Friday, March 7, 2014

Terrific Insights on Teaching from Our UMass Amherst INFORMS PhD Students

Today we had a very special event at the Isenberg School of Management, that was organized by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter.

It was a panel on teaching.

The panelists were 4 of our doctoral students in Management Science at the Isenberg School of Management who have taught anywhere from one semester to over four semesters (the latter by choice), and I did not include courses that some of our doctoral students may have taught in their home countries

Attendance at this event was great with even doctoral students coming not only from the Isenberg School but from several departments in the College of Engineering from across campus.

The panelists were: Heng Chen, Tulay Varol, Ameera Ibrahim, and Farbod Farhadi, who is defending his doctoral dissertation next week and who received the Isenberg's 2013 Outstanding Teaching Award. He has accepted a very nice tenure-track faculty position offer in a beautiful location.

Below are some photos from the event today.

My doctoral student, Shivani Shukla, who is serving as the President of this Student Chapter this year, organized the panel and did the introductions.

The advice offered and experiences exchanged were fascinating as was the discussion that followed.

The pizza that was provided was yummy and it got consumed quickly after the panelists spoke and the Q&A!
What impressed me most was the devotion and dedication to teaching exhibited by all the panelists and they have been teaching a required Operations & Information Management class that is now taken by all students at the Isenberg School.

They shared experiences from nervousness and how to conquer or at least  reduce such feelings by coming to class early and greeting students as they come in, to having a bottle of water to take a refreshment break, realizing that you are the leader and that you know the material well.

They also related some wonderful personal stories about students that, at first, they thought that they were not reaching but these students actually (as they found out later) very much appreciated their instruction but may have been dealing with late work nights, early class times, and a multiplicity of other issues.

The panelists told the audience how they engage our undergraduates through class exercises, always bring real world examples to illustrate the theory and concepts, relate to the undergraduates as to their interests and try to "customize" the material is best as possible.

Farbod, our award-winning instructor,  on the blackboard (more of a brown board), told the audience that for every lecture (and this he noted is also very useful advice for giving seminars and conference presentations), know your objectives, identify the strategies for covering the objectives of the presentation, and practice, practice, practice!

They discussed the importance of handouts of the lectures (something I have always done) so that the audience is listening to the instructor and not just busy trying to write everything down.

Lucky will be the next generation of students who will have our doctoral students as professors after they receive their PhDs and lucky are our undergraduates who have also learned so much from such dedicated teachers.

Below are  some group photos of both the officers present and many members of the audience, who then joined the officers
As the Faculty Advisor of this UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, I could not have been prouder than I was today of this amazing group of doctoral students.