Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Choices and Decision-Making -- What I Decided to Do

For some reason, good news tends to arrive (at least for me) in bunches.

Today, I was faced with having three choices and having to decide among them.

They all fell on the same date, May 11, 2011, and each required my being in a different country -- in Sweden, in Russia, and in the US. One day this may be feasible, but not yet.

The first invitation, came from the Vice Chancellor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, requesting my presence at the Inauguration of New Professors at the University of Gothenburg, where I have been appointed a Visiting Professor. The invitation stated: Traditions are important in a time of rapid change. They create continuity and hopefully also fellowship within the University of Gothenburg. The Inauguration of New Professors, which takes place on 11 May at 14.00 in Gothenburg Concert Hall, is one of two important traditional ceremonies at our University. The other one is the Conferment of Doctoral Degrees that is held in the autumn. The Inauguration fulfils two functions. The first is to honour and welcome new professors. The second is to publicly display the University’s renewal and competence.

At the ceremony we also welcome visiting professors and adjunct professors in order to show our appreciation of being able to associate ourselves with your expertise. I hope that you feel welcome as colleagues among the other professors at the University of Gothenburg.

The second invitation was to give a plenary talk at the 2nd International Conference on Network Analysis, which takes place on May 7 – 9, 2012 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. I have been to St. Petersburg, Russia, but never as far east as exotic Nizhny Novgorod. The flights to/from this location do not operate on a regular, even, daily, basis, making travel to and from, a time-consuming process.

Plus, the UMass Amherst undergraduate AND graduate graduations
are on May 11, 2012! I have a doctoral student that I expect to be receiving her PhD in Management Science that day and many undergraduates majoring in Operations Management that I would love to send off appropriately. The students I have been with for several years as their professor and mentor.

Given the above choices, I proceeded to ask students, faculty, as well as, family members and staff as to what I should do.

There was no consensus and the responses were quite interesting -- and, in a sense, the utility maximizing solution (at least for someone) may actually be to try to attend 2 out of the 3 events (perhaps Russia followed by Sweden, for example, or maybe even videotaping my plenary for Russia and then going to Sweden or staying back in Amherst).

A few minutes ago I made my decision.

I plan on being at the UMass Amherst graduations, which, this year, because of our readjusted academic year calendar, fall earlier than in previous years.

I have notified both my Russian and Swedish contacts (I will be in the Swedish inauguration brochure although not physically there). As for going back to Russia, my hosts hope that there will be another opportunity -- as do I! I am on the Advisory Council of the Laboratory of Algorithms and Technologies for Network Analysis at the Higher School of Economics in Nizhny Novgorod, which is directed by Professor Panos Pardalos through a major award that he received. I am sure that their Network Analysis conference will be a great success -- sorry to have to miss it!