2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Cait Lamberton, Katz School

Cait Lamberton

Associate Professor of Business Administration

University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business


Cait Lamberton1-2

There isn’t much that can make consumers like paying taxes, but the Katz Graduate School of Business’s Cait Lamberton suggests there’s at least one way to soften the blow: give people choice about how their tax dollars are spent. In her work, Lamberton shows that allowing consumers to direct a small percentage of their tax dollars could transform tax payment from an onerous requirement to a satisfying opportunity for self-expression. Her other work also examines sweetening life’s requirements, whether by adding a handful of indulgent fries to a plate of salad, giving consumers small incentives to thank them for their loyalty, or allowing people to share resources that might otherwise be wasted. Lamberton, last year named one of the world’s top 20 marketing researchers by the American Marketing Association, has received multiple teaching awards, and has been retained as a consultant by the federal education and labor departments.

Age: 39

At current institution since: 2008

Education: B.A., English, Wheaton College, 1998

MBA (2006) Ph.D. (2008), University of South Carolina

Courses currently teaching: Consumer Behavior

Professor you most admire:

My advisor, Kristin Diehl. She’s brilliant, she has an unbelievable work ethic, and she is one of the most unselfish people I know. She’s also dedicated to the truth – whether it’s in giving feedback or in doing her research – that’s a wonderful trait to learn from.

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

I realized that the deep questions raised in the humanities do, to some extent, lend themselves to empirical testing: we can actually answer, within the limits of our methods, some of the questions about choice, emotions, cognition, and human interaction that have been debated for thousands of years. We can also examine every day phenomena in ways that show us how interesting our ordinary lives are. In the best research, the conclusions we reach are both profound and elegant. I can’t say that my research always gets there, but I think it’s a good goal for a life’s work.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…”

I would be a fairly untalented poet or a highly-indebted attorney. Either option would not have brought out the best in me.

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

Some of my favorite moments come from students’ interactions with one another. For example, in one MBA class I had an engineering student who, on our discussion of the Burberry Case, asked, “Why are we studying all this stuff about fashion? I don’t know anything about fashion.” A quick MBA student replied, “Well, that much is obvious.” After the general snark died down, the students transitioned to the analysis of a case discussion as a learning tool, where they collectively argued that contextualized theory offers benefits beyond the context itself. I loved seeing students advocate for their own learning, and it’s encouraged me to push harder on cases.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Receiving the Association for Consumer Research’s Early Career Contribution Award meant a great deal to me. However, I’d say that it makes me very happy anytime I hear that my students have succeeded – however they define success.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

There’s an art to teaching; to building the pace and rhythm of class, to managing discussion so that it winds up in a productive place, to connecting ideas. While I love the content of the consumer behavior class, it’s finding the art in its presentation that remains a constant challenge. And what’s really invigorating about that is that it takes a new form with each group of students. As a former professor of mine might have framed it, for all of our alleged objectivity, each class is essentially an experiment in improvisation.

What do you enjoy least?


Fun fact about yourself:

If it’s below 70 degrees, I’m freezing. The fact that I live in Pennsylvania suggests that I must really, really like it.

Favorite book: Middlemarch.

Favorite movie: The Godfather.

Favorite type of music: Something with an acoustic guitar and gorgeous, inscrutable lyrics.

Favorite television show: Anything I can watch without commercials. This is not good for a marketing professor, but it’s true.

Favorite vacation spot: My backyard.

What are your hobbies? Reading about closed societies, the Cold War, and anything that my brilliant mother-in-law recommends to me. Baking (and eating). Walking our Newfoundland. Spending time with the most stellar husband and close friends in the universe. Planning vacations to warm places. Occasionally, writing aforementioned (not so good) poetry.

Twitter handle: @caitlamberton

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

Office dogs.

Students say…

Professor Lamberton is one of those rare professors who are able to convey intellectually complex material in an engaging and comprehensible manner.  This is accomplished not only through her outgoing personality and conversational style of lecturing, but also through multi-media presentations that are current, relevant to the student, and visually stimulating.  Unlike other teachers who simply talk at their students, Professor Lamberton consistently employs a variety of approaches to share her knowledge.  This includes the curriculum topics, selected readings, and unique activities ranging from impromptu field trips during class to blind taste tests, all done to ensure that students can truly understand and apply the newly shared knowledge.

– Kirsten Bell, MBA 2014

I had the great fortune to take Dr. Lamberton’s Consumer Behavior course last year. Although I have enjoyed many of my courses at the Katz School of Business, Dr. Lamberton’s was my favorite. The course was challenging, dynamic and engaging; student participation was high and grades always came back quickly. Dr. Lamberton is a noteworthy author in leading Marketing Journals and she is engaged with exciting consulting projects for both the federal government and leading consumer goods manufacturers. Despite these hefty commitments, Dr. Lamberton has been happy to provide advice, references, letters of recommendation and even the occasional cup of coffee.

– Michael Fruhwald, MBA class of ’15

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