The State of the Art of EOR
As the world is turning and the days are going, everything is changing, and so is the world of Econometrics and Operations Research (EOR). For this reason there are some changes every year, some minor and some major. Next year, one of the masters will change drastically and one of the bachelor courses will be completely different. A good reason for two interviews about the current and new state of the program.
First of all, an interview with Edwin van Dam and Ruud Hendrickx was planned to talk about all the changes in the programs, especially the new Data Science master and the recent changes in the bachelor course Improving Society Lab, which will be further improved. They were very eager to talk about the idea behind the current program as well. Furthermore, an interview with Marion van Heijningen was held subsequent to the interview with Edwin van Dam and Ruud Hendrickx. She is the program coordinator of EOR and the corresponding master programs, and we met up with her to talk about her involvement in the programs and the students.
The current study program of EOR and the subsequent masters are developed in such a way that they connect well to the business areas in which companies are interested in EOR students. For this reason, when corporate life adapts, the study program needs to adapt accordingly. This makes for some changes in the bachelor program next year, but also a major change for the master programs and the creation of a new study program, that is related to Econometrics and Operations Research.
In the bachelor program there will be no major changes. Most of the important parts of the bachelor EOR, such as the backbone in the form of the mathematical and statistical component in the first year, are kept intact. Last year, there has been a shift in the first year of the program, by adding the Improving Society Lab, which is used to give students early on in the study program a better view on how the things they learn are used in practice. In the second and third year the main goal is applying the things learned in this solid basis. The department has also learned from experience that new
students need more motivation, so they already have their first exams in October rather than only in December. The more applied courses in the second and third year really need the fourteen weeks they currently have, which thus explains the difference in time frame between the first year and the second and third years.
Together, these courses give the students more insight into their future career possibilities
As said, there will be some changes in the program from next academic year onwards. The Improving Society Lab is a new course, and thus it can still use some improvement. This improvement is implemented in the second year, where the Improving Society Lab will be introduced as well; it will merge with the current course Modeling in Practice. In this new course groups will work out real-life cases which need different skills such as basic mathematics and programming, but also presenting and organizing. In the meantime, a new course will be introduced, named Communication and Information Skills. This course will focus on competences that are important in corporate life, such as presenting, academic writing and gathering information in a correct way. The course also is connected to the Improving Society Lab. Together, they give the students more insight into their future career possibilities.
Business and EOR at Tilburg
The labor market has changed over the years, but EOR still scores very good on labor market possibilities, the labor probability is 100%. The corporate sector likes mathematicians that are practically involved. The connection to the labor market is more important than ever, and Tilburg University tries to connect networks like the alumni network to the studies, for instance with the aforementioned Improving Society Lab. The fact that many of the employees at the department of Econometrics and Operations Research have connections with companies as well, is another indication of the practical side of the study program.
Even though the new changes described before are not necessarily focused on the mathematical basis, this solid basis is considered to be very important at Tilburg University. Because of this solid basis, students can manage far more complicated problems in their third year and master’s than without this mathematical basis. Because proofs are a substantial part of the program, students can apply this way of thinking in practical problems. Another important point about the approach in Tilburg is the relatively small exercise classes. These small classes make Tilburg feel very personal, making the approach more effective. The department has noticed that the amount of students interested in EOR is increasing, but in the end the total of registered students turns out not to have changed much. And even if it does change, Tilburg University tries to maintain its approach.
Assets of Asset
Ruud Hendrickx and Edwin van Dam think Asset | Econometrics contributes in a positive way to the current position of the program, the feedback they give is considered to be very important. The sounding boards give feedback and useful tips on how the courses can be further improved and how the students think about the program. Asset | Econometrics is very involved with the studies and organizes interesting activities, of which several are relevant for the study program and help in gaining insights into the future labor market. Furthermore, there is enough room for fun as well.
According to Edwin van Dam, data science is one of the new hot topics in corporate life, and has connections with econometrics and, especially, operations research. As a result, the Operations Research and Management Science (ORMS) master will change a lot to incorporate the data science developments in the program. The whole data science and data analysis subject will be more clearly present. The exact format will become available soon. Furthermore, there will be optional courses on data science for students in the other masters (Quantitative Finance & Actuarial Science, Econometrics & Mathematical Economics) as well.
Data science is one of the new hot topics in corporate life and has connections with econometrics
Parallel to these developments within EOR, there are several new programs initiated jointly by the TU Eindhoven and Tilburg University. The new bachelor Data Science is considerably less quantitative than EOR and considers many subjects, such as engineering, sociology, law, and economics. EOR on the other hand is much more focused on the mathematical and statistical side of data science and its applications in business. A data science master will start in Den Bosch, one engineering data science master in Eindhoven and one social data science master in Tilburg. These new data science master programs will be available for students who have completed a bachelor EOR, but the new ORMS master program will provide a better fit.
Another development is the introduction of seminars/master classes such as OR Masterminds for the third year and master students. These sessions are currently being organized for the ORMS master, but in the future such seminars will be organized for the other two master programs as well. Third year students who are interested or unsure which master program they are most interested in, are recommended to attend these seminars too.
We asked Ruud Hendrickx, Edwin van Dam and Marion van Heijningen why new students should choose EOR. The answer is pretty straightforward: if you are good at mathematics and like it, and furthermore want to be practically involved and contributing to business and society, Econometrics and OR could be a good study program for you. One of the most important things is that one should not neglect the importance of mathematics in the study. A nice extra is that the perspective on the labor market is very good, but if that is the only reason to choose EOR, think twice. It is not an easy study program and one really needs to like it to make sure they pass everything. According to the three of them, new students should consider carefully what to choose. It is a choice which is maybe for a lifetime; your entire career could rely on your study choice. Things that can help to make this choice are attending many open days, tasters (meeloopdagen) but far more essential: joining in on lectures to really see what the everyday study life is like. Marion also thinks that the personal contact in Tilburg is a good reason to go for Tilburg over other universities, as well as that EOR in Tilburg is very practically involved and that this could help on the labor market.
New students who have chosen to study EOR in Tilburg will be helped very early on by means of a mentoring system. Especially in the early weeks of the study, there are many people who can help new students on their way and are willing to help. Lastly, Ruud Hendrickx and Edwin van Dam consider it important that the focus of first-year students is really on the study: it is the most important year due to the binding study advice (BSA).
A change that has been incorporated already into EOR and the corresponding masters a couple of years ago, but has not been noticed by everybody, is the introduction of a program coordinator which is the main contact for students: Marion van Heijningen. She is in charge of quite some topics, such as counseling for students, but also helping students who are going to their master phase, answering practical questions about the program and regulations, questions from tutors, coordinating evaluations, and working on short term and long term changes in the program. All in all, an important task, which takes a lot of time at any moment during the year. In the start of the academic year, her main task is answering questions of students, while around the end of each semester she has to help student in decisions related to the master choice. In January and at the end of the academic year she spends time on discussions with first year students concerning the binding recommendation and all throughout the year she works on promotion and counseling activities.
Marion van Heijningen has never, not even once, heard a negative story about an exchange
There are many more questions that can be asked to Marion, such as how to make a studyplan, what the financial consequences are with regard to the tuition fees if you are following multiple programs, thinking about what EOR means for a student, questions about what can be done to broaden one’s personal horizons and questions about possible personal problems which can harm one’s study results. Last but not least, she is also there to discuss the possibilities for exchange programs, master programs, and many more things. Next to answering all those study related questions, counseling is an important task for Marion as well, and as such she is showing herself at most of the counseling activities, which makes her more noticeable for new students.
Advantage for students
For Marion, the progress of students makes her work so interesting. Seeing students achieve their goals, with or without the need of her help, is what drives her. Not every student is in contact with her, and that is perfectly fine when a student does not need anything from her, as long as they know that if they have a question or problem, they should feel free to ask her for help. Next to this, Marion also very much enjoys all the positive stories she hears about the exchanges. According to Marion, she can provide students with options for an exchange, and she has never, not even once, heard a negative story about an exchange. It is a really useful way to broaden one’s horizons, because of all personal development involved with the culture change and all new experiences when living in a different country. This year is the first year offering the possibility to drop five courses, and take five substitute courses at the exchange destination instead. According to Marion, this is an important change: it means that students can go on exchange without having delay in their studies.
There are many ways for students to have contact with Marion. Student can just mail her if they feel the need to ask her something, or, if they think it is really important to tell or ask her something in person, they can arrange a meeting with her. They could of course also try to meet up with her in her room (K10) without an appointment, but she could be out when they barge in. Marion also tries to maintain contact with students by mailing them twice a year, asking if everything is okay. All in all, the system with the program coordinator (one person for one education program) seems to work very well, as in other faculties the same system will be incorporated.
Text by: Aurel Macias Minambres