Thursday, November 21, 2013

What an Amazing Week - It's All About Our Students!

Anyone who thinks that professors have a life of routine and their weeks are just punctuated by the classes that they teach are completely wrong.

If you like a predictable routine each day then being an academic is certainly not for you.

On the other hand, those of you who crave novelty, excitement, interactions with fascinating people, the exchange of new ideas as well as dynamism and being surrounded by energy and activity, then being an educator and a college professor is a dream job.

What makes being a college professor so special is the students and all that we do is really for the students!

This week is one of those weeks that highlights the span of activities that a fculty member is engaged in so let me tell you what we have been up to.

On Monday, I was videotaped by a UMass Amherst undergrad who is a member of the Isenberg School of Management Marketing Club for an Isenberg Youtube series that the club started on Meet the Professors. The students are editing my interview and it will be posted soon. I got to hear about the student's major and we reminisced about New Jersey, where he is from. The extracurricular activities that our students are engaged in are diverse and they acquire numerous skills through them.

Then,  after meetings with advisees and doctoral students, it was time to march across campus for a search committee meeting. I am serving, with my great colleagues in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, on a faculty search for an Assistant Professor in Systems Engineering. We went over the piles of applications and reached a consensus as to the top candidates, which was gratifying. There are fabulous PhD students out there. We will be very busy with their visits and interviews in the coming weeks. And if you want to see how in demand systems engineering expertise is just read about UTC's gift of $10 million to UConn to create an institute with faculty positions.

On Tuesday, I taught my OIM413 Logistics and Transportation class, which I love teaching and will soon be teaching a class today, as well. The students are now identifying the topics that they will be doing their project papers on. These will be individual projects, rather than team projects, due to the late Thanksgiving this year and only one week of classes afterwards. I worked on a rubric (never had one of these in my Brown University days) to help them with their papers. Then, after more meetings it was time for our "weekly" National Science Foundation (NSF) project teleconference. Our project: Network Innovation Through Choice is one of 5 Future Internet Architecture projects selected by NSF. Our project team, consisting of  Professor Tilman Wolf of the College of Engineering, me, and our doctoral students, with Professors Ken Calvert and Jim Griffoen of the U. of Kentucky, Professors Rudra Dutta and Georre Rouskas of NCState, and Dr. Ilia Baldine of the Renaissance Institute at UNC, and their students, is working on a new Internet. We discussed the recent Principal Investigators Meeting that took place in San Diego and you can view the presentations (ours was given by Dr. Dutta)  here.

Then it was time to complete my talk for the TEDx UMassAmherst Professor Speaker Showcase, which takes place next Monday, November 25, in ISOM's Flavin Room. Students had nominated me for this special event and I am so honored and excited to be part of it. On Tuesday, some students had made an elaborate colorful announcement in chalk in my classroom, which was such a surprise -- I was redder than the bright red jacket I wore that day!

On Wednesday, I received a wonderful message from the Founding Editor of the Goteborg Daily, which is an English language newspaper published in Sweden's second largest city, sometimes also spelled and pronounced as "Gothenburg." My interview was published with photos and it brought back so many memories. Many nice messages followed from colleagues and students in Sweden, Austria, and the U.S. (and even from a few thoughtful top administrators) who had seen the article -- Thanks for the support!

My TEDx talk "completed," I met with several of the organizers of this event -- the students are so creative and their attention to detail is impressive -- there will be a red carpet, a spotlight, and even music provided by a group from the Berklee College of Music in Boston! We went through my talk and discussed the background, etc. Plus, I was videotaped also for this event. As one of my doctoral students said, "You always have to look fresh, Professor!"

Then it was time to discuss another pending project with fellow faculty and when I arrived home, after also meeting with a student about her doctoral dissertation proposal, I found in my mailbox a new book that I will be blogging about -- will keep you in suspense as the TEDx folks are doing in announcing one professor speaker each day before next Monday's gala event!

Plus, I heard wonderful news from a student in Vienna, Austria, who had taken my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare intensive short course that I taught at the Vienna University of Economics and Business last March (while on sabbatical in Europe).  He had been accepted into its doctoral program to work under my former doctoral student, Tina Wakolbinger, who is now a Full Professor there -- I had written him a letter of recommendation -- so happy about this great outcome!

Today, Thursday, after teaching my class, I will be getting ready for two big events tomorrow. I am serving as a co-supervisor of a doctoral dissertation at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, and, tomorrow, Friday, the student, Niklas Arvidsson, will be defending his dissertation. I will be Skying in early in the morning for the defense. I have been very much enjoying reading his dissertation and attended his Kappa when I was in Gothenburg. The dissertation includes 5 papers that he has published on the overall theme of sustainable freight, which I am very interested in.

After Niklas' defense I will be off to support the students of the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, since we are hosting Master Inventor Dr. Mary Helander of IBM with a reception at 10:30AM in the Isenberg School followed by a one hour Q&A. Then Mary and I will go out to lunch. She has a PhD from Sweden so her visit will be quite special for all of us!