Want to get involved in INFORMS? Volunteer.

One of the best parts of coming to the INFORMS Annual Meeting is meeting colleagues who are new to INFORMS. I am frequently asked how to get involved at INFORMS. The way many of our members get involved for the first time is through volunteering. Volunteering can help new members connect with their communities, and volunteering opens up other opportunities. Former INFORMS President L. Robin Keller wrote about “volunteer ladders” that lead to higher levels of involvement in INFORMS events and activities. It’s great advice. I started by volunteering to organize a session for the Annual Meeting. I later became a subdivision officer in WORMS and Public Sector Operations Research. Now, I’m on the INFORMS Board as the Vice-President of Marketing, Communication, and Outreach.

I’m reprinting L. Robin Keller’s President’s Desk column in ORMS Today when she was President in 2015.

Forward progress

L. Robin Keller, (Then) INFORMS President  

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades” In this, my last President’s Desk article, I focus on the future, so the lyrics of the 1986 song came to mind. With apologies to Timbuk 3, I have changed “nuclear science” to “management science,” and I interpret the song as a graduation anthem:

I study management science I love my classes I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses Things are going great, and they’re only getting better I’m doing all right, getting good grades The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades

I like my Grandma Mary’s advice to commit to each volunteer activity for three years, then take on another role. On New Year’s Eve I graduate to my “past president” role. Time flies, so it is important to pay attention to planning for the future, rather than just being swamped by specific tasks to be done in the present. A new committee on the Board, chaired each year by the president-elect, has as one of its tasks to work on how INFORMS does succession planning for identifying and building experience for the future leaders of INFORMS and our profession.

Within each of the endeavors we are all involved in, I encourage you to keep the future in mind. Consider the following questions:

  • What new areas are emerging that need representation or development?
  • Can you add a newer member representative when planning conferences, assigning editorial tasks, forming awards committees, etc.?
  • Is the representation balanced across different groups (practice/academic, geographic, topic area, etc.)?
  • Is there a way to “climb a volunteer ladder” so a person is first doing small tasks, then builds up to higher levels of responsibility?
  • Should there be a co-chair rotating to the chair in the next term?
  • How long should terms of service be? Are consecutive terms allowed?
  • Is it time to encourage an existing leader to move on to a new role and nominate successors?
  • Is the “volunteer power” balanced? Are some people taking on too many roles and some doing too few roles?
  • Are workloads reasonable and balanced, or can more work be delegated or shared?

Here is a possible New Year’s resolution:

Volunteer to work on activities you are interested in by contacting committee chairs, elected INFORMS Board members or subdivision officers or INFORMS staff [1]. I have laid out some examples of volunteer ladders in two areas below. At the end of each ladder, you could run for the elected position of an INFORMS Board member. If you are interested in running or in nominating someone for a position, contact me (president@mail.informs.org) or the past president (past_president@mail.informs.org).


Volunteer ladder for conferences:

  • Submit a contributed paper.
  • Contact the cluster chair in a sponsored (by a subdivision) or invited (by the conference organizers) track of sessions and say you’d like to give an invited paper.
  • Volunteer to be a session chair in a sponsored or invited cluster. The sky is the limit on how you organize a session. You can invite the usual four talks in a 90-minute session, or perhaps have discussants as well as original papers, or have some short papers followed by a panel discussion.
  • Serve as a cluster chair or volunteer to help the cluster chair before or during the conference. Perhaps you could set up some informal get-togethers at conferences for the track’s speakers and audience.
  • Volunteer your services to the general chair or program chair of an upcoming INFORMS conference [2].
  • Serve as program chair or volunteer for a stand-alone conference in your area.
  • Volunteer to the INFORMS VP of Meetings (vp_meetings@mail.informs.org) to help with an upcoming conference or serve on the Meetings Committee.

 Volunteer ladder for journals:

  • Read articles in the journal of interest.
  • Contact authors with comments or questions on their papers.
  • Send your resume and interests to the journal editor, saying you’d like to be added to the list of potential referees that is in the online Scholar One reviewing system.
  • When asked, accept referee assignments, and complete them in a timely way with constructive comments for authors.
  • Submit papers to the journal.
  • Tell the journal editor of your interest in serving as an ad hoc or associate editor.
  • Serve as associate editor, then departmental editor or area editor.
  • Apply for editor in chief.
  • Volunteer to the INFORMS VP of Publications (vp_publications@mail.informs.org) to serve on the Publications Committee.


Similar volunteer ladders could be laid out for subdivisions, awards, etc. The general idea is to start with some entry-level and short-term tasks and build up to greater responsibilities. Ask people now in leadership roles how they worked up their ladder.

Happy New Year!



1. https://www.informs.org/About-INFORMS/Committeeshttps://www.informs.org/About-INFORMS/Governancehttps://www.informs.org/About-INFORMS/INFORMS-Office.

2. https://www.informs.org/Attend-a-Conference/Conference-Calendar