Wednesday, August 13, 2014

10 Years of the Amazing UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter

This Fall, we will be marking 10 years of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. We will certainly let you know of any special events to mark this milestone in a celebratory manner.

I thought it appropriate to reflect on the last decade as the Faculty Advisor to this award-winning student chapter and its various activities. My former doctoral student, Tina Wakolbinger, who is now a Full Professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria, and who served as the chapter's President, and I decided, back in 2004, that such a chapter could bring students and faculty throughout the UMass Amherst campus who were interested in operations research and the management sciences closer together.  I had had an outstanding offer from another university and almost left UMass Amherst that year and, after a counteroffer, and much heavy thought, decided to stay and, in so doing, felt that working with students, hosting speakers, and building a stronger community would be of great benefit and also enjoyment.
The first group of UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter Officers with yours truly

Over the years we have hosted such luminaries in our profession as Professor Ed Kaplan of Yale University, Professors Dimitri Bertsimas, Cynthia Barnhart, Georgia Perakis, Asu Ozdaglar, Richard Larson, Alex "Sandy" Pentland, Arnie Barnett, and  Daron Acemoglu of MIT, Dr. Les Servi of Mitre, Professors Parkes and William Hogan of Harvard University, Professor Michael Fu of the University of Maryland, Professor John Birge of the University of Chicago, Professor Sheldon Jacobson of the University of Illinois, Professor Ellis Johnson of Georgia Tech,  and such amazing thought leaders as Professors Albert-Laszlo Barabasi and Dietrich Braess (of Braess paradox fame), Dr. Irv Lustig, Tom Vanderbilt, the best-selling author of the book Traffic,  Dr. Brenda Dietrich, Dr. Robin Lougee-Heimer,  and Dr. Mary Helander of IBM, and Dr. Grace Li, formerly of IBM, Dr. Vamsi Chaladavada of ISO New England, Dr. Sam Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute, and even one of my former MBA students, Kevin Koswick of Ford. I managed to cobble together funds from awards that I had received and my Smith Funds, along with some entrepreneurial ideas from the students to fund such an outstanding list of speakers.  Only one person ever turned down an invitation to speak from us and, to-date, we have hosted close to 100 speakers.
Dr. Cynthia Barnhart of MIT with several student chapter members
Hosting best-selling author Tom Vanderbilt
Enjoying a nice lunch at the University Club with the Dr. Braess

We have organized many panels, from research to teaching ones, and, at the end of every semester, we celebrate with an end of the semester party with international cuisine.
Photo taken at the end of the semester party Spring 2014
The chapter members also helped out tremendously with the First Northeast Regional INFORMS Conference held at UMass Amherst.
First Northeast Regional INFORMS Conference at UMass, May 6-7, 2011

Several of our former officers: Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, Dr. Patrick Qiang, and Dr. Amir H. Masoumi have been honored for their work with their chapter with the Judith B. Liebman Award of INFORMS and I was thrilled to receive The Moving Spirit Award from INFORMS for my work as the chapter's Faculty Advisor.

The friendships made through the chapter help to sustain our members as they receive their degrees and move onward in their professional careers. And we always enjoy getting together at the annual INFORMS conferences!

And when the chapter is recognized for its activities, which it has been by INFORMS every year that our professional society has been doing so (8 times now), we always celebrate!
In 2013, at the Annual INFORMS conference in Minneapolis the chapter received the Magna Cum Laude Award from INFORMS, Dr. Masoumi received the Judith B. Liebman Award, and I was elected an INFORMS Fellow

I wonder what kind of adventures the next decade will bring?! Thanks to our outstanding students from both the Isenberg School of Management and the College of Engineering at UMass Amherst for being so wonderful to work with!