Saturday, October 26, 2013

Howdy and Thanks to Texas A&M University for the Hospitality!

I arrived home in Massachusetts from College Station, where Texas A&M University is located, with a connection at Dallas / Fort Worth in the wee hours of the morning.

I would like to thank Texas A&M University where the greeting is "Howdy!" for its outstanding hospitality with special thanks to its award-winning INFORMS Student Chapter.

My flights to and from College Station were great and, after reading The New York Times and The Economist en route on my last leg to College Station I even read Time magazine, with the appropriate cover below. There were many "Aggies" as Texas A&M fans are known on that flight and I shared insights from the cover article with them. My flight seatmate was a student at Ohio State who was visiting friends at Texas A&M and he said that, as a high school student in Texas, they would pledge allegiance to the Texas flag.

I must admit that I enjoyed the very sunny warm weather (low 80s) as well as the hospitality and charm of College Station from the tiny airport to the friendliness of the students, faculty, and staff and everyone that I encountered. I liked the politeness as well and being called "Ma'am" in a Southern accent.

I did experience some culture shock at breakfast when I piled the fresh berries on my plate at the buffet and then next to containers of yogurt saw a big bowl of white creamy stuff, which, since I am from New England,  I assumed was plain yogurt. After mixing it with the berries and sampling the concoction I believe that I ate some Marshmallow Fluff -- so sugary but actually tasty!

The new building housing the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering was the venue for my presentation, "Networks Against Time: From Food to Pharma," with pizza and drinks served. Afterwards, I got to meet more of the graduate students and very much enjoyed hearing about their research and ideas for plans for the future.

And, Professor Sergiy Butenko, who also helped with the hosting even managed (my itinerary got changed) to fit in 45 minutes of the outstanding presentation by Celia Sandys, the granddaughter of Winston Churchill.on "The Power of Words: The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill," but then we had to leave since my talk was at noon.
Her presentation emphasized his moral integrity and how great leaders anticipate change and get constituents to believe in what can be accomplished, i.e., Victory. The video clips of Churchill with tapes of parts of his speech in the background were fascinating. The venue was also stunning with the students calling out in Aggie-like cheers.

She noted in her talk that, in the  aftermath of September 11th, 2001, she was inundated with letters from the leaders of the day. They all held a central message; that it was to the words and inspiration of her grandfather that they had turned to for strength and guidance when faced with the leadership challenges presented by this unprecedented trauma. "Your grandfather was a great source of inspiration and strength to me following the tragic events of September 11th" - Rudy Giuliani.

In walking back for my talk, Professor Butenko showed me the tree below where Aggie couples get engaged.

 It is different in Texas -- I saw no potholes and the building that I spoke at was simply stunning inside and was built, I was told, in 1 year. It had areas and lounges for students, beautiful labs with Dell computers for various faculty member research groups. The kitchen was stunning and there were carpets almost everywhere. The INFORMS Student Chapter Awards were prominently displayed in the hall for all to see and celebrate.
 I even met the gentleman who helps students, including graduate students,  with communications -- writing and speaking and I liked his display below.

Thanks, again,  to Texas A&M University for the great hospitality with special thanks to the INFORMS Student Chapter there. It is truly a model student chapter and, as the Faculty Advisor of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, this is a real compliment. Thanks also to Dow Chemical, which provided $10,000 in support for the Texas A&M INFORMS Chapter Speaker Series (How I wish this could be done at UMass -- any donors out there?!)  and also to the INFORMS Speakers Program for covering my travel expenses.

Somehow I managed to get TSA preferred both ways and did not even have to take off my jacket or shoes and marched to the head of the security lines.