Meet SRA Member Shital Thekdi, 2014 Chair of the Engineering and Infrastructure Specialty Group

Thekdi comes from a family of engineers, with an engineer father and two older sisters who also studied engineering.

Growing up in Michigan, Shital Thekdi (pictured upper right)  earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Industrial & Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, followed by a Ph.D. in Systems and Information Engineering from the University of Virginia.

Today, she lives with her husband, Kyle, and a playful black dog named Boogie, who was adopted about a year ago – at around 10 months of age – from a shelter.

Thekdi teaches at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business, where she and her students are involved a community-based learning program supported by the university’s Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. “Within this program, my students perform data analysis projects for community organizations,” Thekdi says. In the process, they learn skills relevant to areas such as infrastructure management, emergency management, and the evaluation of nonprofit organizations.

Being immersed in projects for actual clients involving real datasets also teaches these students that although the data are never as “clean” as their textbooks may lead them to expect, statistical analysis can answer meaningful questions about problems in the real world. And her more advanced students use the opportunity to prepare for careers in consulting, as well.

Asked about her recent research, Thekdi notes she has been working on labor issues as a type of risk that supply chain managers need to consider. How labor issues in another part of the world represent tangible risks to managers here in the US may not be obvious, but Thekdi makes this emerging connection clear.

“Recent legislation in California requires retailers and manufacturers to address risks associated with slavery and human trafficking within global supply chains,” she explains. As similar legislation moves forth in other areas, concerns about global labor conditions will continue to get more attention from managers. And engineering can help: “Using engineering tools like modeling can be very powerful in identifying and addressing social problems such as child labor within large-scale business operations,” Thekdi notes.

As EISG chair, Thekdi plans a variety of strategies to promote the group and increase its visibility. One EISG effort involves capitalizing on expanding social media use, such as by using EISG’s LinkedIn presence for discussion of topics such as risk education (see related story by EISG vice-chair Eva Andrijcic elsewhere on the SRA News page).

Thekdi also hopes to expand the resources available there and on the specialty group’s webpage at sra.org. In addition, she is already getting ready for the 2014 SRA Annual Meeting, including EISG’s annual Student Merit Competition. No wonder she describes her life as “busy”!

                                                                                                               Susanna Priest, Ph.D.

                                                                                                               SRA News Editor

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