Shmoys, Topaloglu and Woodard win teaching awards
With less than 8% of the College of Engineering faculty, ORIE has garnered three of the College’s 18 teaching awards for 2012. The awards were all endowed by ORIE alumni from the class of 1972.
Assistant Professor Dawn Woodard, who joined ORIE in 2008, has received the Ralph S. Watts ’72 teaching award from the College of Engineering. Woodard regularly teaches Statistical Data Mining, which is devoted to introducing the relatively new field sometimes called “Big Data.” Students lauded her clear lectures and willingness to help when necessary, at least one calling the course “my favorite class at Cornell.”
Woodard has also taught the large introductory engineering probability and statistics course that is taken by ORIE majors and students in other fields. She succeeded in changing student attitudes towards the subject. “Before taking this class I didn’t like statistics at all,” said one, who “thought it was just a boring subject. But she made this course interesting. Now I find statistics really useful and important. I think every engineer should take statistics,” the student said.
Considered by her colleagues to be an exceptionally committed teacher from the outset, Woodard’s teaching capabilities have only grown with experience, according to ORIE Director Adrian Lewis. He said “the School of ORIE strenuously supports and values teaching excellence, and Dawn exemplifies our commitment perfectly."
Associate Professor Huseyin Topaloglu has once again won a Sonny Yau ’72 Teaching Award, which he first received seven years ago. According to Director Lewis, Topaloglu’s teaching “has reached a new level, with much higher effectiveness ratings in several courses” than even when he previously won the award.
Topaloglu has taught a large and diverse array of courses since joining ORIE as an assistant professor in 2002. These include courses in simulation, inventory and production planning, systems engineering, and revenue management. The systems engineering course is co-listed by five Cornell units, and so caters to students with a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds. It is a large lecture course on campus, with the lectures recorded and sent electronically to distance-learning companies at companies such as Lockheed Martin.
One on-campus student said “This is the greatest course I've ever taken at Cornell. Huseyin Topaloglu in a perfect professor. Everything is awesome.” A distance learning student said “I learned a lot from him and I hope he maintains that zeal and enthusiasm throughout his teaching career."
Other students in his classes commend Topaloglu’s dedication, organization, kindness, compassion and sense of humor.
Professor David Shmoys won the Sonny Yau ’72 Teaching Award for the fourth time since joining ORIE in 1989. Among his regular teaching is an introductory course, “Engineering Applications of Operations Research” that he developed in order to expose underclass engineering students to operations research (OR). Many of these students had no prior awareness of the field, or had not yet made a commitment to ORIE. A significant fraction of recent students in this course who had not thought about majoring in OR before taking the course were thinking about doing so afterwards. Students found the course "very well structured” and said Shmoys “did an excellent job in relating the material to real life.”
Shmoys also taught an undergraduate course game theory course. His students found him “passionate about the subject matter and very invested in the course,” with “very interactive and fun lectures.” "He worked to spark my interest in the subject,” one said, and that work was evidently successful: nearly half of the students in the course who expected to be at Cornell the following year were interested in taking a follow-on course, covering advanced topics in game theory.
ORIE Director Lewis, who has co-taught with Shmoys in the past, called him “one of the most committed and energetic teachers I have ever seen. He is relentless in pursuit of interesting new ways to present material; he never rests.”
Sonny Yau ‘72
Sonny Yau ’72, chief executive officer of manufacturing firm Yen Sheng Factory Ltd., endowed the teaching award won by Topaloglu and Shmoys. As an ORIE student, he found that some of his professors were “able to make subjects that were not interesting to me in the beginning become very interesting,” he said. His view is that “it is both important and beneficial to students that professors value teaching ability no less than research ability.”
Ralph S. Watts ‘72
Woodard’s award was endowed by ORIE alum Ralph S. Watts ’72. Watts is a managing director in the investment banking division of Citigroup Global Markets Inc and co-head of Mergers Acquisitions, North America. “I have been very gratified to have the opportunity to give something back to Cornell,” he said. “The Fund for Excellence in Teaching in the undergraduate program is the perfect way to give focused support for our most important priority – the undergraduate engineering education,” according to Watts.