Professor Brian Denton

Letter from the Chair

As Brian Denton, U-M IOE’s Department Chair approaches the end of this term he reflects on the accomplishments of the department and why it has been meaningful to lead it over the past five years.

Dear U-M IOE community,

As I approach the completion of my term as the University of Michigan Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) Department Chair, I’m reflecting on some of our accomplishments over the last five years. Much has happened, and I am thankful for the opportunity to work with many of our alums, staff, students, and faculty in pursuit of our vision to lead in the discovery of solutions to societal challenges and foster the next generation of engineering leaders.

Brian Denton listens to a group of individuals
Denton at the 2023 Undergraduate Graduation Celebration

All of the significant accomplishments were team-based endeavors. Many are based on goals we set at our department visioning retreat in the Fall of 2018, which kicked off the creation of a new vision and mission statement, and a statement of our shared values. From this, we established strategic research areas that leverage our competitive advantages. The methodological pillars are data analytics, human system integration, optimization, and stochastic systems. The application pillars are business operations, health and human safety, mobility and transportation, and energy and sustainability. The breadth of activity reflects the balance of theory and practice for which our department is known, including well-established areas of excellence and new growth areas such as data analytics, mobility and transportation, and energy and sustainability.

Our undergraduate program has transitioned to include an emphasis on computation and data analytics with a new introductory course on data analytics and a new advanced course on predictive modeling and machine learning—enhancements to many existing courses have infused our program with computation and data-driven aspects of modeling and decision-making. You can read more about these curriculum changes in this article. Our master’s and PhD programs have seen similar changes, including creating a new introduction to data analytics class and a class on advanced topics in data science. New courses in mobility and transportation, user experience design, and, most recently, energy and sustainability are opening new doors for our students’ career choices.

Additionally, there have been many organizational changes within the department, including the creation of two associate chair positions for undergraduate and graduate studies and several new staff roles, such as a student services manager and supporting staff, that have joined our undergraduate advisor and graduate coordinator, to form a robust student services team that supports our students and faculty. Hiring a new dedicated communications and marketing expert, an alumni relations and events coordinator, and a gift officer dedicated to cultivating fundraising have led to greater visibility for the department and a more connected U-M IOE community.

Brian Denton stands on stage and speaks to a room full of people
Denton speaking at the 2023 IOE Graduate Banquet.

Recent graduate student recruiting initiatives aim to broaden participation by attracting underrepresented groups in engineering and students in need of mentorship to support their journey to apply for and complete an advanced degree. An essential part of the initiative is a new workshop for undergraduate STEM students to inspire students from other STEM disciplines like science, math, and statistics to consider industrial engineering and operations research graduate programs. Guaranteed first-year fellowships and future funding support help our PhD students excel at research and learning from day one. Partial fellowships for master’s students are helping improve access by lowering the cost barrier to complete a master’s degree.

The dedication and support of our alums in terms of time, expertise, and gifts to support our students, is something for which I am truly grateful. Fundraising initiatives have led to the creation of new fellowships honoring U-M IOE faculty, including Walt Hancock and Monroe Keyserling, and growth in established fellowships in Steve Pollock’s and Clyde Johnson’s names. A committed U-M IOE advisory board has been a driving force that has made this and many other initiatives possible. 

Our recent creation of a U-M IOE Industry Partnership Program is building connections between U-M IOE and industry organizations to support cross-collaboration in support of experiential learning, student recruiting, and career development opportunities like our annual industry speakers series. We have close to 40 sponsors, including organizations like Accel, American Airlines, General Motors, Tesla, American Airlines, Gemline, and many more. 

Researcher Brian Denton stands at whiteboard instructing his graduate students
Brian Denton discusses models used in prostate screening research with his graduate student researchers.

Finally, I’m happy to announce that a new U-M IOE building renovation project was approved, and we are now moving into the final design stage. The renovations will provide students, staff, and faculty collaboration and community space.

These changes are just the tip of the iceberg and shining examples of what we can do when we work together as a team. 

I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to lead an extraordinary department and work with dedicated alums, faculty, students, and staff who have a passion for excellence. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store.

Thank you for all of your support over the last five years. Have a safe, happy, and healthy summer, and go blue!

Brian Denton

Stephen M. Pollock Collegiate Professor

Department Chair

Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering

University of Michigan