University of Tennessee

Amazon selects Haslam professor as visiting academic

April 12, 2022

Michel Ballings, James and Joanne Ford Faculty Research Fellow and assistant professor in the Department of Business Analytics and Statistics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, was recently appointed as an Amazon Visiting Academic. The program enables academics to work with Amazon in applying research methods to complex technical challenges while they continue their university work.

He also will coach junior scientists and review technical and scientific work materials. Both roles will require engaging with managers, product managers, engineers, researchers and scientists. “I am honored by this appointment, and it is a great pleasure to be collaborating with the outstanding team at Amazon,” Ballings said. “I enjoy working with great people on hard business problems and making the journey from developing ideas to building prototypes to moving solutions to production.”

Mike Galbreth, head of the business analytics and statistics department, said the appointment is a great opportunity for Ballings. “We are thrilled that Amazon recognizes Michel’s contributions to the discipline and wants to collaborate with him in this fashion,” Galbreth said. “As our students and corporate partners have known for some time, Michel is a world-class thought leader in this space, and he has an exceptional ability to apply his deep technical expertise to real-world problems.”

Ballings’ initiative is part of a much larger undertaking. The Amazon Visiting Academic program is currently exploring applications in areas such as machine learning, computer vision, data science, natural language processing, robotics, economics, optimization, statistics, quantum computing, sustainability, operations research, I/O psychology, social sciences, environmental science, horticulture and water conservation.

To attain this opportunity, Ballings had to meet Amazon’s rigorous visiting academic qualifications. Academics must hold a doctorate; be connected with an academic or research institution; have performed five or more years of research; be published in top-tier, peer-reviewed conferences and/or journals; hold an established track record in an applied science discipline and routinely apply knowledge from other disciplines; possess significant leadership capabilities in scientific and/or technical research projects; and be able to communicate and build consensus with both technical and non-technical audiences.

About the Department of Business Analytics and Statistics at UT’s Haslam College of Business

The Department of Business Analytics and Statistics’ mission is to create knowledge through research and to disseminate that knowledge through its degree programs. The faculty uses the results of its application-focused research to educate students on how to create positive change within organizations by emphasizing soft skills such as communication and team building alongside the targeted and effective use of analytics. The department’s continually evolving curriculum draws upon state-of-the-art theoretical and practical content from the fields of statistics, machine learning and operations research.


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist,