Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Those Wonderful Thank You Notes from Students

It has been a very busy new Fall semester with exciting events, teaching my Transportation & Logistics class, and also finishing up 4 research papers that we have submitted on topics as varied as auction mechanisms for an affordable Internet, supply chain network capacity competition with outsourcing, consumer learning of product quality with time delays, and even short supply chains in the form of farmers' markets. Plus, I have been busy revising a paper on cybersecurity. Interestingly, all the above papers have been co-authored with my present or former doctoral students, including a present doctoral student whose committee I am on who is in Colombia,  and also faculty colleagues.

There is something very special about the Fall in New England, which marks the beginning of our academic calendar and I suspect that some former students, from undergraduates and even MBAs and doctoral students,  are reminiscing about their time at the Isenberg School and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. At least it certainly feels like that to me given the wonderful messages I have been receiving from former students. Some have come through email whereas others have sent me actual hand-written Thank You cards, which I very much appreciate. I am a big fan of Thank You cards and below I have included a photo of some of them which I enjoyed reading through this afternoon while waiting for a co-author to get back to me. I have also received cards from doctoral students when I was a Visiting Professor in Sweden at the University of Gothenburg over a period of 4 years, which is very sweet.
It has been especially pleasant to receive messages from students that I taught 3 decades ago!

Below is a sample of the messages that warm my heart and make me smile. The first two were received since September.

Back in 1986 I was lucky enough to take one of your first classes, while I forget the name (logistics) and the number (I can find it in a box up in the attic) I will never forget how you changed my prospective on so many things.  It is amazing, other than you and Prof. Whitman (taxes), I do not remember another class or Professor like I remember you.  I know I have said it before, but thank you…for molding me for the world.  You are an amazing educator!

I was a student of yours way back in 1985 or so, and I am just sending this to give you a shout out for what you taught me.  For years I worked in operations and accounting of various small businesses, and now I am finally at a company that is doing some high-level academic research, Abt Associates in Cambridge.  Mostly I will still be handling the numbers behind the scene but working on a couple of projects that have real-world, life saving implications sure feels better than maximizing profit at a garage door company.
Thank you for teaching me about the problems with user-optimized systems, I have used that thought many times in my life to date.  And all of the rest too.

And the following messages came a few weeks ago. The second one below was from a student that Professor Ceren Soylu and I co-chaired his dissertation.

Dear Professor Nagurney,

I am very excited to report that I just received a letter from the Penn
State President, informing me that I have obtained my tenure and have been
promoted to the rank of associate professor.  I would like to take this
opportunity to thank you for your support and endless care all these
years, without which I could not have been where I am now. Thank you!!!

Dear Professors Nagurney and Soylu,

To to honest, I don't know how best to start this letter. Part of me wants to begin describing a destination, but another with a reflection on the path that led to it. Ultimately, I think I gravitate towards the latter.

Not too long ago, when I first started reflecting about topics for my thesis, I knew two things: that I wanted it to be at the intersection between game theory and operations research, and that I wanted the research to have the potential to do good. With your guidance, I was fortunate to find a topic that was not only interesting and that met my academic goals, but one that impassions me and that I strongly believe will give me the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream of helping those in need. And even beyond that, I feel very lucky to have found advisors who are as passionate, supportive, and engaged with their students as you.

About a month ago, I decided to apply for a scholarship in the CHC that recognizes 10 students the quality of their theses. I am very excited to let you know that, mostly due to your dedication and support, our work was selected among them. To be honest, I don't know what the best words are to thank you for your guidance, for your willingness to brainstorm with me, and for your commitment to help me overcome barriers as the arose. In a strange way, the more I try to think of the "best" adjectives to describe what I want to say, the more I feel that the phrases are trite. And so it may be best to leave it at a more simple, but heart-felt, "thank you for everything you have done for me along the way".

I've also been putting some thought into what to do with the award. I've come to the conclusion that, given the nature of the research, I want to donate the funds to a charity - and would love to include both of you in the process of selecting one.

Thank you again for all your support.

Finally, I end this blogpost with two handwritten messages in two of the Thank You cards in the photo above.

Professor Nagurney,

I just want to thank you for all the support you have given me this year. You are a passionate and inspirational teacher who cares deeply for your students. Personally you had a big impact on my experience at UMass. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know you.

Professor Nagurney,

You were instrumental in starting and sustaining the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. Without you we would not have come together for this wonderful organization.

Thank You...and we would never be able to thank you enough.

We are highly appreciative and filled with gratitude for your guidance and support.

Being an educator at the university level is truly the best job in the world. No two days are ever alike and sometimes we actually make a difference! Now it is my turn to thank: Thank you to all my students - you challenge me, energize me, and together we address problems in the hope of making the world a better place.