ORIE Directorship transitions from Lewis to Shmoys
Having served his agreed upon term, Professor Adrian Lewis has stepped down as ORIE Director. Engineering Dean Lance Collins has named Laibe/Acheson Professor David Shmoys to be Director for a three year term through June, 2016.
After a three year period Lewis calls “anything but steady state,” he has now returned to full time research and teaching. Even while he was Director, Lewis was able to shepherd Ph.D. students, two of whom are finishing up this summer.
Shmoys lauded Lewis for his “flourishing achievements,” including major accomplishments with respect to renewing the faculty and establishing an ORIE role in the new Cornell NYC Tech campus.
“Faculty renewal” is the name given to a Cornell-wide program to bring new faculty on board during a generational transformation in which perhaps half of Cornell’s faculty will retire within a ten year period. Provost Kent Fuchs has announced a Faculty Renewal Sesquicentennial Challenge to leverage alumni gifts in support of the renewal process.
For ORIE in particular, turnover has been high, since the School was established in its present form roughly 40 years ago and a number of young faculty members joined around that time. As a result, turnover during Lewis’ Directorship ran well ahead of the long term rate for a unit of 20 faculty, which might be expected to retire on an average of one every other year.
“During my term,” Lewis said, “the number of ORIE faculty positions in play due to departures or phased retirements approached eight, which resulted in an enormous effort on the part of the School as a whole” to identify, interview and attract candidates to Cornell.
Lewis is proud that this effort during his Directorship resulted in the hiring of a diverse group of new faculty. Shmoys noted that with so many senior people at or nearing retirement, “there was a potential leadership gap.” Hence Lewis is particularly pleased that the arrival of Professor Jim Dai from Georgia Tech and the move of Professor David Williamson, who had been splitting his time between ORIE and Information Science, to full time in ORIE will help bridge the leadership gap.
In all, five new faculty members were hired during Lewis’ term. In addition to Dai, these include Associate Professor Pierre Patie from France via Belgium, Assistant Professor Andreea Minca from Romania via France, Assistant Professor Kris Iyer from India via Stanford, and Jamol Pender, a recent Princeton Ph.D. who will become an Assistant Professor following two years as a Postdoctoral Associate.
Lewis noted that a “sense of unity of purpose has been shown in the school in this renewal process,” and that Engineering Dean Lance Collins “has been very supportive and sympathetic to our priorities.” Alumni, too, have participated, notably Don Follett ’52 and Mibs Follett ‘51, whose $500,000 faculty renewal pledge in honor of ORIE’s first Director resulted in Assistant Professor Andreea Minca’s designation as Andrew W. Schultz, Jr. ’35 Ph.D. ’41 Sesquicentennial Fellow.
“As extensive as the transition has been so far, the daunting fact is that there will likely be at least as many new hires in the next three years,” said Shmoys. This includes hiring for ORIE’s component of Cornell NYC Tech as well as for Ithaca. “The two venues are not in direct competition,” he said, since Cornell Tech hires will tend to be more senior and more interested in living and working in an urban environment. There will also be some degree of difference in intellectual thrust, since Cornell Tech faculty are expected to be more entrepreneurial and more involved in technology transfer.
Cornell NYC Tech
Lewis became Director almost a year before New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a competition for the establishment of a new applied science and engineering campus in the city. A major focus of Cornell’s bid was professional education at the Masters level. Cornell won the competition and classes began in January 2013 at temporary facilities in the Google building in Manhattan pending construction of the new campus on Roosevelt Island. Under Lewis’ guidance, ORIE was substantially involved from the very outset in the successful Cornell proposal and will run one of the four new Master of Engineering programs at Cornell Tech.
“ORIE has been on the leading edge” for what has become Cornell Tech, according to Lewis, because “we run the best professional Masters program in the University, Cornell Tech’s mission resonates with the entrepreneurial nature of what we do pedagogically, and we already have a foothold in New York City” in the form of Cornell Financial Engineering Manhattan,” he said. Moreover, like the overall planned program at Cornell Tech, “we are by definition interdisciplinary, and used to working with other disciplines.”
As co-Chair of the Academic Planning Committee for Cornell Tech, Shmoys has been directly involved in the formation of Cornell’s major new academic enterprise. He noted that Cornell Tech also has the potential to change the dynamics for external interaction by the Ithaca faculty, citing as an example an emerging activity, motivated by the New York connection and the skills in Ithaca, to help out with New York’s recently launched Citibike program.
A lot of help
Lewis is “extremely grateful that faculty members have been supportive and worked very hard” as he faced the challenges of faculty renewal and Cornell Tech. “The work has been spread among upcoming leadership, people who have been willing to step up” to the task. The process has been characterized by “comity and common purpose,” he said.
Lewis expressed particular gratitude to Professor Shane Henderson, “who agree to serve as interim director so that I could delay the start of my Directorship for a year, for personal reasons.” That year of service entailed an extreme effort by Henderson, as Cornell was in the throes of responding to the impact of a financial crisis. Henderson had to deal with a hiring freeze, and even “clawbacks” of previously allocated funds, Lewis pointed out. “Henderson left me with a healthy School,” he said, and noted the transition to Shmoys as Director will be “particularly seamless because David has been a member of the hiring committee and has been deeply involved in planning for Cornell Tech.”
“David's contributions to the School have been longstanding and extraordinarily committed and broad, covering the full spectrum of scholarship, teaching, and collegial service,” said Lewis. “He is a one-man department himself, and my colleagues and I have all been waiting impatiently for his natural ascendance to the Director's office.”
“A nice thing about Lewis’ managerial style is that it is very inclusive,” said Shmoys, “so as a result there is a lot of knowledge among the faculty about the issues facing the school." Lewis noted that in his term he was able to rely on the wisdom of no fewer than six former Directors, Professors Muckstadt, Bland, Trotter, Resnick, Renegar and Henderson.
Lewis holds B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from Cambridge University in England. He joined ORIE in 2004 after faculty positions at the University of Waterloo and Simon Fraser University in Canada. Although he considers himself a mathematician, he received his Ph.D. in engineering from a management sciences program at Cambridge. He studies optimization problems in which relationships among the variables are not smooth, and is interested in the interplay between such problems and the mathematical, modeling, and computational aspects of the new field of variational analysis, which is a broad generalization of the classical subject of calculus of variations. He has authored more than 100 refereed publications and a book, and is the winner of several major prizes.
Shmoys has achieved worldwide recognition for his contributions to the theory, design, and analysis of efficient algorithms for discrete optimization problems. Such problems arise in many practical applications, such as scheduling interdependent operations, the design of transportation and telecommunications networks, and land management for wildlife. He is a graduate in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University and holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley. He was recently named Acheson/Laibe Professor of Business Management and Leadership Studies.