Meet Ali Kefeli
The 2009-2010 academic year will be a busy one for Ali Kefeli! He is a Ph.D. candidate in Industrial Engineering and expects to earn his degree in Summer 2010. He is serving as the new University Graduate Student Association (UGSA) President for the coming year and is also a member of the search committee to identify a new NC State chancellor.
Kefeli was born and raised in Izmir, Turkey, which he describes as “. . . a lovely city on the Aegean coast of Turkey.” In 2001, he graduated from Bornova Anatolian High School in Izmir with educational training very much oriented toward math and science.
In spite fierce competition in university admissions, Kefeli was lucky enough to be accepted in the Industrial Engineering program – and with a scholarship - to one of the best universities in Turkey, Koç University in Istanbul.
While at Koç University, his interest in various aspects of industrial engineering expanded. “I almost always had many questions at the end of classes and wanted to learn more about the reasoning behind things I was taught,” said Kefeli.
Most of Kefeli’s professors at Koç University were from the United States. “Working as a research assistant and then a teaching assistant to these select academicians . . . I learned a lot about graduate life and received motivating guidance.”
Although Koç University is one of the select few institutions with research facilities, it also had limited funding for research. So, it was only natural that Kefeli’s career goals would take him to graduate school in the United States.
His decision was enabled further by two very important factors – his family and his knowledge of language and culture. About his family, Kefeli says, “I’m extremely blessed to have a family that always set me the perfect examples and guided me through my decisions in life. My grandparents are teachers, my mother and sister are English teachers. My dad is an electrical engineer and an academician as well. I have always dreamt of being a teacher. I think it’s a great pleasure to see that transferring your knowledge to somebody and that person becomes successful as a result of your teaching ability.”
Kefeli sees quite a few similarities with American and Turkish life styles. He started learning English when he was 11 years old. And he grew up listening to American Pop music and watching Hollywood movies. He was, therefore, very confident in his decision to further his education in the United States.
He is enthusiastic about his decision to come to NC State and about his graduate program. “My studies here have been extremely productive and exciting. I feel like I have come to the Hollywood of Industrial Engineering. I have the privilege of working with leading researchers in their fields. This is amazing! My advisor here at NC State is the author of the papers I’ve read when I was in undergrad in Turkey. How cool is that?”
Kefeli’s graduate research examines queuing-sensitive resource allocation models and investigating potential application of such models for purposes of cost allocation in managerial accounting as well as health care applications. “The types of questions we are trying to address are: How much should a firm be willing to invest in additional units of a key resource, say an MRI machine? Which insurance companies should a hospital work with? How about medium to long term cost structure of a certain type of product?”, explains Kefeli. His multidisciplinary research is resulting in a dissertation that includes literature reviews of technical modeling papers, managerial accounting applications and related healthcare literature. “It is a considerable challenge to bring these three distinct disciplines together, but that is what I believe makes my research experience here at NC State unique.”
His interest in teaching and research prompted Kefeli to improve his leadership and communication skills through the Graduate School’s series of Professional Leadership Programs - Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching program, Preparing the Professoriate Program and FMI Business Development Series. Kefeli believes that through these programs (open to all graduate students through a selection process), he has developed skills that he can immediately apply to organizations such as UGSA, as well as to the Production System Design class he teaches for senior level Industrial Engineering students. To supplement his research, he is also taking doctoral level operations management classes at Duke University as well as accounting classes at Jenkins School of Management.
Kefeli believes that a successful academician should demonstrate three very important core values -- research, teaching and service. He says that, “UGSA is one way that I believe I can give back to my university. I have been at NC State for almost [four] years and have experience in what graduate students could possibly need. I hope to incorporate my experience with my leadership skills to give back to the very university that has provided me all the opportunities I currently have.”
His primary goal for UGSA is to improve communications and have already started working on revamping UGSA’s “broken and dysfunctional web site.” Kefeli is very excited about this transformation: “This year, starting late August, when you visit http://ugsa.ncsu.edu you will have a much more streamlined and user friendly experience. We have worked hard to make information organized and easily accessible. Graduate students should take advantage of this!” Kefeli has also proposed projects that use new online tools such as Facebook and Twitter for UGSA. “We are constantly brainstorming to find ways to improve UGSA. We are in contact with graduate student associations of Duke and UNC. We aim to collaborate with them to offer mixer events.”
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Kefeli advises other graduate students to get involved. He says that students need to “. . . get out there and participate in events, seminars, workshops, celebrations on campus. I understand you are a graduate student and research is a major part of your life. However, it’s also in your hands to enrich your graduate experience at NC State and refresh your body or mind at the same time. Get a hobby, like camping or dancing. Get out of campus and be involved in activities such as Habitat for Humanity or Rotary International. Can’t find anything? You just create time, UGSA will find fun for you!”
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