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NSF Grant Helps Business Professors Improve Workforce Development

Two University of Iowa business professors have been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop new models to help businesses improve workforce development and employee training.

Barrett Thomas, associate professor of management sciences, and Kenneth Brown, professor of management and organizations, both in the Tippie College of Business, will receive $218,675 from NSF for their project, "Collaborative Research: Solving large-scale, high-fidelity workforce planning models that recognize the potential of human learning."

Thomas and Brown say the research will better help American businesses compete in the global economy by developing new models and methods for improving how organizations improve their workforces through careful management of training and on-the-job learning. The research combines perspectives and techniques of data mining, operations research, and organizational psychology.

"The models and solution techniques created in this proposal will allow companies to learn more effectively than their competitors, leading to more effective use of human capital and providing a sustainable competitive advantage," says Thomas.

Thomas holds a Leonard A. Hadley Research Fellowship. In addition, he is the Faculty Director of the MBA Strategic Innovation Career Academy. Thomas joined the Tippie College in 2002 and has been recognized for his research and teaching, most notably winning the Dean's Teaching Award in 2007. He is an Associate Editor of the IIE Transactions Focused Issue on Operations Engineering and Analytics, Transportation Systems Analysis Department; on the editorial board of Surveys in Operations Research and Management Science; and an Associate Editor of INFOR: Canadian Journal of Operational Research. He has a PhD and MS in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan and a BA in Mathematics and Economics from Grinnell College.

Brown, also a Tippie Research Fellow and professor of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies in the College of Education, joined the Tippie College of Business in 1998. He has received numerous awards including the President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence; the SHRM Research Award from the Society of Human Resource Management; the Ulrich and Lake Award for Best Paper in HRM; and the ASTD Research Award from the American Society of Training and Development. He currently serves as the editor-in-chief of the Academy of Management Learning and Education. He received his PhD and MA from Michigan State University and his BS in Psychology from the University of Maryland.

The project also includes Mike Hewitt of Loyola University of Chicago and Scott Grassman of Rochester Institute of Technology. The NSF award and project number is CMMI-1266064, and it expires June 30, 2016.

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