Saturday, April 27, 2019

It Was a Great Year for the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter!

It is hard to believe that I have been the Faculty Advisor to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter for 15 years, which means 30 semesters of exciting activities, including our Speaker Series. Over the years we have hosted truly extraordinary speakers and luminaries in Operations Research / Management Science and in related fields and I am eternally grateful that the speakers have come to our campus to share with the students and audience members their expertise and collegiality.

Yesterday, we had the pleasure, as is our tradition, of hosting the end of the semester (which was the end of the academic year) party. The weather was ominous, with a lot of thunder and rain (including several downpours) in the afternoon and, given the logistics involved, of bringing all the food to the party (both hot and cold) too the Isenberg School of Management, I was a bit anxious. Also, with the weather being less than appealing, I was wondering whether students and faculty would show up. This Student Chapter attracts members not only from the Isenberg School of Management but also from the College of Engineering as well as from the College of Computer and Information Sciences at UMass Amherst (with the latter two being on the opposite side of campus from the Isenberg School).

The party was advertised through our email lists and even posted on the screens in the Isenberg School.

I had told the Chapter Officers that I would need assistance in helping me unload my van with the pierogies, kielbasy, and desserts, and they did not disappoint, bringing out umbrellas as well, when I arrived.
After parking my van, I entered the party venue at 4:45PM and was so happy to see that, despite the miserable weather, attendance was fabulous, with an alum even coming from Boston for the party,  an with an exchange student from France and a visiting PhD student from Florida, also joining us.

Since the students are studying and researching topics in operations research (and many are very much into logistics), they had budgeted nicely, and did the ordering and pickup and deliveries efficiently. The menu consisted of international cuisines, homemade food, pizza, chicken wings, fries, salads, and fruits. The food was great and the company and conversations even better!  I have been to about 60 of these parties by now, and, every time, I emerge energized and, frankly, thrilled by the fabulous community we have built. I also would like to thank the parent society INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) for supporting student chapters nationally and even internationally (the Montreal one is amazing for example) through awards and some funds. Additional funds we work hard to acquire and I also provide funding since I very much believe in giving students leadership and networking opportunities and in building intellectual and social communities.
This year we hosted the following speakers: Professors Mike Knodler, Priyank Arora, Peter Haas, Aurora Liu, as well as Dr. Thiago Serra (soon to be a professor at Bucknell University) and Jurij Paraszczak of IBM. We heard about their fascinating research on topics ranging from traffic safety, serving distressed individuals, smart cities, knowledge networks, to machine leaning.  This semester, with the $62 million Business Innovation Hub completed for the Isenberg School, we have benefited from new rooms for the talks and events.

Also, a fabulous initiative that the students started and take part in as interviewers, videographers and editors, is interviews with the speakers. The edited interviews are then posted on the chapter's youtube channel.  There is excellent advice and pearls of wisdom in these, so do peruse.

This year, as the chapter's Faculty Advisor, I recognized, with framed certificates, the exceptional service of the Chapter Officers: Katerina Deliali (President), Mojtaba Salarpour (Treasurer and also expert videographer), Haris Sipetas (our amazing Webmaster who blogs each speaker with photos on the chapter website), Zhangchen Hu (Event Coordinator who posts our events on Isenberg and UMass websites), and Wei Wei (a first year doctoral student and Social Outreach officer who is always smiling).

Also, this year I did something different - four of our long-serving members and soon-to-be PhD alums, who were also all very active former Chapter Officers, were recognized with certificates as Lifetime Members of our Chapter! A special shoutout to Dr. Destenie Nock, soon to be joining the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University; to Dr. Pritha Dutta, off to be a faculty member at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in NYC, and Ekin Koker - off to Phillips in Cambridge, MA, where he had interned last summer, and Rodrigo Mercado, who, like Ekin, will be defending his dissertation this summer. Destenie was behind the very successful STEM Slams which the chapter had organized several times. Pritha (my PhD student) was a former Chapter President, whose enthusiasm and positive outlook made every event brighter. Ekin redesigned the chapter website and provided so much support over his time as a PhD student at UMass and Rodrigo was our expert editor of the interview videos and so much more! The below photo, taken by my PhD student, Deniz Besik,  shows brilliantly what makes these four so special.
Below, thanks to Haris Sipetas, is a photo of Rodrigo being recognized with his Lifetime Membership Award.
Special thanks to the faculty who came to support the chapter and the students (and thanks also to those who were sorry that they could not make it because they were out of town at conferences, etc.): Professor Iqbal Ali of the Isenberg School, Professors Hari Balasubramanian, Chaitra Gopalappa, Ana Muriel and Associate Dean Erin Baker, as well as Professors Eleni Christofa and Eric Gozales, all of the College of Engineering.

It was wonderful to have special treats also made by Katerina Deliali (including salads and Greek halvah) and a yummy lemon cake by Deniz Besik.
Katerina had the honor of cutting the cake from Stop and Shop, whose worker strike (luckily) had just recently ended.

I noticed that many of our PhD students had grown beards over the winter and some faculty have had beards for a while.
 We also took a group photo, since it was getting late, as a lovely memento of a great time and year.
Thanks, everyone, for a terrific Operations Research / Management Science year at UMass Amherst. Best of luck with projects and exams to students and faculty with the grading. I look forward to seeing several of you receive your graduate diplomas next month in the graduation ceremonies at UMass Amherst!

Congratulations on all of your achievements and Thank You!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Celebrations Marking the Opening of the Business Innovation Hub at the Isenberg School of Management

The Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst marked the official opening of its new $62 million Business Innovation Hub (BIH) with style!

This magnificent structure had been years in the planning as well as in the construction (and I know since I taught classes when the construction was going on outside my classroom and my office). The structure marks a wonderful collaboration between two renowned architectural firms, Boston-based Goody Clancy and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) of New York and Denmark.

Last evening, the gala dinner at the BIH took place, which were extraordinary, as were the atmosphere, speeches, and conversations. The meal was the best I have ever had during my time at UMass Amherst and I have been to many awards banquets, graduation celebrations, and other events.
The program is posted above and the menu below.
It was very special to see so many donors, alums, faculty, and administrators at this event. The dress code was black tie (optional).
It was extra special to hear from Bjarke Ingels, who traveled from Copenhagen, Denmark, and regaled us with his unique vision of great architecture and even shared with us that just the day before he had met with the Queen of Denmark, since he had designed the enclosure for its two very special immigrants, two pandas! And, today, an article on this exact topic appears in The New York Times.
The Isenberg School's Business Innovation Hub is the first project in higher ed in the US for this firm, which makes it unique and quite meaningful.

I am still enjoying the warm afterglow from the dinner last night.
I am not a big meat eater but the beef was so tender it just melted in our mouths and the mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and asparagus were all superb. The dessert, featured above, was also heavenly.

At our table, were: the Dean of the College of Computer and Information Sciences, Dr. Laura Haas, and her husband, Dr. Peter Haas, who is a great colleague and also an INFORMS member; Gordon Oakes and his wife, and  the Chair of our Hospitality & Tourism Management Department, Dr. "Muzzo" Uysal.

The evening was simply perfect. Special kudos to our former Dean, Dr. Mark A. Fuller, our Interim Dean, Dr. Tom Moliterno, and our great Chancellor - Dr. Kumble Subbaswamy for their hard work and vision in making the BIH a reality.

And today, after a great Operations and Information Management Department meeting, the official ribbon cutting ceremony took place with additional luminaries in attendance, wonderful speeches, and even students in the audience and Amherst town officials!
The reception afterwards included sushi, fresh fruit, cheeses, and many pastries.

A big shoutout to Professor Cathy Lowry for being a great Master of Ceremonies today as well as to the administrators and Associate Dean Nefertiti Walker, who beautifully captured what this stunning new space means to all of those who care so much about the Isenberg School and UMass Amherst.

And, last night, if you have not heard, the UMass Amherst hockey team, played against the University of Denver in the Frozen Four NCAA semifinal in Buffalo; won the game in overtime, and tomorrow night will be playing against the University of Minnesota Duluth for the national championship.

We also managed to submit a proposal to NSF yesterday.

The past 24 hours have been incredible and our Chancellor hopes to be wearing a very special cap, come Sunday!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Fabulous Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the PhD Program at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst

This past Friday, we marked an extraordinary milestone - the 50th anniversary of the PhD Program at the Isenberg School of Management, with alums, family members, present doctoral students, faculty, and guests convening for a special celebration.

This event was months in the planning and was the first gala event to take place in our $62 million Business Innovation Hub (BIH) at the Isenberg School. In fact, next Friday we are having the official unveiling of the BIH. Thanks to the PhD Director, Dr. George Milne, and to Mike Korza and Sophia Love for a day that brought 220 of us from as far as such countries as Austria and Canada, and states of California, Oregon, and Idaho back for the celebration.

The full program can be viewed here.

The day began with registration and many greetings and hugs and at the lunch Dr. Milne and Interim Dean Tom Moliterno had opening remarks.

There have been 437 PhD graduates of our program, to-date, and we expect another 13 graduates this May! It was thrilling to see that the first PhD recipient was in Management Science. I have had the honor of being the PhD Area Coordinator in Management Science for many years and am back to doing that service role again, which I enjoy very much. 

There was also a fascinating slide show posted on screens throughout the Isenberg School providing highlights of our program and it was fun to see photos of colleagues from decades ago (some faculty, honestly, do not change much).
Dr. Milne even had a slide highlighting the list of those who had chaired the highest number of dissertations, and I was so honored to be on the list - even more so, since 10 of  those PhD students of mine  came back for the celebration! I have also chaired dissertations in Engineering and co-chaired one in Math/Stats. Interestingly, the Management Science, Finance, and Organization Behavior tracks of our doctoral program have graduated the highest percentage of PhDs, tied for 19% each! The list of my graduated PhD students is here.

The day was one of community, recognizing what has made our doctoral program unique, and celebrating the past, present, and future. It was also about reconnecting face to face and sharing experiences and even wisdom. For some, it was the first time back to their alma mater since they received their PhD (and now they are tenured Professors).

After the lunch, we broke out into different tracks and I thoroughly enjoyed giving my presentation, which was then followed by a panel of Management Science PhD alums that I had organized. Attendance was fabulous at both and we had photo ops as well.
My full presentation can be downloaded here. It involved a lot of research and was very enjoyable to prepare and deliver.
The Management Science PhD panel  included panelists from both industry and academia and you can read more about these stellar alums here.  The panelists were: Professor Jose M. Cruz of the University of Connecticut, Professor Davit Khachatryan of Babson College, Professor Patrick Qiang of Penn State, Dr. Padma Ramanujam of SAS, and Professor Shenghan Xu of the University of Idaho.
I had provided the panelists with two questions prior to their arrival but time was too short to cover everything! What clearly stood out is how much our Management Science PhD alums gained through close mentorship in scholarship, experiences teaching, and also various enriching service activities through the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter! And, Dr. Tina Wakolbinger, who, as a PD student, helped me to establish this student chapter back in 2004 (and I have served as its Faculty Advisor since) was not only in the audience but she was also one of the two keynote speakers at the dinner banquet Friday evening. Dr. Wakolbinger had arrived with her family a few days earlier from the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria, where she was appointed a Full Professor only 4 years after her PhD. (If you know of anyone making this rank in academia faster, do let me know.) She gave a guest lecture in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class on Thursday morning.

The photo below is of those that took part in the Management Science sessions on Friday afternoon, along with Dr. George Milne.
The atmosphere was one of warmth, excitement, and pure happiness. The journeys that we all have been on have been quite exceptional, I must say. To have a student traveling far to study and to receive a doctorate takes courage and involves risk and it was clear that the hard work has yielded payoffs and great returns.

At the banquet dinner, we had the pleasure of listening to Professor Tina Wakolbinger and to Dr. Dennis Hanno, President of Wheaton College, speak.
It was extra special to be seated with them and their families and also with our great former Isenberg School Dean Dr. Tom O'Brien!

Also, at the dinner, Professor Emeritus Dr. Tony Butterfield was recognized with the inaugural Isenberg PhD Service Award named after him!

After the delicious dinner we took more photos and it was clear to me that we did not want the day to end.
Thanks to all that came back to their alma mater for the 50th anniversary of the Isenberg PhD Program.  And, in the past day or so, I have continued to receive wonderful messages as to how much everyone enjoyed Friday. A truly special message from one of my first PhD students that I received is below.

Your talk was inspiring and very interesting! The event was so well put together. 

Words can't express my feelings, nor my thanks to you! You taught us not only how to do research, but also in every aspect of life. 

On my way back, I can't help recall so many stories happened during my fours years at UMASS. My first paper, first trip to Canada, first conference, first computer (your 386), first class.....

Thank you , Professor!!!

Being a Professor is the best job in the world!