2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Lisa Cavanaugh, Marshall School

Lisa A. Cavanaugh

Assistant Professor of Marketing

University of Southern California Marshall School of Business


Lisa Cavanaugh

Winner of several teaching awards, USC Marshall School of Business professor Lisa Cavanaugh has also been honored for her research, which focuses on intersections between emotional relationships, decision making, consumption, and consumer well-being. Her work has led to numerous appearances on network TV, with a research conclusion that advertising images of happy couples may turn single people off of self-indulgent consumption receiving much press on this past Valentine’s Day. A marketing professor, Cavanaugh received a BA in public policy from Duke University and a PhD in marketing from Duke’s Fuqua SChool of Business.

Age:  37

At current institution since: 2009


Duke University, PhD (Marketing) 2009

Duke University, BA with Honors and Highest Distinction (Public Policy)

Courses currently teaching:  Advertising and Promotions

Professor you most admire:

As professors we stand on the shoulders of giants.  I am particularly grateful to the influential giants and mentors who have guided me on my path: my undergraduate advisors Tony Brown and Kay Lemon; my PhD advisors Jim Bettman and Mary Frances Luce and dissertation committee advisors Barb Fredrickson and Gavan Fitzsimons; and my awesome faculty mentors at USC: Debbie MacInnis and Kristin Diehl. They are my giants!

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…”: 

When I was an undergraduate student at Duke, I had the great fortune of being introduced to and becoming a research assistant for a dynamic b-school marketing professor named Kay Lemon, who insisted that I should get my PhD in marketing.  I explained to Kay that my chosen path (public policy) was motivated by a desire to positively impact people’s lives on a larger scale. Working with her helped me realize that being a professor would enable me to amplify that desired impact by influencing both decision makers with my research and future decision makers (students) with my teaching.  Working alongside Kay also helped me to see that the best of intentions and best of plans (private and public sector), invariably fall short without a deeper understanding of consumer psychology and marketing.

If I weren’t a b-school professor…”

I would be a social entrepreneur or running a think tank.

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor:

Watching my SoCal born and international students discover the joys of hockey while sitting rink side at an LA Kings game for the research phase of their big semester-long NHL/Fox Sports consulting project.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Research:  Being asked to present my research at two Marketing Science Institute conferences while still a very junior assistant professor and recently having my research featured in MSI’s “must reads” for 2014.

Teaching:  Being the first ever B-school instructor to win Duke’s university-wide teaching award while a Ph.D. candidate, and then USC’s university-wide award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring my first year on faculty at USC.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Challenging my students to question their assumptions, tackle big problems in both the private and public sectors, and generate creative solutions that have real impact for companies, consumers, and communities.

What do you enjoy least?  Saying goodbye to graduating students

Fun fact about yourself:  I’ve taught my dog about 40 different tricks, including to bring people a tissue when they sneeze.

Favorite book:  The Princess Bride by William Goldman or Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

Favorite movie:  The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner did an amazing job with the movie.)

Favorite type of music:  Singer songwriter

Favorite television show:  The Big Bang Theory

Favorite vacation spot:

Domestic: New Mexico

International: Cap de Creus, Catalunya

What are your hobbies?  Cooking, hiking, yoga

Twitter handle:  @LA_Cavanaugh

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…”

Greater emphasis on creative problem solving, consumer psychology, and social impact

Students say…

She is enthusiastic, friendly and easy to approach. She is passionate about the subject, which obviously shows.

– student survey

She brings a great amount of energy and passion to what she does. She is very knowledgeable and eager to help you succeed.

– student survey

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