ORIE alums gather for breakfast and to look back and ahead
Alums who graduated 4, 5, 10, 15, 25, 35, 44, 45 and 55 years ago (and two potential members of the class of 2034) convened in the Weiss Lounge in Rhodes Hall for reminiscences and a look ahead.
ORIE Director David Shmoys provided a brief update on the School’s progress and plans. He reported that the recent graduating class was one of the largest in recent years. New faculty members are in place, and further recruiting for Ithaca has been approved. There are also openings for the ORIE component of Cornell NYC Tech. Shmoys also mentioned ORIE’s involvement in Citi Bikes, the New York City bicycle sharing program.
Alice Chuang ’09 (at right with Joe Dao CS ’09 and Professor Peter Jackson) said that when she graduated from Cornell, “I honestly didn’t anticipate the amount of ORIE skills I’d be utilizing day to day for my job, and it certainly didn’t cross my mind that ORIE and makeup would have anything in common.” Chuang, seen at left with Joe Dao, CS ’09 and Professor Peter Jackson, is currently working as a business analyst at ipsy, a BayArea startup centered around a personalized beauty sampling subscription program. There she uses an optimization algorithm that matches products to subscriber needs and preferences, analyzes data for email marketing, and works to resolve customer and warehouse issues. “I hope that the School can continue inspiring young talents by showing how relevant Operations Research is to everyday life,” she said.
Sharat Shakar ’09 M. Eng ’10 works for Citigroup, where he “helps corporations use interest rate derivatives to manage balance-sheet risk.” Previously he provided statistical and Monte Carlo-based analytics to support the decision making and management of corporate clients. He joined Citigroup after a year at Moody’s. He recalled a project in his ORIE optimization course to assign students to Freshman Writing Seminar classes, which “made me realize how applicable the field is to everything from assigning students to classes, to finance, consulting, and operations.” He hopes that ORIE continues to place emphasis on not only learning the theory but on ways to “convert the theory into practical real-world applications that are done via projects.”
Jennifer Shirk Warner ‘04, at left with her husband Dave Warner and Professor Jackson, manages Human Resources Data Analytics & Systems for M&T Bank. She finds the evolution of “big data” particularly interesting, and is “happy to see students coming out of ORIE with more and more skills that they can leverage early in their careers. As the manager of a recent ORIE grad, I am consistently impressed with the skills that my team member possesses,” she said.
UPS hired Mike Singer ’04 M.Eng. ’05 directly into their Industrial Engineering (IE) Department from a Cornell career fair. “I was excited for the opportunity,” he said, “as it allows me to practice exactly what I’ve learned in school.” He is currently in change of IE for the tractor/trailer network, planning driver levels, training plans and purchase and rental of equipment for a UPS district ranging from northern VA to Philadelphia PA, where he has been living since graduation.
Singer is married to Allison Bernstein ’03. Evan and Emily, seen at right with their parents, were born in June 2012; with Cornell parents as well as uncle Zachary Bernstein ’01 and aunt Julie Singer ORIE ‘07, the twins are candidates for the class of 2034. Michael Singer was amazed to see the new buildings on campus and pleased that many of his professors are still teaching at Cornell. “I look forward to future reunions to continue to see my old classmates and how they and their families have grown over the years.”
Ashu Agrawal, CS ’99 ORIE M.Eng. ’00, joined Goldman Sachs in New York after graduation. There, he worked on structuring and executing debt financings in their Leveraged Finance group. Since 2001 he has been involved with private equity firms specializing in technology investing, and now serves on the boards of 10 private technology companies. “My favorite memories in ORIE are working as Prof Shmoys’ teaching assistant for the Intro to OR class and also working on the M.Eng. thesis,” he said “ORIE has always been at the forefront of innovation and applying OR principles to practical/commercial application. I hope the department is able to keep that spirit of innovation and evolve with the times.”
Larry Stone ’79 (at right with his wife Maggie Jongleux and Mark Eisner), has long been interested in transportation, and currently works on flight schedules with United Airlines at the headquarters in Chicago. His title is “Manager, Block Time Optimization International,” a position which gives him intimate knowledge of the factors that influence key scheduling decisions for international flights. “I think one of the best things Cornell did for me is not just teach me ORIE techniques but also how to think about problems and how to take new problems and recast them in terms we know how to solve,” he said. For example, “the problem of how much airplane ground time to schedule is just another version of the classic inventory carrying / stockout costs problem,” he said. He hopes that “the school never forgets that there is more to ORIE than just the techniques and tools and the thinking is as important.”
Bill Wallis ’70 M.Eng. ‘71 retired from the manufacturing and supply arm of the old Bell Telephone System, Western Electric, which he joined after his M.Eng. The problems he encountered there when he began were “poorly defined or not defined at all, there was limited or non-existent data for analysis, and problems were very muddied by the involvement of humans. It was challenging. It’s possible to apply the problem-solving discipline we learned in ORIE, but the solutions were never as elegant.” He moved into management, with assignments in operations and planning in the U.S., Europe and China.
At the breakfast, Wallis recalled that all of his Cornell electives were in anthropology. In the dozen years since retirement he has been a volunteer at the University Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where he was recently involved in a project to rearrange the storage of about 25,000 Native American objects to make them more accessible for research use. This entailed creating a massive spreadsheet inventory of the objects and sorting to obtain the desired new sequence, as well as sequencing the work. “The logistics made it a little more difficult, as there hasn’t been sufficient swing space to just move everything to new cabinets,” he said. For this project “I’ve enjoyed using and building on concepts I learned on the hill so many years ago,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot of hands-on anthropology and archaeology, and the people I work with have learned the value of disciplined problem solving and project management.”
Mike Natan ’69, at left with classmate Ken Lawrence ’69, said “I have many fond memories of Cornell and wish I could repeat the experience. The changes to the school have been very positive and the future looks very promising. I am particularly interested in the development of the New York City campus and the partnership with the Technion.” Natan pursued a career in Information Technology as a direct result of exposure to computers in the ORIE curriculum. “In my first job, I developed several optimization programs for designing communications networks – a direct application of techniques I learned at Cornell.” He eventually retired as Chief Information Officer in two different insurance companies, and credits ORIE with “giving me the technical background to excel in my early career.”
Jack Evans ’59, M.S. ’62, Ph.D ‘68 (at right between Chuck Reynolds ’49 and Professor Emeritus Bill Maxwell ’56, Ph.D. ’61) recently retired as interim dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina. He also served as Interim Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration for the Chapel Hill campus. He joined UNC in 1970 and retired as Phillip Hettleman Professor of Operations in 2010, having served as dean from 1979 to 1987. “My experience at Cornell started when Mechanical and Industrial Engineering were part of one academic unit and Operations Research was not yet part of the mission,” he said. “Of course I assign great value to my three Cornell degrees and still enjoy returning to campus to see how ORIE, in particular, is growing and thriving.”
Chuck Reynolds ’49 never intended to be an engineer – as a child he saw a movie about the Naval Academy and later applied there but was deferred for a year. Realizing that the Academy entailed math and physics, he decided to try engineering. Since Cornell “had one of the very best engineering school reputations outside of the technical colleges,” he decided to come to Cornell as an electrical engineer. He transferred to the Academy in June 1944 but soon decided to return to Cornell, in the administrative option of mechanical engineering. After graduation he joined a family retail business, went to the Harvard Business School, and returned to the business, which prospered during the “golden years of growth in the U.S.”, he said. He has returned to Cornell for every five year reunion but one (when a son was married) and has seen changes that “have been enormous at least physically, which is what I see.” Although he is concerned for the U.S., in part because “we are failing our children” he gives “thanks to Cornell for giving me much of the advantage I’ve had in a wonderful life.”