The MIT Leaders for Global Operations program has won the prestigious UPS George D. Smith Prize from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).
The prize is awarded to an academic department or program for effective and innovative preparation of students to be good practitioners of operations research. It was announced at a banquet on April 1 in Boston at the 2014 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research.
“The MIT LGO program epitomizes the spirit of the UPS George D. Smith Prize — a belief that to be true to the origins of our profession, the academic operations research programs must prepare students for its practice,” says Ranganath Nuggehalli, chair of the 2014 UPS George D. Smith Prize Committee. “A first of its kind, MIT LGO was created to bring about a renaissance in U.S. manufacturing by developing analytically and technically sophisticated leaders to face the challenges of global competition. Since its inception, it has built an impressive track record. Starting with analytically oriented students, combining a core curriculum in operations research with courses and exercises in leadership, teamwork, and global collaboration, and capping with immersive hands-on experience in solving real-world problems, MIT LGO has innovated the way to preparing students for the practice of operations research.
“The LGO alumni network ensures that the education of its students continues beyond graduation,” Nuggehalli continues. “The program has developed a generation of leaders who are adept in their craft and are innovating their operations by making operations research a core competency of their organizations. The illustrious list of its alumni, their achievements, and the long list of organizations that continue to support the education of its students and vie for them are testament to the effectiveness of the program.”
"I think this award confirms LGO as a top graduate program for operations and analytics," says LGO program director Don Rosenfield, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "I felt very proud of the program as I went up to the stage in front of a big crowd of around 600 people."
LGO management faculty co-director Georgia Perakis, the William F. Pounds Professor of Management and professor of operations research and management at MIT Sloan, accepted the award together with Rosenfield. In her acceptance speech on behalf of LGO, Perakis thanked the deans of the two schools at MIT for their continuous support of the program. She also thanked the LGO students, alumni, faculty, staff, and industry partners for their hard work over the program's 26-year history.
"All these constituents make the program special — the right partner companies, staff, students, and alumni who are so passionate about LGO, and all the faculty who have played such an important role," Perakis says. “It is a very special type of chemistry.”
"In the end, I really thanked Don, because this program is his legacy,” Perakis says. “The award is a great tribute and recognition of his contribution to LGO for the past 26 years." Rosenfield, who is LGO's first and only program director, is retiring from that role this summer. "I was happy to be able to thank Don in front of all those people and say that we'll miss him," Perakis says.
Also at the conference to help make the case for LGO were second-year LGO student Michael Chun and alumni Tim Vasil LGO '11, Jason Chen LGO '12, and Gavin DeNyse LGO '01. The audience and judges also heard from MIT Sloan Dean David Schmittlein and Dean of Engineering Ian Waitz, as well as LGO Governing Board co-chair Jeff Wilke LGO '93 and Denise Johnson LGO '97 in videos they made for the occasion.
LGO is a dual-degree program for students who want to develop engineering and management skills geared toward high-level careers in operations and manufacturing. The two-year program offers an MBA from MIT Sloan and an master's degree from one of seven participating MIT engineering programs.
The LGO curriculum is based on the belief that fundamental knowledge of operations research (OR) is essential to achieving superiority in operations. OR courses are central to the LGO core curriculum and form a critical part of its electives. In addition to technical skills, students also get strong training in leadership and “soft skills” that are vital for translating theory into practice. The central part of practical training in LGO is a required six-month internship where students work on an operations or manufacturing problem at an LGO partner company. The internship research and results form the basis of the dual master’s thesis.
The other finalists for 2014 were the Lehigh University Enterprise System Center and Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and the University of British Columbia Center for Operations Excellence at the Sauder School of Business.
The UPS George D. Smith Prize is named in honor of the late UPS CEO (from 1962 to 1972), who was a patron of operations researchers at the Fortune 500 corporation. Although his background was in finance, Smith had a keen engineering mind, and after learning about operations research in the 1940s, he recognized it as an engineering approach to making decisions and established it as a crucial tool for UPS as it grew from a regional to a national carrier.