Spotlight Interview with Pontifical Catholic University of Chile INFORMS Student Chapter


Gulten Busra Karkili
University of Massachusetts Amherst

We were very honored and excited to interview the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile INFORMS Student Chapter for our Spotlight Series. This informative and inspiring conversation took place between Massachusetts and Chile, with words traveling over five thousand miles. We interviewed five key members of the Chapter: Professor Jorge Vera as the Faculty Advisor, Josefa Valdés as the Chapter President, Cristobal Perez, Amalia Cáceres, and Pablo Barría as Chapter Members.1


Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile INFORMS Student Chapter?

Cristobal: The Industrial Engineering student chapter was established in 2016 by students from the Industrial Engineering faculty who were driven by their interest in the various domains covered by Industrial Engineering, including Operations Research, Finance, and Management, among others. Since then, the student chapter has gained immense popularity, not only within the Industrial Engineering faculty but also across all other faculties of the Engineering school at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. Presently, it stands as one of the most active student chapters and represents the largest major within the Engineering School.

Prof. Vera: The student chapter originated in 2016 as an initiative of a group of highly motivated students from the Industrial Engineering area who had a strong interest in Operations Research. These students actively participated as a support team during the Latin-Iberoamerican Congress of Operations Research, which took place in Santiago that year. As the general chair of the conference, I was able to inspire and encourage them to organize themselves into a Student Chapter. Since then, successive groups of students have continued with the same enthusiasm. 

What are the key activities that the Chapter conducts throughout the year?

Cristobal: Some of the key activities that we carry throughout the year are: talks about diverse subjects related to our Major with different companies or important people that work as an Industrial Engineer, workshops, activities of distension with the people that conform the Industrial Engineering faculty, National and International Congress of Operations Research, among others.

Pablo: Throughout the year, the chapter tries to cover every aspect of what Industrial Engineering is, from the academic, student, labor, and extracurricular aspects. For this reason, some key activities are talks with companies and experts, as well as recreational activities, both internal within the chapter and  external with university students. Additionally, the chapter participates in activities at school and academic fairs to explain the focus it has on operational research.

What are the goals of this Chapter and what motivates the members most?

Josefa: The goals of the Chapter are to integrate students into the field of Industrial Engineering and foster a sense of belong- ing within the Operations Research major. Additionally, the Chapter aims to enhance the relationship between students and faculty, creating a comfortable learning environment and facilitating knowledge exchange. Another objective is to bridge the gap between students and the professional world, providing opportunities for students to engage with industry.

Cristobal: The main goal of the chapter is to develop a sense of belonging among students, professors, and officials of the Department of Industrial Engineering at UC, creating opportunities for learning and collaboration. The Chapter aims to contribute to the personal development of individuals and align their training with the needs of the country. What motivates us the most is the ability of the Chapter to make a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals associated with the department, creating a positive experience for everyone involved.

Pablo: As a chapter, we aspire to foster the academic, professional, and personal growth of our members, while also promoting industrial engineering as a discipline. Therefore, we strive to facilitate knowledge exchange by offering leadership opportunities, fostering skill development, and encouraging engagement in service activities. This is the driving force behind the motivation of CEIINS (the Spanish acronym for Industrial and Systems Engineering Student Chapter) members, as it enables us to connect with external information and, in turn, inspire and support those in need, including students, the department, and our chapter.

How do you recruit new members and the leadership board? What key personality traits do you look for in students during the recruitment process?

Josefa: We conduct a small poll and ask each student in the chapter if they are interested in joining the leadership board. When recruiting, we look for individuals who are participative, motivating, and responsible.

Cristobal: First of all, we create a form to inquire whether the current chapter members intend to continue their membership in the following year. If they express their intention to stay, we then ask them if they are interested in joining the leadership board. After that, we conduct a vote among the interested individuals to determine the composition of the leadership board and assign specific positions. Regard- ing the recruitment of new members, we open our applications at the beginning of the academic year. Based on the characteristics of each applicant, we make decisions about their acceptance into the chapter and determine the commission they will be assigned to. The key personality traits we seek in potential members include motivation, pro-activity, responsibility, and empathy. 


From left to right: 

Back row: Sebastian Aguirre, Amalia Cáceres, Pablo Barria, Catalina Cifuentes, Fernando Abarzua.

Front row: Diego Hidalgo, Josefa Valdés,Cristobal Pérez,Cristobal Carvallo 

How are the previous graduates doing in their academic careers, and how did the Chapter contribute to their success?

Pablo: The previous members of the chapter who have already graduated are now in different areas. Some are practicing their careers as engineers, while others are continuing their specialization in the university, alongside their membership in other postgraduate student chapters. The chapter instilled in them the spirit of leadership and service to others, along with facilitating connections with companies and professors that as- sisted them in pursuing their chosen paths.

Amalia: It is important to note that the members of the chapter stand out for their desire to leave a mark within the university and contribute something to the community. This is why it is possible to see how all CEIINS graduates are working or study- ing but always striving to be part of something that unites them with the community and improves day by day thanks to what they learned in the engineering school. 

Are there any changes you are planning to make in the Chapter in the near future? What are you most excited about regarding the future of this Chapter?

Josefa: We are not making big changes in our chapter, but we are focused on organizing more activities throughout the academic year. Additionally, we have plans to collaborate with other chapters from different specialties. I am excited about the potential achievements and the sense of community we can create.

Cristobal: Yes, we want to make more massive events, so we can really generate a sense of community within the members of the Industrial Engineering faculty. This really motivates us because the Chapter will be seen as an institution that unites people inside and outside the Major, giving them not only tools for their professional lives but also for their personal lives.

Pablo: Yes, there are. The idea as a chapter is to improve every year and in the near future, we plan to grow in the frequency of activities we do, contacting new companies interested in looking for new activities that help the student as a person and professional, such as on issues of mental health, personal and work life, among others. In addition, we want to create a database with material available to students to help them in their studies.

Amalia: I think our chapter stands out mainly because all of its members have a mission within the chapter. It is very important to carry out each activity or event with a common goal and the main idea of uniting students, professors, and university officials. Additionally, due to the regular meetings we hold, a sense of closeness is fostered, making it easy for any good idea to be heard and worked on until it becomes a reality.

The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Student Chapter was recognized at the 2022 INFORMS Student Chapter Annual Awards Ceremony for its outstanding achievements, making it one of the few chapters located out side the US to win an award. What are your comments on this achievement?

Josefa: As a chapter, we are very proud of this achievement. We truly appreciate the recognition for the activities we strive to organize and our efforts in creating a better environment for the OI Major. This recognition serves as motivation for us to continue improving and giving our best in the upcoming years.

Pablo: This award is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and commitment of our members and leaders. It reflects the collective effort we have invested in promoting the OI major and making a positive impact on our academic and professional community. While receiving gratitude from students and academics is already rewarding, being recognized by INFORMS signifies that our work transcends barriers and connects us with the broader world.

Could you highlight some of the other achievements of the Chapter in recent years?

Amalia: It could be said that the chapter’s distinction lies primarily in its daily impact rather than specific achievements. While we may not have received other international awards, our group is recognized for the exceptional participation of each member in every activity and event we undertake. It is worth noting that each committee within the chapter organizes a series of activities throughout the year, ensuring our continuous engagement with the community. Notable activities include our participation in Giving Day, the celebration of national holidays, and the various talks delivered by companies and students at the engineering school.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us that has not been covered by the previous questions?

Josefa: As a chapter, we have three committees/commissions: Business Connections, Community, and Academics. Each committee plays an essential role in helping us fulfill our chapter’s objectives. We strive for each committee to organize various activities that foster interaction among businesses, faculty members, students, and professionals. Additionally, these activities aim to create connections that enable personal growth for everyone involved.

Amalia: I would just like to highlight the legacy that is generated from one chapter board to another. There are many members who dedicate years to CEIINS and who only leave because they have finished their university studies. But despite this, they have always managed to transmit all the knowledge, advice, and learning from one board to another in order to exceed expectations every year and create a chapter as close and complete as possible. 

1In the header image are the participants Felipe Ulloa, Josefa Valdés, Shun Wei Rao, Savka Aldunce, Amalia Caceres, Pablo Barria, Marcelo Bernal, Benjamin Espinoza, Diego Hidalgo, Nelson Maraboli, Catalina Cifuentes, Florencia Villarreal, Patricio Landsberger, Sebastian Aguirre, Anuar Khamis and Professor Jorge Vera.