2015 INFORMS Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium

By Eric Huggins

Every year just prior to the start of the INFORMS Annual Conference, INFORMS offers three colloquia for interested students and faculty members. These are the Graduate Student Colloquium (GSC), the New Faculty Colloquium (NFC) and the Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium (TEC). The Graduate Student Colloquium offers advice on numerous topics for graduate students near the end of their student careers about to make the transition into the working world. The New Faculty Colloquium is designed for academics in their first couple of years as faculty members, covering the range of concerns that new faculty may have. In contrast, the focus of the TEC is very specific – how can we as OR/MS/analytics educators improve the effectiveness of our teaching?

The Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium is typically a small, intimate group of 20 people or less. This small size is by design in order to allow attendees to get to know one another and work together in small subsets to enhance their teaching abilities. While the attendees do spend some time listening to top teachers from the OR/MS/analytics field, much of their time is spent actively learning the tools and tricks of the trade in pairs or groups.

TEC attendees come from three cohorts: graduate students who want to improve their teaching before they head into academia, young faculty members who have faced the challenges of teaching OR/MS/analytics a few times and would like to improve, and veteran faculty members who refuse to accept the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The TEC is designed for everyone who wants to improve how well they teach; it is for excellent teachers who want to get even better as well as struggling teachers who need to develop their skill sets.

Last year before INFORMS 2014 in San Francisco, TEC attendees heard from four excellent OR/MS/analytics professors. Patrick Noonan from Emory University discussed active learning inside and outside of the classroom; attendees paired up and learned how to facilitate active discussions where both students hear and share each other’s viewpoints. Susan Martonosi from Harvey Mudd College discussed how to effectively design syllabi and courses to ensure that the objectives of the course are actually met.

After lunch where the TEC participants mingled with participants from the other two colloquia, Mike Racer from the University of Memphis tackled issues in both modeling and sustainability. The final speaker was Alexandra Newman, winner of the 2013 Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice. Professor Newman talked about teaching to wide, diverse audiences and finished with time-saving tips. One example of these that really struck home with the TEC group was her “48-hour cooling off period” after an exam has been returned; her students are welcome to contend the results of exam with her, but they must wait two days first to make sure they really believe that they have a case.

This year, the combined colloquia will take place on Oct. 31, the day before the official start of INFORMS 2015 Philadelphia. Despite it being Halloween, don’t be spooked – the TEC will again feature an excellent lineup of OR/MS/analytics teachers. While the agenda is still being finalized, both Jim Cochran of University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa and Matt Drake of Duquesne University are already committed. Professor Cochran, winner of the 2008 Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice, will present an interactive talk about active learning. Professor Drake will discuss some combination of teaching with cases in the OR/MS classroom and how to design effective OR/MS courses.

Are you an excellent OR/MS teacher with something to share with your fellow OR/MS educators? There may still be room on the TEC agenda for you. Would you like to make progress on your teaching skills in a fun, informative, interactive one-day session that will kick-start your 2015 INFORMS Philadelphia experience? Then consider attending this event. If either of these is the case, please contact Eric Huggins (Fort Lewis College) by email at or by phone at (970) 382-6912.

For general information about the combined event, contact the combined colloquia chair Matt Bailey from Bucknell University by email at or by phone at (570) 577-1904. If you are interested in the other two colloquia, the chairs for the Graduate Student Colloquium and the New Faculty Colloquium are, respectively, Archis Ghate from the University of Washington and Halit Uster from Southern Methodist University. To reach Professor Ghate regarding the GSC, email or call (206) 616-5968. To reach Professor Uster regarding the NFC, email or call (214) 768-3575.

Learn more about the colloquia online at The direct link is

The three colloquia are excellent opportunities for students and faculty to learn more about various aspects of the OR/MS field. For those looking specifically to hone their teaching skills, the TEC provides a tremendous opportunity to do so.

Eric Huggins ( is a professor of Management in the School of Business Administration at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.