President’s Desk

Seven ways to enhance engagement

Nicholas G. Hall

Nicholas G. Hall
INFORMS President
president@informs.org

As discussed in my interview in the December 2017 issue of OR/MS Today, INFORMS is now in a unique position where strategic initiatives are possible. Yet these initiatives can only achieve maximum success with the full engagement of our members. In this column, I discuss ways to enhance engagement across seven dimensions: volunteering for service, mentoring, contributing to our Visibility and Awareness initiatives, addressing the special needs of international members, contributing to our Continuing Education programs, providing feedback and voting.
1. Volunteer for service: INFORMS thrives on the service contributions of its members. If you are interested in volunteering, please consider the following:

  • Subdivisions have a variety of volunteer and leadership opportunities that can expedite your engagement and make a difference within your INFORMS community. Your subdivision leaders can provide more information.
  • The Education Outreach and Industry Outreach and Engagement Committees are open to anyone interested in outreach activities to students, faculty, practitioners and industry. To join, email volunteering@informs.org.
  • Micro-volunteering activities require very little time and include promoting INFORMS via social media, adding to discussions on Connect, and writing a testimonial for an INFORMS event or service. These activities will also connect you to other members and to INFORMS staffers who will notify you of similar opportunities as they arise.

2. Become a mentor: As a large professional society, INFORMS can seem difficult to navigate for new members. Mentoring offers a direct way to help them:

  • INFORMS’ Mentor Match Program connects more experienced members with younger ones to help with their professional development. You can find more information at https://www.informs.org/Professional-Development/Mentoring.
  • INFORMS requests your help in mentoring new student chapters and their leaders.
  • The INFORMS Coffee with a Member program provides a fun opportunity to encourage a newer member of the profession at the INFORMS Annual Meeting.
INFORMS’ Mentor Match Program connects more experienced members with younger ones to help with their professional development. Photo Courtesy of ThinkStock.com

INFORMS’ Mentor Match Program connects more experienced members with younger ones to help with their professional development. Photo Courtesy of ThinkStock.com

3. Support Visibility and Awareness: As reported in detail elsewhere in this issue, INFORMS held its inaugural Government & Analytics Summit in Washington, D.C., on May 21. The event attracted scores of key congressional staff members, leaders from a wide variety of federal agencies, and many others involved in policymaking in Washington. Beyond the highly successful Summit itself, our Visibility and Awareness efforts involve several other year-round activities that provide opportunities for members to participate:

  • INFORMS members provide an essential voice in our ongoing educational briefings on Capitol Hill and with federal agencies. We need members who can be available as subject matter experts for interviews with reporters.
  • We need members to work with the INFORMS staff as they write and place columns in news outlets that promote the role of O.R. and analytics in addressing important societal or economic challenges.
  • For more information, contact Jeff Cohen, INFORMS director of Public Affairs and Marketing, at jeff.cohen@informs.org.

4. International members: Members who work internationally are one of INFORMS’ greatest assets. However, logistical issues sometimes make engagement more difficult for them. We are exploring new ways of engaging with international members; examples under consideration are listed below, and we welcome additional ideas:

  • We are interested in developing small conferences in regions that are not yet well served in this respect. Proposals would be welcome.
  • For countries that do not yet have national O.R. societies, we would like to help local INFORMS members set up chapters with a view to strengthening their O.R. and analytics infrastructure and move toward creating national societies. There are opportunities for valuable leadership roles in this respect.
  • The Combined Colloquium, which includes the Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium, is among INFORMS’ proudest activities. The Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium addresses the needs of graduate students entering the academic job market and faculty looking to stay current with “best practices” OR/MS/analytics pedagogy. Contributing to the further success of this program would be highly valuable.

5. Continuing Education: INFORMS has successful Continuing Education activities, which are either customized programs for organizations or available as open enrollment. The current emphasis is on the course “Essential Practice Skills for High Impact Analytics Projects.” We are planning an ambitious expansion program that will increase the impact of our Continuing Education programs. For example:

  • INFORMS is interested in diversifying its current portfolio, which includes expanding the pool of instructors who teach the courses.
  • INFORMS has developed and plans to launch a prep course for the Certified Analytics Professional program and welcomes members who are CAP-certified as instructors.
  • INFORMS welcomes ideas for the development of online educational content.

6. Feedback and suggestions: INFORMS welcomes feedback on all its current activities and suggestions for delivering greater value to members through new or enhanced activities.

  • Especially at this time of strategic development, the leadership of INFORMS needs the suggestions of current members about how we can best serve the needs of our members of the future. Contact information is available at https://www.informs.org/About-INFORMS/Governance/INFORMS-Board-of-Directors.
  • It is important to respond to surveys; for example, the satisfaction survey regarding one of our most important events, the annual meeting. The information collected is always assessed in detail to identify steps for improvement that are implemented for the following year’s meeting.

7. Vote: A final dimension of engagement is voting.

  • In the annual online summer Board election, the percentage of eligible members who vote is typically only about 20 percent. While you may not know some of the candidates personally, it is easy to review their qualifications or position statement. If elected to the Board, the candidate will influence important priority choices involving outreach, conferences and membership benefits that directly affect the value you receive from INFORMS. I encourage everyone to read the posted information and vote.

While INFORMS is extremely healthy in most important respects, for example, membership growth and finances, we can always do more. By strengthening the engagement of our members, we can achieve better recognition for how our work saves lives, saves money and solves problems.

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