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Fox PhD Candidate and Mass. Native Mike Obal Returns with a Placement at UMass Lowell


October 23rd, 2014

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Mike Obal
Mike Obal

Fox School of Business PhD candidate Mike Obal, whose research includes disruptive innovation adoption, interorganizational relationships, new product development (NPD), and online marketplaces, has been hired as an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Manning School of Business at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Obal won the 2013 Robert Robicheaux Best Supply Chain Management Dissertation Proposal Award from the Society for Marketing Advances. His other achievements include publications in Industrial Marketing Management, the Journal of Service Management and the International Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications. He has also presented at a number of conferences including the American Marketing Association, the Academy of Marketing Sciences, and the Product Development and Management Association.

Obal’s dissertation examines the adoption and acceptance of disruptive technologies within firms. Prior to joining the Fox School, he obtained an MBA in marketing from UMass Boston and a BS in marketing from Syracuse University.

What led you to the Fox School?

What I was looking for when I was considering PhD programs was a program that had a really strong reputation as far as research that the faculty members were doing, and the types of placements that PhD students were going to. I knew before I got here that there were students who had come out of here and gone to places like the University of Pittsburgh, Villanova, Cornell, and that’s just within this department. I knew that if I could come here and do a good job, I would have a good chance of placing well. The other thing I’ll say, more from a personality thing, is that I’m originally from the Boston area, and I wanted to be in a city; it’s what I preferred. Temple was all of the things that I wanted. I was able to check off all the marks.

What does it feel like going back to Massachusetts?

It’s a happy coincidence. Honestly, when I was looking for jobs, I was looking pretty much nationwide. I still had the same personal preferences as before, like location and good reputation. I also wanted to go to a place that is listed on the Carnegie classifications as a full research university. That’s where Temple is and UMass Lowell as well. I wanted to go to a school that has the same goals that I do. I like research.

What drove you to your particular area of research?

I definitely saw a need for it. My background is in online marketing, which sparked a general interest in innovation and technology. I saw that when you compare the innovation area to other subareas in marketing, like consumer behavior, there are just not that many people looking at how innovations are created and how to get them to the end customers. So, here is an area that I was already interested in, and I knew that, specifically, there was a little pocket that not many people were looking at.

What has your experience been like working with the faculty at Fox?

It’s been great. Working with my advisor, Tony Di Benedetto, who is one of the top names in innovation research, has surely helped me move along that way. And also, working with Dick Lancioni, whom I’ve worked with since day one; he’s always been very open and receptive to ideas. Working with Nathan Fong, who is an assistant professor here; he has a really good grasp on the current trends in research and is a great methodologist. He’s always given me really good feedback in terms of improving my research. But even beyond them, the other people in this department have always just kept their doors open and have always been willing to give me feedback one way or another, and that’s the best thing that I could have. Whenever I’ve had questions, I’ve always gotten answers and not closed doors.

Why do you think you stood out to the University of Massachusetts, where you’ll be an Assistant Professor?

In honesty, I think they were looking for someone in the innovation and technology area in marketing, so they wanted someone who did the type of research I was doing. Beyond that, I think there was really such a great fit as far as where they are as a university and where I am. I think we have a lot of the same types of goals. When I met everyone and did campus invites, we were all just on the same page. I wanted to go to a place that was moving forward at a fast rate. I didn’t want to go to a place that was sort of stuck in their ways. And to be honest, I don’t think that it hurt that I was from Massachusetts

What are you most excited about?

Being on the other side! I’ve been a student for way too long, and it will be exciting to be a tenure-track professor and to have all of the responsibilities that come with that. I feel ready for that. I’m ready to move past being the “forever student” to being a professor.

Are you currently pursuing any other research besides your dissertation?

I have a project going on with another doctoral student here that takes a look at new product development processes, which is more on the front end of innovation. I have a similar one that is with a doctoral student at the State University of New York in Binghamton. I have a project that takes a cross-cultural look at how different cultures review websites. I’m working on a project with a formal doctoral student here, Ellen Thomas, who’s now at New Jersey Institute of Technology, where we’re looking at technology transfer and knowledge exchange between buyers and suppliers. A lot of it is within the same area, but with different angles and perspectives.

What will you miss about Temple and Philadelphia?

I love the city and the campus. Temple is a perfect campus for the city. It’s a big state university that’s very much molded into the city that it lives in. I think it gives it a little extra character. It has a certain grittiness to it, but it’s a nationally known university, where expectations are high. The great thing with Philly is that you can always find new things in the city. I’ve been here for almost five years now, and you never stop finding things that are new and interesting. I’ll miss it. I have a lot of good colleagues here and a lot of good friends in the city. I think they trained me well. It’s a good step for my career obviously, but it’s definitely going to be a little bittersweet to leave this behind.

What advice would you give to prospective Fox PhD students?

Find your area of interest and really focus on that. Have thick skin. Faculty may tell you to do this or do that, but as long as you’re working hard and focusing, you just have to push through. Also, go at it like it’s a marathon. You can’t get your degree in one year. It’s going to take five years or more. Don’t try to rush through it; you won’t make it. At Temple you have all of the resources you could ever want at a university. Our faculty is interested in enough topics that you can come here and do research on any topic and be fine. It’s very much a self-motivated program. If you want to do something, they will support you, but you’ve got to be self-driven. People who come in with that attitude, regardless of their background, are pretty successful.

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