Dr. Michael Walls announces transitional retirement
Dr. Michael R. Walls, Director of the Division of Economics and Business, has announced his transitional retirement, effective Dec. 31. Dr. Walls, a Professor in the Division, has been on the faculty at the Colorado School of Mines since 1992. We congratulate him on his significant contributions to the Division and Mines throughout the last 25 years. We visited with Dr. Walls to discuss his career at Mines and his vision for the Division of Economics and Business.
Why did you choose Mines to pursue your academic career?
My path to an academic career was somewhat different than most faculty. After my undergraduate studies, I worked in the petroleum industry for 12 years before attending the graduate business school at the University of Texas at Austin. Upon completion of my MBA and PhD, the opportunity to join the faculty at Mines became available. In my mind, it was a great match for both Mines and me.
At the time, our department was trying to strengthen the business component of its program offerings and preserve its emphasis on energy and minerals. At the same time, my research and teaching interests were still very much tied to the petroleum sector – Mines was an ideal place to pursue those interests. I would like to think that match has worked out quite well for both Mines and my career development and accomplishments.
How have you seen Mines change over the course of your career?
Throughout the last 25 years, I think the most important change that I’ve observed at Mines is its focus on and dramatic improvement in the scholarly research it produces. When I joined Mines, it was just beginning that long process of changing the culture of the organization to a true research institution. At the same time, I think Mines has been able to also preserve its emphasis on quality teaching, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.
What are you passionate about?
In the context of my academic and professional career, my major passion is helping folks improve the quality of their decision making. Whether you are talking about individuals or firms, that effort encompasses a lot of areas, including decision analysis, risk management, finance, and strategy. I’ve always believed that individuals/managers want to make smart decisions, but often don’t have the tools available to them to accomplish that desire. Watching individuals or firms put good decision-making practices in play has certainly been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. It’s a passion that I intend to continue to pursue.
What do you view as your biggest accomplishments at Mines?
I would point to two major initiatives, each of which I served in the role of Founding Director. The first is the MS program in Engineering and Technology Management (ETM) that was introduced in 2001. The ETM program is an excellent fit for a university with emphasis on engineering and applied science. I’m delighted that this professional masters program has been immensely successful and has helped nearly 500 graduates go on to successful careers in industry and government.
The second major accomplishment was the development and launch of the Payne Institute for Earth Resources. Mines as an institution has had a strong desire to have a role in the public policy world. Through successful planning and fundraising efforts, we were able to set the foundation and host the initial activities for a unique public policy center at Mines. There is still much to do, including putting in place strong leadership, but I’m hopeful that Mines ultimately becomes a “go-to” place for public policy analysis as it relates to earth, energy, and the environment.
What is your vision for the Division of Economics and Business?
The Division is a unique department on this campus of engineers and applied scientists. I believe that provides us a set of opportunities to make a significant impact, from a social science and business perspective. In my mind, the Division should aspire to continue to distinguish itself in terms of its high-quality professional masters programs, both Engineering and Technology Management, and Mineral and Energy Economics. In addition, it should aspire to generate high-quality economics and business research – efforts that can support our public policy initiative, our business curriculum, and our PhD program in Mineral and Energy Economics. Finally, we should aspire to conduct a set of aggressive outreach efforts to both industry and government. Communicating better our commitment to business, government, and society in general will go a long way in enhancing our future opportunities and our overall performance.
What are the big challenges that the institution faces?
There is certainly a complex set of issues at work, with respect to that question. The 21st century has brought with it profound challenges to the nature, values, and control of higher education in the U.S. Societal expectations and public resources for higher education are undergoing fundamental shifts. Mines faces many of those same challenges.
Like other institutions, Mines is rightly concerned about both the short and long-term financial health of the institution. However, the long term viability of the institution will depend on its perceived quality as well as its financial standing. Moreover, building an environment that attracts and retains high-quality faculty – the folks who build and deliver the product – is essential to success. Continuing to provide a great education to students, and focusing on research that has impact for Colorado and the nation, will be critical for the future of Mines.
With a little extra free time on your hands, how do you plan to spend it?
I’m excited about the path forward and some of the opportunities that have presented themselves – both from an industry and academic perspective. I will continue to pursue my passion around quality decision making, primarily in the consulting and executive education environments. In addition, I look forward to expanding my work in the area of corporate risk management, strategy, and decision making. And of course, I plan to stay involved in the Division including teaching graduate courses in Decision Analysis and Corporate Finance during the next couple of years, and providing help where I can in terms of moving the Division efforts forward.
Meet Assistant Professor Tulay Flamand
“I like the friendly atmosphere here at Mines. My colleagues are very welcoming, warm and encouraging. I especially enjoy pursuing my research in retail analytics, specifically on the store-wide shelf space allocation of products in grocery stores to encourage impulse buying.
I also enjoy teaching in the Engineering and Technology Management program. It’s motivating to see that our students are hardworking and willing to learn. I’m teaching a business analytics class this semester, so they’re doing term projects right now. It’s nice to see how proficient their critical thinking skills are, and their creativity in applying what they’ve learned in class.”