2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Alison Jing Xu, University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

 

Alison Jing Xu

University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management

“Alison excels as a scientist, instructor, and practitioner. As a scientist, Alison broke new ground at the interface of cognition, motivation, and consumer decision-making. Her research appeared in top journals and has been recognized with an Early Career Award of the Society for Consumer Psychology and an AMA-CBSIG Award. As a business instructor and practitioner, Alison excels at translating scientific insights into action-relevant business knowledge, which she conveys in engaging classes that emphasize experiential learning projects in collaboration with local businesses and non-profit organizations.” – Norbert Schwarz

Alison Jing Xu, 39, is  Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.

Her research examines how mind-sets, goals, decision processes, retail environments, and human sensory inputs influence consumer and manager decision making. She has been published in leading academic journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Academy of Management Journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Management Science, and others.

She is the winner of the Franco Nicosia Association of Consumer Research Best Competitive Paper Award, was named“ the 2015 Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar, and was the first Chinese woman to win the Society for Consumer Psychology Early Career Award in 2018. She received the Outstanding Teaching Award by Carlson School in 2021.

BACKGROUND

At current institution since what year? 2014

Education: Ph.D. in Business Administration, Gies College of Business, University of Illinois; BA in English and International Business, Minor in Economics, Beijing Foreign Studies University, China.

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Buyer Behavior (FT MBA); Buyer Behavior (Online MBA)

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when … I took the course Economics taught by Professor Yining Li at Peking University. The huge lecture hall was always filled with students, and I could only sit on the lecture hall stairs to hear his lecture. I was impressed and inspired by how much influence an outstanding business school professor can have on young minds. And I was determined to pursue a Ph.D. and become a business school professor.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am currently researching how the design of business platforms (such as the design of the retail environment and the design of apps on mobile devices) influences consumer decision-making in the marketplace. 

For example, in one study, as customer ratings and reviews have become ubiquitous and digital platforms allow service providers to directly request ratings and tips from customers, my collaborators and I investigated how the rating of service professionals could influence tipping behavior, the answers to which can have an important practical impact on managerial decision-makers as they design those digital platforms. We find that requesting customers to rate the service professionals first can lead to smaller tips, whereas asking customers to tip first does not influence subsequent rating scores. Based on our research findings, we recommend that soliciting tips before ratings is a more effective strategy, especially when tips are important and ratings can be seen as beneficial to service professionals. 

In another study, my collaborators and I noticed that when consumers shop in luxury boutiques, high-end shopping malls, and even online, they increasingly encounter luxury products alongside immersive art displays. We were very curious about how experiencing art in a retail environment affects consumer desire for luxury goods. Exploring this novel phenomenon with both field studies and lab experiments, we find that experiencing art reduces consumer desire for luxury goods. We propose that experiencing art induces a mental state of “self-transcendence,” which undermines consumers’ status-seeking motive and consequently decreases their desire for luxury goods. Therefore, we recommend marketing managers to carefully evaluate the potential positive and negative consequences of art initiatives before launching them both in retail shops and on digital platforms.

If I weren’t a business school professor … I would work as an English-Chinese interpreter. I love being a business school professor much better 🙂 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? My mission is to create transformative learning experiences for every student. I achieve this mission by inspiring students to creatively apply the knowledge they learn to solve real business problems. I have worked with local for-profits (e.g., Best Buy, Marvin Windows & Doors) and non-profit organizations (e.g., Habitat for Humanity, Minneapolis Institute of Art) to provide students with experiential learning opportunities. These projects strengthen students’ abilities to identify critical issues, collect, analyze, and interpret data, and to make practical recommendations. They also help local organizations develop marketing practices to overcome their current challenges. It’s extremely rewarding to see my students develop capabilities of making effective business decisions and also help local brands achieve business growth.

One word that describes my first time teaching: nervous

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: N/A

Professor I most admire and why: Robert S. Wyer, Jr. Bob was my Ph.D. advisor. He motivated me to pursue the research topics that I was truly interested in; encouraged me to challenge his thoughts and existing knowledge; and he always had time when I had a question. Working with him made me fall in love with research in marketing. I was truly lucky to be his student. 

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? My students always bring their experiences as consumers and/or marketing managers into classroom discussions. Those real-life contexts make the content of the course live. My students also keep me updated on “What’s up in Marketing?” all the time. Although I often teach the same course year after year, every teaching experience is unique. I enjoy the process of getting to know my students and providing them with the tools they need to further advance their careers.

What is most challenging? The most challenging aspect of teaching is how to design the course structure and choose the topics and materials are that useful, relevant, and interesting. I always carefully choose the examples, cases, experiential learning projects that we cover in each course and invite the most relevant guest speakers from the industry to share their successes and regrets.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: curious

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… fair

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? Chinese folk dancing, playing piano, drawing, and fishing.

How will you spend your summer? I will travel to Hong Kong with my family.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Yellowstone National Park; Florence, Italy; Jing Zhou, China (my hometown) 🙂

Favorite book(s): Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer; The Lord of the Rings by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? My favorite movie is Saving Private Ryan, and my favorite show is Friends.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? My favorite music is classical music by Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of … being driven by a force for the greater good and being driven by the motivation to have a meaningful impact on students’ careers and lives. These are also the goals actively pursued by the Carlson School of Management.  

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at … discovering unfulfilled customer needs and developing products and services to satisfy those needs.

I’m grateful for … having extremely supportive family members, and dear friends, and for being surrounded by talented scholars and students. They enable me to see my potential as well as limitations. My heart is filled with sunshine when I think about them.

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE 2022 ROSTER OF THE WORD’S BEST 40-UNDER-40 MBA PROFESSORS

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