MANAGEMENT SCIENCE: Michael P. Johnson

MANAGEMENT SCIENCESolving the Housing EquationMichael P. Johnson

Title: Associate Professor of Management Science and Urban Affairs,
H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management,
Carnegie Mellon University
Education: Ph.D., Operations Research, Northwestern University; M.S., Operations Research, University of California, Berkeley; M.S., Electrical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology; B.S., Mathematics and French, Morehouse College
Age: 40

Dr. Michael P. Johnson, an associate professor of management science and urban affairs at the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is taking management science tools and innovative information technology applications to the housing field. Concerned that organizations that develop and maintain affordable housing have fallen far behind agencies in law enforcement, transportation and other public service areas which have used these tools over the past two decades, Johnson conducts the research necessary to transform the operation of local housing authorities and the housing planning process.

“I believe housing is fundamental to the health of families. Affordable housing is not a right in the U.S. It’s not even treated as an entitlement,” Johnson says.

His research spans three disciplines: operations research/management science, applied microeconomics and information systems. Johnson’s primary focus is in subsidized housing, most notably around strategies for family mobility using housing vouchers and construction of new subsidized housing. He also does research in broader areas of service delivery, housing and urban affairs, and information systems implementation and evaluation. Current work in these areas includes: planning for home-delivered meals, environmental impacts of urban sprawl, violence and public housing, impediments to fair housing, and decision support for health-care services, according to Johnson.

In 2002, Johnson’s research portfolio won the endorsement of a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development grant, which is providing $400,000 over a five-year period. He has also obtained research funding from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department. The HUD Urban Scholar grant enabled Johnson to develop a software and Internet-based prototype application, known as Housing eCounselor, intended for families using Section 8 vouchers in Pittsburgh.

“In my opinion, Mike Johnson is an outstanding scholar characterized by originality of thought and willingness to work very hard. He is also a model citizen and family man,” says Dr. Arthur P. Hurter Jr., a professor in industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern University and Johnson’s dissertation advisor.

A native of Chicago, Johnson grew up hearing frequent discussions at home about public housing because his mother worked in the housing field and held positions at HUD and community foundations. It’s not surprising that as a graduate student, Johnson grew intrigued with the idea of using management science and operations research to improve public housing services.

Having earned degrees in mathematics, electrical engineering and operations research, Johnson’s technical background has given him the expertise to apply mathematical modeling and management science in a rigorous way to public service operations.

Johnson has been teaching at the Heinz school since 1997, and he expects to be considered for tenure in 2007. In addition to teaching and researching, Johnson says he enjoys working with local nonprofit community groups to help them with community-development projects.

“I have found in my experience that folks want to do the right things and reduce the role that slumlords have in their neighborhoods. (The community groups) don’t always have the tools they need to be most effective. I want them to have those tools,” he says.

—  By Ronald Roach



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