A Comprehensive Guide on INFORMS Student Chapters



Gulten Busra Karkili
University of Massachusetts Amherst



Farzin Ahmadi
Johns Hopkins University

If you are a graduate student interested in Operations Research, you likely are either an active member of an INFORMS Student Chapter or familiar with their activities. But if you have only heard the name of these student organizations and want to learn more about their activities, the following guide is just the right piece for you to read. We gathered a summary of the keynotes by reading the sources provided by INFORMS. We added real-life examples by heeding the voices of some active Chapter members who are achieving extraordinary things.

Let’s start on the right foot: What is an INFORMS Student Chapter? According to the INFORMS website, Student chapters are essential components of any large national (and increasingly, international) associations like INFORMS. Student chapters make it possible to keep a close, regular association with other students in your department or university. These student organizations are suitable formations for students interested in operations research and management science to come together. By joining an INFORMS Student Chapter (from now on will be referred to as a “Chapter”), a student can have great opportunities to meet other students with similar research interests, faculty members, researchers, and OR/MS practitioners from the industry. These interactions are made possible mainly due to the events organized by Chapter members where they can invite such personalities to give talks at their universities or field trips where they can observe a practice in person.

Like other student organizations, Chapters also function thanks to a well-decided division of labor between different positions. Each Chapter must have a Faculty Advisor as the official representative, who must be an INFORMS member and a faculty member at the Chapter’s host institution. Faculty Advisors work as an efficient connection between the INFORMS office and the Chapter. Each Chapter has a President (or Chair) and Vice President (Vice Chair). They are responsible for the management and communication among members, administration and planning of the meetings and events, and the conversations between the Faculty Advisor and the members. Treasurer and Secretary are other vital positions that may also be combined into one title, and functions such as Webmaster, Planning Committee, and Newsletter Editor can be included based on the unique needs of each Chapter. All members, especially the Presidents, can use the latest INFORMS Officer Guide as a checklist while deciding the positions and learning the requirements.

It is always a good idea to seek out your institution’s Chapter. If your institution does not currently have an active chapter, start the process of establishing or revitalizing a student chapter for your institution. The first step in starting a new chapter is to complete the online student chapter application. Once the new chapter application has been verified and approved by the INFORMS Membership and Communities Department, your upcoming Chapter will need a faculty advisor who is a member of INFORMS and recognized to provide secure intellectual leadership, a slate of officers, a petition signed by ten or more interested INFORMS members in good standing and a set of Chapter Bylaws adopted by the interested members to be approved by the Chapters/Fora Committee. After gathering these documents, they can be submitted to the INFORMS Membership and Communities Department. After that and some possible extra communication, through a course of several weeks, the Chapters/Fora Committee, which is the body that oversees INFORMS chapters, will review and vote electronically on new petitions over a period of several weeks. Finally, the Subdivisions Council will review and vote on the petition. The entire process may take about 10-12 weeks after the point of submission of documents.

Provided that the Subdivisions Council and the Board of Directors have not deactivated the Chapter, revitalizing a chapter is a reasonably straightforward process organizationally. After submitting the same application form, the Membership and Communities Department verifies and approves the application. You can document a faculty advisor who is a member of INFORMS, a reactivation petition signed by ten or more interested INFORMS members in good standing, and a slate of officers. Then, the package can be submitted to the INFORMS Membership and Communities Department for review. This process may take 2-3 weeks.

INFORMS student chapters enjoy a variety of leadership resources. The INFORMS Speakers Program allows Student Chapters and Regional Chapters to have the financial support to invite external speakers for technical talks in operations research. As long as they are well planned, well reported, and within a reasonable budget, time, and resource constraints (which are what OR/MS students are great at!), the sky is the limit for chapter events. Chapters are very suitable for students to get creative, take responsibility, and work in harmony with other members of their institutions. In addition to the speakers’ program, chapters can enjoy the benefits of the INFORMS mentor match, which is a benefit just for members and helps members find and connect with others. Existing INFORMS student chapters have creatively conducted various events for their communities, including panel talks, webinars, workshops, and many other activities.

Each year, active student chapters turn in an INFORMS Annual Student Chapter Activity Report by May 31st. In this report, students document Communications (Social Media, Website, etc.), Special Events and Initiatives, Community Service, and Operations (Elections, Meetings, etc.). A Student Chapter Awards Committee will evaluate eligible reports submitted by the deadline. Submissions are rated based on overall impact and reach. The student chapters in the top four categories will be awarded at the Annual Meeting by the following classification: Summa Cum Laude - highest class, Magna Cum Laude - 2nd highest class, Cum Laude - 3rd highest class, and Honorable Mentions. This year, the University of South Florida Student Chapter, University of Michigan Student Chapter, University at Buffalo Student Chapter, Galileo University Student Chapter, and Northeastern University Student Chapter formed the Summa Cum Laude class of student chapters owing to their dedication to chapter excellence. INFORMS encourages students to be engaged with their community by forming, revitalizing, and participating in their institution’s chapters. Students have shown to be more than capable of holding recurrent and consistent events that can engage the OR/MS community and benefit them. We hope this summarized guide can motivate you to enjoy the benefits of being a member of an office to an INFORMS student chapter.