2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Eesha Sharma, Dartmouth (Tuck)

Eesha Sharma

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

Barely over 30 years old and Tuck School’s Eesha Sharma has already found herself invited to and presenting at dozens of conferences and industry associations. The 31-year-old moved rapidly from bachelor’s degree to PhD, to investment banking at Goldman Sachs, to academia—where she is now focused on uncovering and teaching what she calls “the findings of ‘why.’”

Professor Sharma’s research looks at consumer financial well-being, and how psychology and marketing can be used to understand and improve it. She is particularly interested in how people react to perceived scarcity, poverty, and deprivation. This work has been published in top-tier academic journals such as the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Consumer Research, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and has received attention from media outlets including The New Yorker, Forbes, Marketplace, The Huffington Post, International Business Times, Men’s Health, Psychology Today, and Vanity Fair.

In 2016, she was tapped by UCLA’s Anderson School of Management to became a junior visiting faculty fellow.

Age: 31

At current institution since: 2013

Education: PhD in Marketing, New York University Stern School of Business, 2013; MPhil, New York University Stern School of Business, 2012; BSc in Finance and Marketing, New York University Stern School of Business, 2007

List of courses you currently teach: Consumer Insights (MBA elective), Introduction to Marketing (Masters of Engineering Management core)

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My body of research centers around how people make decisions in the face of scarcity—in particular, perceived financial constraints. I study both the factors that lead people to feel constrained as well as the consequences of those perceptions on their decision making. I have found that everyone is vulnerable to feeling poor at times, regardless of their objective income. My co-authors and I have shown that these feelings of “perceived financial deprivation” influence all stages of consumer decision-making—people’s visual attention, what they choose to buy, how much they consume (e.g., calories), and their post-purchase word-of-mouth behavior. These findings have implications for important decisions like saving, spending, borrowing, and charitable giving. There is still so much work to do in this area, and I hope that my most significant discovery will be ahead of me (and followed by other ones) and impact how we understand the role of financial constraints in people’s lives.

Professor you most admire:  I admire so many professors for their scholarship, dedication to their field, and mentorship, particularly my doctoral advisors. The professor I especially admire is my grandmother, Rohini Pandya, who was a professor of English and Sanskrit in India at a time when many women did not have higher education or full-time jobs.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I learned I could combine all my interests into one job. I’ve always enjoyed learning about human psychology and decision making, writing, analyzing data, thinking about ways to improve social welfare, and speaking in public. My career requires me to be creative, thoughtful, and analytical, all at the same time, which excites me.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I’d try to find a way to study consumer decision making and apply those insights to innovate, particularly to help lower-income and underserved populations.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Humbling

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: I feel like I have to come clean. The newness and excitement of being a professor still hasn’t worn off, so many experiences stand out as memorable – each new publication, classroom of new students, and opportunity to interact with some of the top thought leaders in business.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?  In terms of research, I’m proud to have published papers that other scholars have built upon and that have possibly influenced the way they think. I also find it rewarding when organizations use and benefit from the applications of my work. In terms of teaching, I am proud to have developed the Consumer Insights course at Tuck, along with a framework for studying consumer behavior (WISE framework) that multiple U.S. MBA programs now use. I find it rewarding to have instructed hundreds of students who say they’ve gained valuable lessons from my courses and discussions about consumer behavior. That said, I like to believe my proudest accomplishments are yet to come.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? Absorbing, creating, and disseminating knowledge. It’s a privilege to investigate questions that fascinate me, design experiments to test my predictions, and share that knowledge with others (academics, students, and managers) who routinely teach me new things. Being able to learn, and help others learn, for a living is simply the best.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Scholars and students alike are oftentimes output-oriented. While there’s surely value to such an orientation, there’s also the risk of focusing more on outcomes rather than the process and the meaning of that process. As a researcher, I care deeply about the process of investigating and understanding phenomena. My sense is that when any of us – in research or in practice – focus overly on outcomes (e.g., a final grade, publication, or earnings target), the value of the process and what can be gleaned from it can be obscured or lost.

What is your favorite company and why? I don’t have a favorite company, but I find it fascinating to study the interplay between company and consumer decision making. I think the best companies are those that have a consumer-centered view.

Fun fact about yourself: When I applied to college as a teen, I thought I wanted to be an actor. I had been active in theater since age 5. Funny enough, my first job upon graduating was investment banking. Quite different.

Bucket list item #1: Tenure? I’m sure there are other items on my list, but I somehow can’t think past that one…

Favorite book: Tough to say, but I enjoy Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss – a lesson in gratitude that employs social comparison (one aspect of my research on people’s wealth perceptions)

Favorite movie: Mrs. Doubtfire – a family favorite from childhood

Favorite type of music: Classic rock. Led Zeppelin rules.

Favorite television show: Almost anything on the BBC

Favorite vacation spot: Even during my time off, I usually work on my research, so anywhere warm where I can sit in the sun with my laptop

What are your hobbies? Painting, punning, and reading fiction

Twitter handle: @EeshaSharma

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…more diversity of backgrounds and thought. In addition, greater emphasis on understanding human psychology and decision making across disciplines could really help integrate seemingly disparate fields and opinions.”

Students say:

“Eesha’s consumer insights class was a highlight of my time at Tuck. Her passion for and deep knowledge of the subject matter was evident. No matter what question or example a student shared in class, she was able to add insight and elevate the learning.  She is like an encyclopedia of consumer insight!  At the same time her warm and approachable personality set a comfortable learning environment fostering real discussions and learning.

She also really made the subject materials real by painstakingly preparing and processing a survey that she gave the class in order to depict how consumer biases even affect us.  She used various aspects of the survey throughout the course to highlight different bias and for me it really brought to light the power of the subject.

Overall, the class will always stick out in my mind as a highlight of my time at Tuck.”


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