Three years ago, graduate students studying Operations Research (OR) at University of Toronto did not know much about each other’s work. I could not help but feeling myself narrow-minded without knowing how others applied OR differently. An OR seminar/group kind of thing would help – I thought, and that’s how UTORG got started. Starting a student group is not a new thing in academic. But I hope my sharing of how UTORG was built from scratch can be somehow helpful to students who are driven by the same passion.
Unlike serving in an already-built organization, where the task is more to do with keeping the ball rolling, or making a bigger ball to roll, starting a new group is to come up with a ball and keep pushing it until it rolls. Apparently, if the ball that you start off pushing is too big, the ball could end up not moving a single bit regardless how much time or efforts you put on it. Such possible waste of time/effort can be quite unbearable especially to graduate students who already feel short of time for their own research activities. Overall, UTORG was built following closely the idea of “lean startup”—we kept everything as simple as possible.