PKI director receives prestigious award


By Kelsey Stewart, News Editor

When Dr. Trena Lilly left a message for Dr. Michael McGinnis this May mentioning the Wanner Award, McGinnis assumed Lilly, then-president of the Military Operations Research Society (MORS), was telling him he was nominated for the award.
But after a game of phone tag and several returned calls, McGinnis, executive director of the Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI), found out he was the recipient of the prestigious Vance R. Wanner Memorial Award.
“Being nominated in itself is a great honor,” McGinnis said. “I am very young to receive this award compared to others. The list of recipients is quite distinguished.”
The Vance R. Wanner Memorial Award has been given out by MORS since 1978 to military operations research professionals deemed to have played a major role in strengthening the profession.
McGinnis received the award because of contributions he made to national defense in areas of military operations research, systems engineering, and modeling and simulation.
“I was and remain very honored and humbled by the award,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis was named executive director of PKI in 2009 after the university conducted a national search to fill the position in 2008.
During his time at PKI, McGinnis helped to write a strategy and roadmap for the institute to grow the research program and increase enrollment.
“We want PKI to become an institute of national prominence in the decade ahead,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis credits nearly 30 years in the military to helping him in his position at PKI.  He served in the United States Army and held operational military assignments as well as research and academic positions.
“My assignments gave me experience-a set of experiences-that helped prepare me for jobs, like the one I am in now at PKI, that require leadership, team building and problem solving skills,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis’ long-term goals for PKI coincide with the Institute’s mission. The mission is to educate and develop a high-technology workforce to meet industry, business and government needs. It also works to create economic growth and conduct advanced research.  
McGinnis hopes to meet PKI’s goals of growing the research program and increasing enrollment. By striving to meet these goals, McGinnis hopes to raise competitiveness, productivity and prestige of PKI.
“PKI is a remarkable place to work,” McGinnis said. “We are blessed to have the support of the Omaha community and to be staffed with world-class faculty and students.”