August 1996 € Volume 23 € Number 4


Become an INFORMED Member


By Erhan Erkut


During your Ph.D. program, you received a thorough training in research. You helped write a number of research papers and research grants. You had two accepted papers before you started interviewing, and you landed your first job as an assistant professor on the basis of your research potential. On the first day of work, your departmental secretary broke the bad news: You were supposed to teach as part of your job. Not only that, but you were supposed to teach an MBA course. All of a sudden, reality hit: You had a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering with no training in a business school, and no training in teaching, but you were supposed to start teaching a business course in two weeks. Well, you pulled out the lecture notes from your graduate operations research course and did your best.

Sound a bit too far fetched? Perhaps. Nevertheless, many of us can relate to this story to some extent. Most of us were asked to teach after receiving no formal training in teaching. Many of us made a not-so-smooth transition from being a student in an engineering department to being a professor in a business school. And some of us failed in a big way during our first year of teaching for numerous reasons. Most of us have learned from our mistakes and plowed through, though some did not make it.

What can we do to smooth the road for others, particularly for newcomers? What can we do to improve the teaching performance of people who teach OR/MS courses -- in business schools and elsewhere? How can we teach our material effectively? How can we "turn-on" our audiences and make them like OR/MS? How can we recruit students for our elective courses? How can we save management science from extinction in business schools?

We may not have all the answers, but we now have a forum to seek some of those answers. INFORMED (INFORMS Forum on Education) came to life at the New Orleans INFORMS meeting. If you are interested in the teaching of management science and operations research in institutions of higher education, we invite you to become an INFORMED member. Our agenda is to facilitate communication between members of INFORMS with the intent of improving the teaching of MS/OR. To this end, we will use four primary means: conference sessions, a homepage, a mailing list and OR/MS Today.

At some of the past INFORMS meetings, education sessions were scattered in different clusters, and in some cases were scheduled at the same time. To facilitate attendance by members interested in the teaching of OR/MS, we will organize clusters of education-related sessions in INFORMS meetings. We organized the first INFORMED cluster for the Washington meeting. It contained a total of eight sessions on a variety of education-related topics, and many of these sessions were very well attended. To those of us accustomed to speaking about our exotic research to an audience consisting of the three other speakers in the session, an audience of 50 or more was a welcome change.

INFORMED's Vice President of Meetings Tom Grossman (Faculty of Management, University of Calgary) is responsible for organizing INFORMED clusters at future INFORMS meetings. Tom has completed the cluster for the Atlanta meeting, and is now working on the San Diego meeting. If you would like to make a teaching-related presentation in San Diego (May 4-7, 1997), contact Tom (grossman@mgmt.ucalgary.ca). INFORMED has a very liberal session policy; a session can consist of four presentations, a panel, a tutorial, discussions of case studies or some other imaginative format.

The center of INFORMED's communication efforts will be our homepage (http://www.ualberta.ca/~informed/). The homepage will contain teaching aids, textbook reviews, articles about teaching styles and formats, references to education literature, lists of sessions in upcoming conferences, as well as a list of members and bylaws. If you would like to contribute material to the homepage, or establish a link from the homepage to another one, send an e-mail message to: erhan.erkut@ualberta.ca.

To facilitate communication and discussion among members, INFORMED has established a mailing list. The mailing list has about 200 subscribers. Every message sent to the list is distributed to the subscribers. To subscribe, send a one-line message containing the text "subscribe INFORMED" to majordomo@majordomo.srv.ualberta.ca. To post a message in this list, send your message to informed@majordomo.srv.ualberta.ca.

Finally, OR/MS Today has agreed to provide INFORMED a regular page. VP-Publications Armann Ingolfsson (Faculty of Business, University of Alberta) will serve as editor of the INFORMED column. An article from a different contributor will be published in each issue. For example, in the near future, you will see articles from Jeff Camm, Wayne Winston and Judith Liebman on different aspects of teaching. If you would like to contribute an article, contact Armann (armann.ingolfsson@ualberta.ca).

Despite our modest beginnings, we reserve the right to expand into new territory, such as helping organize education-related workshops or conferences, or conducting surveys of graduate programs. Another possibility is to award one or more INFORMED awards annually -- notwithstanding rumors that a teaching award may contribute to tenure denial at a "research" university! However, the success of these or other future activities is contingent upon the active participation, initiative and interest of INFORMED members.

What are you waiting for? Drop a line to erhan.erkut@ualberta.ca to become an INFORMED member. It's free!


Erhan Erkut is the Alexander Hamilton Professor of Management Science in the Faculty of Business, University of Alberta. As the president of INFORMED, he is an ex officio member of the INFORMS Education Committee.


E-mail to the Editorial Department of OR/MS Today: orms@lionhrtpub.com


OR/MS Today copyright 1997, 1998 by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. All rights reserved.


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