Inside Story: Where the teaching is

Peter Horner, editor

Willie Sutton, the infamous and accomplished bank robber, when asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, allegedly and famously replied: “Because that’s where the money is.” According to Wikipedia, the quote evolved into “Sutton’s Law,” which is “often invoked to medical students as a metaphor for focusing a workup on the most likely diagnosis, rather than wasting time and money investigating every conceivable possibility.”

Now that sounds a little like practical back-of-the-envelope optimization, operations research and analytics. Who knew Willie knew?

A couple of years ago in this space and on this month’s topic, I found myself in Willie Sutton’s shoes. Explaining why I always invite Peter Bell to contribute an article to our annual special issue on innovative education, I indicated that I have questions about the state of O.R. and analytics education and where it might be headed in the future, and Peter B., a professor at the Ivey School of Business at Western University in Ontario, Canada, has insightful answers.

This year was no exception. I asked, and Peter answered. Turns out that Professor Bell’s award-winning teaching of MBA and EMBA students has continued to evolve along with the analytics environment, influenced in part by a new book by Michael Lewis (he of “Moneyball” fame) titled “The Undoing Project.” When Peter Bell talks, I listen. Check out what he has to say on page 22.

Speaking of award-winning educators, I make a point of inviting the most recent recipient of the INFORMS Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice to share their insights, experience and advice in this annual special issue. The 2016 recipient, S. Raghu Raghaven of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, offers this advice: be yourself, be enthusiastic, be prepared. Says Professor Raghaven, who has prospered in both the real world and academia, “Teaching the joys of OR/MS tools and techniques and their wide applicability in practice is what excites me every day, and something I consciously chose when I decided to give up industry for academia.” For more, see page 26.

As they say on late-night TV commercials, but wait, there’s more. Much more.

This issue also includes a report on the inaugural INFORMS Meeting of Analytics Program Directors (MAPD) headed by Melissa R. Bowers (page 30), the making of an MSBA program at UC Davis by Sanjay Saigal (page 36), an update from Kenneth Chelst on his continuing efforts to bring operations research-oriented teaching to high school and in this case middle school students (page 40) and the story of high school teacher Thad Wilhelm who brings math to life for his students who now see math as a a tool for making decisions and solving meaningful problems (page 42).

The innovative education features conclude with a look at wargaming and how classroom games provide an analytic, educational toolset to analyze the effects of proposed courses of action in response to cyber threats (page 46), as well as a MobicDoc initiative in Tunisia that provides a win-win situation for doctoral and post-doctoral students and the industrial and service companies they work with (page 50).

Turns out learning is a lifelong endeavor, whether you’re a student or a teacher. Who knew … besides Willie?