OR/MS Today, August 1997

Student Union

By Art Geoffrion

Its seeds were planted last November, and now it's finally coming to fruit. People will wonder how they ever got along without it. I'm so proud of the launch team. Let me explain.

Students and recent graduates obviously are the future of the profession. We at INFORMS cannot rest until we serve them as well as we possibly can. How are we doing?

The student focus groups held at the last three national meetings acknowledge the value of what INFORMS offers students: a fine Job Placement Service with on-line resumes and convenient interviewing at both national meetings, an Internship Program, the Doctoral Colloquium, the Dantzig Dissertation Award and Nicholson Prize, our publications and meetings, the Forum on Education, a listserver for students, booklets on careers and educational programs, and student chapters. But the focus groups also point out numerous important opportunities for new or improved products and services.

Dedicated volunteers and staff are working hard to respond to these opportunities. In addition, there is now a major new development that should go a long way toward meeting many of the previously unmet needs.

I refer to the ambitious new Website metaphorically named Student Union at http://www.informs.org/student_union/. Together with our existing products and services, it aims to make INFORMS nothing less than mission-critical to students and recent graduates.

It will also be valuable to established faculty and practitioners, and in any case needs their assistance to reach its fullest potential.

Student Union comprises eight major "centers" and "offices," each containing Web resources addressing a distinct type of need. Here is a brief sketch of some of them.

Career Center. Finding a good job is the number one concern of students and recent grads. This center houses extensive job listings, placement services, advice on how best to conduct a job search, insider accounts of what different kinds of organizations are like, links to corporate and academic employers of OR/MS experts, and links to the career pages of many related societies. Employers: please submit a link for your organization if missing, and make sure your listed jobs stay current. Successful people: please share your experience and lessons learned.

Financial Aid Office. Supporting one's education, and then research if a junior faculty member, is a very common need. This office houses extensive compilations of sources for financial aid and research funding, plus tips on writing proposals. Agencies, foundations, and sponsors: please make sure your programs are listed.

Professional Development Center. The half-life of degrees in OR/MS and related fields seems to grow ever shorter. This center emphasizes non-academic careers and aims to help graduates, whether recent or otherwise, stay abreast of new developments, flourish as practitioners, think through professional responsibilities and understand where the profession is heading. Mature professionals: please suggest materials that have helped you or contribute something of your own.

Teaching Center. Teaching well is essential nowadays for academics of all ages, and many of the same skills are useful to non-academics too. This center offers carefully culled links on teaching skills, teaching materials for OR/MS, how to use the new digital and interactive technologies, TA support centers, and springboards to much more. Master teachers: please share your favorite materials.

In addition, Student Union contains:

•a Learning Center with self-instructional resources in computing, mathematics, OR/MS and other topics;

•a Personal Skills Center devoted to career-critical topics seldom taught well in graduate school such as how to speak and write effectively, how to listen, and how to build a personal professional network;

•a Research Center that includes a database of research projects classified by technical area; and

•a Student Paper Office that publishes OR/MS Tomorrow and has links to student publications of other societies.

The initial version of Student Union just sketched was created by Andy Armacost, Jim Cochran, Erhan Erkut, Harvey Greenberg, Jeffrey Herrmann, Joakim Kalvenes, Jim Orlin, Ramaswammy Ramesh, Stan Zionts, invaluable student assistants such as Dave Morlitz and Max Moroz, and myself. On behalf of INFORMS, my thanks to all.

Others have generously offered to contribute additional rooms in the near future. I should also mention that it remains to be decided which parts of Student Union will be reserved for INFORMS members only.

On behalf of the launch team, I invite you to take advantage of this rich new resource and to offer suggestions and improvements either directly through the mail-to links on many of the pages or via the public HyperNews forum at http://mail.informs.org/INFORMSnews/get/forums/student_union.html.

Please contact one of us if you would like to contribute in a substantial way to Student Union's future evolution.

Art Geoffrion

Art Geoffrion is the president of INFORMS. He can be reached via e-mail at arthur.geoffrion@anderson.ucla.edu

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