums came - some of whom are now tenured professors at various universities!  Special thanks to our Isenberg School of Management PhD alums in Management Science who came, including: Professors Hen Chen of the University of Nebraska, Amir Masoumi of Manhattan College, Jose Cruz of the University of Connecticut, Patrick Qiang of Penn State Malvern, Michelle Li of Arkansas State University, Min Yu of the University of Portland, and Farbod Farhadi of Roger Williams University. Drs. Masoumi, Cruz, Qiang, Li, and Yu were my PhD students. Masoumi and Qiang were both recipients of the Judith Liebman Award from INFORMS for their great leadership roles in the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

And, yes, it is not surprising that when on the job market, leadership roles as officers of an INFORMS Student Chapter, is always noticed and regularly brought up in interviews. Whether you are an academic or a practitioner in operations research and analytics, you may assume multiple tasks and roles and not only being knowledgeable matters but being able to deal with others, being good at organization (which our students certainly learn through hosting speakers in our Speakers Series), adept at scheduling, and logistics of activities, and even maintaining the chapter website are all very useful skills! We have sustained our chapter since 2004, as as its Faculty Advisor, I continue to marvel at the synergies associated with it. Students work together and thrive and the network grows and flourishes.

Below is a photo that we took which includes also a faculty member from UMass Amherst, Professor Ana Muriel, who joined us (and more PhD alums showed up even later). We are standing with our Cum Laude Award held by my doctoral student, Deniz Besik.

A highlight was seeing Professor Michael Johnson of UMass Boston give out the chapter awards as well as the Judith Liebman Awards. Our students so enjoyed networking with members of other student chapters and I personally was delighted to see such operations research dynamos and student leaders as Kayse Maass of the University of Michigan, one of last year's Judith Liebman award winners (with Michael Prokle of UMass Amherst, whom I had nominated), and Thiago Serra of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), one of this year's Liebman Award recipients (whom I had the pleasure of seeing at CMU when I spoke there last April).

Below are additional photos from that very special evening.

Also, the food at the reception was delicious. Below are some of the desserts.
Although many of us from UMass Amherst returned from the INFORMS conference late on Wednesday night, and had classes to teach or go to on Thursday, come yesterday, we were all excited to hear Dr. Chaitra Gopalappa, who had also been at INFORMS deliver a great talk. The students also made sure that there were refreshments before and, afterwards I took Deniz, and two of Dr. Gopalappa's doctoral students, one from Mongolia, and one from India, to lunch at our University Club.

Having such a community, which is building leaders in operations research and analytics, is energizing! Kudos to all the members of INFORMS Student Chapters!