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!