Sean Willems

In a fall MSBA course, Willems will teach students how to solve analytics problems in practice. “Data is messy, and we’ll look at how to wrestle with it and make sense of it,” he says.

Business Analytics & Statistics, Business Analytics Forum, Global Supply Chain Institute - Faculty

When the Covid-19 pandemic prompted a transition to remote learning in 2020, Sean Willems transformed his home office into a high-quality video studio.

Along with other Haslam College of Business faculty, Willems worked hard to create a rich online environment for students. He became so dedicated to the pursuit that he made it a subject of research, teaming up with Brian Stevens, senior lecturer of business analytics and statistics at Haslam, and Andrew Lo, a finance professor at MIT, to work on a joint project. “It’s a series of videos and a paper to distill a set of best practices for teaching online,” Willems says. “We call it ‘The World of Edcraft.’”

From his online studio, Willems teaches graduate-level courses in business and supply chain analytics, helping students understand the mathematics behind inventory and capacity modeling. In the fall, he’ll teach a course in the MSBA program on how to solve analytics problems in practice. “Data is messy, and we’ll look at how to wrestle with it and make sense of it,” he says. “I like to tell the students that we’re taking a journey from data to information to knowledge to wisdom – and finally, to enlightenment.”

Willems earned a bachelor’s in decision sciences from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and a master’s in operations research and a doctorate in operations management from MIT. Before joining the Haslam faculty in 2015 as the Haslam Chair in Supply Chain Analytics, he started his own software company, Optiant, a provider of multi-echelon inventory optimization tools.

His research interests include developing tactical decision support tools to optimize supply chain decisions. Recently, he’s continued to research inventory forecasting and optimization. “This area of inventory management has gained a lot of attention during the pandemic,” he says. “Some of my other research looks at how retailers make decisions to sell offline or online, considering consumers’ preferences and the hassle cost associated with each.”

Since coming to Haslam, Willems has enjoyed collaborating with fellow faculty members. “I’ve had the good fortune to write papers with several of my colleagues both inside and outside the college,” he says. “That’s been fun and rewarding.”