Two Penn State Berks professors elected as INFORMS DEI Ambassadors

Headshots of Sadan Kulturel-Konak and Abdullah Konak

Sadan Kulturel-Konak (left) and Abdullah Konak.

Credit: Penn State

WYOMISSING, Pa. — Penn State Berks has announced that two of its professors have been elected as 2024 INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) Ambassadors. In this role, Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems and director of the college’s Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center, and Abdullah Konak, distinguished professor of information sciences and technology, will complete a project titled “Innovation in Operations Research: Fostering Equity and Justice in Problem Formulation.”  

Kulturel-Konak and Konak received a total of $2,000 for their project: Half will be used to hire a student to assist with research and content development, and the other half will be used to organize project workshops.  

According to Konak, the project will take "a groundbreaking approach to reshaping the foundational principles of operations research and operations management."

“Historically, the fields of operations research (OR) and operations management (OM) have prioritized cost, benefit and efficiency in problem-solving,” stated Konak. “While these considerations are undoubtedly vital, our proposed project seeks to push the boundaries of traditional thinking by introducing new dimensions: justice and equity in problem-solving."

Kulturel-Konak said, “We aim to develop problems and short case studies that can be integrated into introductory-level courses, strongly emphasizing fairness and social justice. In addition, we will prepare tips and pedagogical strategies for instructors to introduce ethical dilemmas and trade-offs between efficiency and equality. By incorporating these strategies, we aim to engage a younger audience and expand beyond the traditional focus on cost/benefit considerations.” 

Both Kulturel-Konak and Konak have extensive experience in DEI. They are currently working on two funded projects: “Investigating Factors Affecting Underrepresented Students’ Participation in Student Innovation Competitions, Exhibitions and Training Programs,” through the Penn State Social Science Research Institute and college’s CEED Center; and “Cultivating Innovative Thinking Skills in STEM Education,” through the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education. In addition, Konak is also leading a project titled “Biases in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Models.”  

The findings of their current projects will be incorporated into the project they complete as INFORMS DEI Ambassadors.  

“Kulturel-Konak summarized by stating, “Operations research problems can be approached to promote fairness and equity, ultimately leading to more inclusive and socially responsible decision-making processes.” 

Konak and Kulturel-Konak will present the results of their work at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in October 2024. 

About INFORMS and the INFORMS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ambassadors (DEI) Program 

INFORMS is the largest professional association for the decision and data sciences. It brings together academic and practitioner members, graduate and undergraduate students and post-docs in the data and decision sciences, including operations research, analytics, management science, economics, behavioral science, statistics, artificial intelligence, data science, applied mathematics and more.  

The INFORMS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Ambassadors Program is composed of members who individually and/or collectively work on initiatives to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive INFORMS community. The program is intended to provide a platform for members to engage in DEI initiatives in a variety of areas including workplace practices, teaching, and research, and leverage their capacities to contribute to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion among the broader INFORMS community.