Society Spotlight: MIF

Prepared by Lewis Ntaimo, Professor, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University
(Edited by Pritha Dutta)

The Minority Issues Forum (MIF) has been an active and vibrant forum for INFORMS members interested in minority issues in OR/MS since 2004. The objectives of MIF are to 1) foster minority representation in OR/MS; 2) develop ties between those interested in increasing the number of minority participants in OR/MS; and 3) disseminate information about the issues that minority researchers and practitioners face. The 2018-2019 MIF board has the following membership:

President - Lewis Ntaimo (Texas A&M University), Vice President – Ruben Proano (Rochester Institute of 

Figure 1: MIF 2018-2019 board members

Technology), Treasurer – Jamol Pender (Cornell University), Secretary – Jessye Talley (Morgan State University), Programs Co-Chair– Karen Hicklin (North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Programs Co-Chair – Eduardo Perez (Texas State University), Junior Programs Chair – Trilce Encarnacion (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Communications Co-Chair – Shannon Harris (Ohio State University), Communications Co-Chair – Laila Cure (Wichita State University), and Immediate Past President – Maria Mayorga (North Carolina State University). For the next two years the goal of MIF is to go beyond the progress that it has achieved so far. Specific goals include increasing the number of regular and graduate student members; improving visibility and participation of the minority and underrepresented at INFORMS; and growing the MIF financial portfolio to enable more activities. Every year MIF hosts three main events at INFORMS: 1) Student Poster competition; 2) Paper Competition; and 3) Early Career Award. MIF encourages people in the OR/MS community who are passionate about minorities issues to join the forum and participate in it’s activities as judges or financial contributors to support them.

Figure 2: 2017 Student Poster Competition Finalists

The purpose of the MIF Student Poster Competition is to highlight and promote the research of underrepresented students and their advisors. While the MIF poster session has been in place since 2004, the poster competition began in 2012. Since then, MIF has sponsored the travel of underrepresented minority graduate students who participate in the poster session and need financial support. The competition takes place during the MIF Reception at INFORMS. Final judging takes place live by a panel of distinguished volunteer “celebrity judges”. The finalists are announced at the end of the reception and the first-place winner receives a monetary award. The winners of the 2017 MIF Sixth Poster Competition were Gian-Gabriel P. Garcia (University of Michigan) and Toyya A. Pujol (Georgia Tech) while Honorable Mention awards went to Donald Richardson (University of Michigan) and Lauren N. Steimle (University of Michigan).

MIF started the Paper Competition in 2016 to promote and bring visibility to recent contributions of MIF members in the field of operations research, management science, or information systems. The motivation stemmed from the desire to feature work from younger scholars within the MIF population because it is often difficult to be recognized within the larger INFORMS community. Submissions must have been accepted or published within the past two years of the award year and are judged based on significance of contribution to theory or practice, novelty and technical strength of methodology, significance and clarity of results, conclusions being reasonable and supported, and organization and quality of exposition. The finalists present their work in a dedicated session at the annual conference, and the first-place winner receives a monetary award. The finalists of the 2017 MIF Second Paper Competition were Alp Akcay and Canan G. Corlu for their paper, “Simulation of inventory systems with unknown input models: a data-driven approach”; Michelle Alvarado and Lewis Ntaimo for their paper, “Chemotherapy appointment scheduling under uncertainty using mean-risk stochastic integer programming”; Esra Büyüktahtakin, and Joseph C. Hartman for their paper, “A mixed-integer programming approach to the parallel replacement problem under technological change”; and Maria Mayorga, Emmett Lodree, and Justin Wolczyncski for their paper, “The optimal assignment of spontaneous volunteers”. First Place was awarded to Michelle Alvarado (University of Florida) and Lewis Ntaimo. MIF is grateful to the following who served as judges: Dr Karen Hicklin (North Carolina State University), Illya Hicks (Rice University) and Mark Lewis (Cornell University).

In 2016, MIF also launched the Early Career Award. The purpose of the MIF Early Career Award is to recognize outstanding contributions to the theory or practice of OR/MS and service made by active members of MIF. The award recognizes exceptional researchers who have shown promise at the beginning of their academic or industrial career. Eligible applicants include scholars who are MIF members, pre-tenure, and within eight years of receiving their doctorate (or equivalent) degree. Individuals are either nominated or self-nominated and submit a C.V., two-page statement, and one letter of recommendation. A panel of three judges evaluate nominees based on research (potential and accomplishments to date considering intellectual merit and broader impact) and service (service to broader OR/MS community and the MIF community).

MIF is grateful and acknowledges the valuable financial support from the following universities which enabled them to carry out the above-described activities: Cornell University (ORIE), Clemson University, Georgia Tech University, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, North Carolina State University, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University (Fisher College of Business), Texas A&M University (ISEN), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Copper Sponsorship, Columbia University, North Carolina A&T State University, Cornell (Johnson School of Business), and University of Pittsburgh (Katz School of Business).

The announcements for the MIF activities are sent out in April and the deadline for submission is in August. The MIF contact email is for those interested in participating. For more information on MIF, visit