Live at #INFORMS2023: Giving back with analytics

In a special episode recorded at the 2023 INFORMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ, I have the opportunity to sit down with long time INFORMS member and professor and dean with the Culverhouse College of Business at the University of Alabama, Jim Cochran. We cover a lot of ground from adventures abroad with Visiting Scholar opportunities, to combatting urban blight and human trafficking, to increasing access to dental care and food donations for those in need, but most importantly explore the power of analytics to give back and make a difference. 

This was an unbelievable opportunity to see things and do things and meet people and work with people and try to solve problems that might actually have an impact on people’s lives. It’s kind of where I came up with what I want on my tombstone: Confirmable optimality is highly over-rated. If you can get to 99.5% of optimality in a couple of days when you’re working on a problem that’s going to get food to people, and your choice is either implement that or keep working on it for another six months until it’s just right, you need to take the heuristic, almost optimal solution and move on to another problem.

Interviewed this episode:

Jim Cochran

University of Alabama

James J. Cochran earned a BS in Economics, an MS in Economics, and an MBA from Wright State University in 1982, 1984, and 1986, respectively. He earned in Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Cincinnati in 1997, and he has been a Visiting Scholar with Stanford University, the University of South Africa, the Universidad de Talca, Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci, the University of Limpopo, and the University of Namibia. He holds honorary faculty appointments with the University of KwaZulu Natal and the University of Limpopo.

Dr. Cochran’s research focuses on problems at the interface of statistics and operations research, and he has taught a wide variety of statistics and operations courses from the introductory undergraduate level through Ph.D. seminars. He established an international teaching effectiveness colloquium series and has organized these events in Uruguay, South Africa, Colombia, India, Tanzania, Argentina, Kenya, Nepal, Cameroon, Australia, Croatia, Cuba (twice), Estonia, Fiji, Mongolia, Moldova, and Bulgaria. Dr. Cochran is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and the Management Sciences, Wiley Series in Operations Research and Management Science, and INFORMS Analytics Body of Knowledge. He has published fourteen book chapters and over forty research articles, and he is co-author of seven textbooks in statistics, operations research, and analytics. He has served as a consultant to a wide variety of corporations, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations around the world. He was a founding co-chair of Statistics without Borders and a member of the founding committee for INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics initiative. He has also delivered keynote addresses to conferences in twenty-five nations. In 2008 Dr. Cochran received the INFORMS Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice, in 2010 he received the Mu Sigma Rho Statistical Education Award, and in 2011 he was named a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. In 2014 he received the American Statistical Association’s Founders Award, in 2015 he received the Karl E. Peace Award for outstanding statistical contributions to the betterment of society, and in 2017 he received the American Statistical Association’s Waller Distinguished Teaching Career Award and was named a Fellow of INFORMS. In 2018 he received the INFORMS President’s Award, and in 2019 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Cincinnati.

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