Zach Collier is in the business of risks
What’s for dinner? What movie to watch? What shirt should I wear?
Those choices rarely come with life-altering risks.
Other decisions, however, demand much more than doing what you feel like in the moment. Important decisions require time, information and careful analysis.
Decisions across the spectrum of various importance often weigh on Zachary Collier’s mind and wage tug of war, so to speak, on various spreadsheets living on his computer.
Take weddings, for example, where intricate and careful choices can make a break a perfect day.
“My wife makes fun of me because I like to organize things in spreadsheets,” Collier said. “I had spreadsheets for our wedding, for the invitations, for who said yes and who said no. I had an elaborate spreadsheet tracking all sorts of information with our wedding a few years back.
“I guess I am kind of nerdy when it comes to analytics,” Collier continued. “But, it doesn’t hurt to structure your information and work through it.
“That’s how big decisions are made.”
A Career of Risks and Decision Analysis
Before joining the Davis College faculty, Collier earned a Ph.D. in systems engineering from the University of Virginia and a master of engineering management from Duke University. He worked with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, where he was a member of the Risk and Decision Science Team.
Throughout Collier’s career, wherever he goes, his research centers on risk and decision analysis.
“I’ve been doing work over the years in risk and risk analysis, and that would include assessing and quantifying risks and how to manage risks.”
Along with the time he dedicates to teaching his students at Radford University, Collier, who modestly and inaccurately describes himself as “kind of boring,” continues to work and apply his work to numerous areas of interests, including supply chain and logistics management, the acquisition of and life-cycle management of new technologies, and, he explained, “the evaluation of the safety, security and sustainability of processes and systems.”
Collier’s work continues to support the Center for Hardware and Embedded Systems Security and Trust (CHEST), an industry-led research consortium supported by the National Science Foundation that addresses challenges related to hardware security vulnerabilities.
Plus, he serves as president of Collier Research Systems, a consultancy firm that offers analytics and decision-making services.
“I stay busy with the research,” he said, “but it’s what I love to do.”
Journey Along the Data Highway
That love is evident when you hear Collier talk about delving into data and crunching the numbers to give him, and those he is working with, insight and understanding into making sound personal and business decisions.
“That’s a lot of what business is about,” he said, “making good decisions and being able to justify those decisions with data and analytics.”
That line of thinking led Davis College to open its Center for Innovation and Analytics in 2016. “Analytics is one of the big thrusts of the Davis College of Business and Economics, and we want to expose our students in all majors — marketing, economics, accounting, management, finance — to an education in analytics and decision making.”
Often, however, he sees as much value in the journey as the destination.
“Someone wrote a paper a while back that said the purpose of analytics and modeling is for the insight you gain and not necessarily the numbers,” said Collier, who is teaching operations management (MGNT 357) in his first semester at Radford. “One thing I try to drive home to my students is you can learn a lot by working through and structuring your information while thinking about your values, thinking about what is important to you and your decision in the first place.”
That’s sound advice for business decision-makers and for Radford University students who will soon fill those roles.
Radford, a Good Choice
Collier’s research and experience are a tremendous asset to his Davis College colleagues and students.
“In class, I give anecdotes and share stories where I have encountered various situations that can apply to what we are examining in the class,” he said. “It’s good to be able to give my students real-life examples and show them the things we are learning are very real in the business world.”
Bringing Collier to join the Davis College faculty this fall was an easy decision for the college’s dean, Joy Bhadury, Ph.D.
“We are immensely pleased that Dr. Collier has joined the Davis College family and wish him a long and productive career at Radford University,” Bhadury said. “Our college continues to serve as an attractant for bright and dedicated faculty.”
In case you’re wondering, Collier did not make a spreadsheet to tally the pros of and cons of joining the Davis College staff.
“Maybe I drew out a decision tree,” he said with a chuckle while drawing imaginary tree branches in the air. “It was a pretty easy decision. The dean and faculty and staff are great, and I love being here to share my knowledge with our students.
“I made a good decision to be here.”