During the pandemic, student organizations have played a critical role in helping students navigate through the challenges. NC State’s Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) Student Chapter was one of these student organizations that never stopped planning activities and helping students, even when faced with challenges from the pandemic. Their hard work and dedication earned them the 2020-2021 Student Chapter Annual Award – Magna Cum Laude.
2021 isn’t the first time INFORMS has received the Magna Cum Laude award, with the last time being in 2009. “The important thing is to volunteer and enjoy the process of it,” explained Tiancheng Xue, an INFORMS officer. “The success accumulates from doing very tiny things.” Minor improvements to the chapter, taking risks and working around an already busy schedule have positively impacted the students. “We are once again proving our academic, professional and student leadership, among others,” Srinivasan Balan, the former INFORMS chapter president, stated. “It shows ‘hard work never fails.’”
The chapter’s mission is to inspire and nurture students, encouraging them to enrich, enhance and educate themselves through professional engagement. COVID-19 has made achieving this challenging, but the chapter crafted new ways to take advantage of the situation. “We came up with new ideas and utilized the COVID pandemic situation into a win-win situation by organizing virtual events, conducting workshops via Zoom, organizing seminars – uploaded on our YouTube channel, and connecting students and research folks across South East Asia, Europe, and the Middle East using LinkedIn and social media accounts,” explained Balan. They also collaborated with the ISE Graduate Student Association to create “grads4grads”, a program focused on helping new Ph.D. students conduct research using optimization and machine learning techniques.
The hard work INFORMS put into giving students personal and professional skills has hugely impacted Ph.D. students. “These are extremely important skills especially for Ph.D. students like me to develop either personally or collaboratively in the first academic year,” Xue stated. The results have been noticed by the faculty, too. “Our student leaders have played such an important role in creating and maintaining community,” ISE Department Head Julie Swann explained. “Even in the best of times, some graduate students face stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges. I really appreciate that our students were able to donate their time and talent to assist other students in this turbulent time.”
As impactful as these programs and events are, they wouldn’t exist without outside support. INFORMS would like to thank Swann and the other faculty and staff who have supported the chapter. INFORMS would also like to thank Srinivasan Balan for his time as the chapter president and the students who consistently attend events despite their busy schedules.
Interested in learning on-the-job leadership skills, interacting with academic and industry professionals, and enhancing your learning opportunities? Consider becoming involved with NC State’s INFORMS Chapter by following them on LinkedIn, subscribing to their YouTube channel and joining the chapter.