Fox School of BusinessIdea Marketplace

Michelle-Andrews
Michelle Andrews and Xueming Luo

A PhD student at Temple University’s Fox School of Business has accepted a position at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

Michelle Andrews, who is pursuing a Marketing PhD at Fox, will join Emory’s Goizueta Business School in August 2015 as a tenure-track assistant professor of marketing. U.S. News and World Report included Goizueta in its 2014 rankings of the top-20 business schools in the nation.

“I am very honored by this opportunity to join the research and teaching community at Emory University, and I am extremely grateful for all of the support I have received and the connections I have made here at Temple University,” Andrews said.

Andrews received the Best Conference Paper Award at the 2014 American Marketing Association Summer Educator Conference. Her paper, titled, “Using Mobile Technology to Crowdsense,” used crowdedness as an environmental factor in determining peoples’ responses to mobile advertisements. Andrews conducted the study for her paper, which was co-authored by Fox School Professor of Marketing and Andrews’ faculty mentor Dr. Xueming Luo, within subway trains in southeastern China.

“Michelle is an innovative thinker in the marketing discipline and a role model for a future class of successful Fox PhD students,” Luo said.

Andrews is slated to attain her PhD from the Fox School of Business in Spring 2015.

–Christopher A. Vito

Kevin Hong
Kevin Yili Hong

Fox School of Business PhD candidate Kevin Yili Hong, whose research interests include economic and behavioral issues in online labor markets, has received a tenure-track assistant professorship at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Hong came to the Fox School from China in 2009, to work with Paul A. Pavlou, Milton F. Stauffer Professor of Information Technology and Strategy and the Fox School’s Chief Research Officer. Hong’s research has appeared in many top journals and proceedings, including MIS Quarterly, Journal of Global Information Management andInternational Conference on Information Systems (ICIS), among others. Some of Hong’s papers have won best paper awards at ICIS, the Americas Conference on Information Systems, and the Academy of Management Conference.

His dissertation focuses on various issues in the emerging online labor markets, using both empirical and analytical methodologies such as econometrics, game theory and field experimentation. Before joining the Fox School, Hong graduated magna cum laude from Beijing Foreign Studies University with a B.S. in Management and a B.A. in English Literature.

What drew you to the Fox School of Business?

I applied to the PhD program in 2008. I got several offers from top MIS PhD programs, but the primary reason I came here was the research interest fit with my advisor, Dr. Paul A. Pavlou. I look up to him, as he is a well-established researcher in the field with a stellar reputation. He has encouraged and convinced me to come here and work with him.

What has it been like working with the faculty here, especially Dr. Pavlou?

All of my experiences have been very positive. He is among the most professional people I’ve seen in my life. I learned so much from him. He cares a lot about my professional life, especially research, and he supports me in every way he can. It is lucky to be his first PhD student and work under his mentorship.

What drew you to your area of research?

For doctoral students, there was always the option of doing something your advisor is doing, basically following in their footsteps by extending their research, and I did some of that. Dr. Pavlou has always encouraged me to explore new phenomena, so I can establish myself as an independent researcher. So what I did was to explore something new – online labor markets – under his guidance. I have three papers in this area, which comprise my dissertation.

Why do you think you stood out to Arizona State, where you’ll be an Assistant Professor?

As I know, they received more than 100 applications, and they narrowed it down to a few candidates. I think what made me stand out was not only having top journal publications, and the reputation of Temple’s Management Information Systems program, but also other intangible capabilities: how you answer questions, how you approach people, how you react to people and other things. I got a lot of guidance from my advisor, Paul A. Pavlou, and Temple’s English language consultant Christina Owings in these aspects.

What are you looking forward to?

ASU’s MIS program is doing really well. They have a new undergraduate program in business analytics, and that’s something I’m interested in teaching. They also started a lot of new online programs, which is interesting as well. Besides teaching, as an Assistant Professor, you are always trying to publish more papers, do more research and collaborate with other faculty and PhD students. And I think my mentality will change as well from a PhD student to a professor, and I’m looking forward to a new life there.

Are you pursuing other research besides your dissertation?

Yes. I have three research streams. The first stream is my dissertation, which is online labor markets. My second research stream is on product uncertainty, and I’ve extended that stream of research with a new phenomenon called “product fit uncertainty.” My third stream is research related to social media and the economic value it provides to firms.

What will you miss about Temple and Philadelphia once you leave?

Philadelphia is a great city. It’s a city where you can get almost anything you want. I’ve gotten to know the city so well, so I know where to go and what to avoid. That’s good. At Temple, obviously all of the professors are great and are not only great researchers but also great people. They’ll provide you with research and emotional support. I’m also glad to see that, in my five years here, we have seen the MIS Department and also school go up immensely in terms of reputation. I just want to see the school reputation go upward and onward.

What advice would you give to prospective Fox PhD students?

For people pursuing a research career, I just think Fox is a great place to be. It has a culture that you start your research from day one, which is very important. So you could ideally have top journal publications by the time you graduate. And most importantly, find an advisor who can support you and get along with you professionally. This is where I was lucky!

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.

A PhD student from Temple University’s Fox School of Business proved she can stand out in a crowd. Michelle Andrews received the Best Conference Paper Award at the 2014 American Marketing Association Summer Educator Conference Aug. 2 in San Francisco.

Andrews’ paper, titled, “Using Mobile Technology to Crowdsense,” employed crowdedness as an environmental factor that affects how people respond to mobile advertisements. The study for her research paper, which was co-authored by Xueming Luo, a Professor of Marketing in the Fox School’s Marketing and Supply Chain Management department, was conducted within subway trains.

In the context of a subway train, the measurement of crowdedness – a sometimes-abstract entity in research, Andrews remarks – becomes more precise.

“The reason we chose the subway train context was that it was unique,” said Andrews, who will earn her PhD in Marketing from the Fox School in Spring 2015. “During a subway commute, you’re surrounded by others in a public environment with little to do.”

Andrews, who signed a non-disclosure agreement regarding her research paper, could not specify which specific subway system she used for her research paper, but noted it was located in southeastern China, where, as Andrews pointed out, subways are mobile-equipped. That enabled Andrews and her co-authors to determine the number of mobile users within the specific dimensions of a subway train.

“We predicted crowdedness would increase immersion into mobile devices,” she explained. “We found that in congested trains, purchase rates were significantly higher than in uncongested ones.”

Andrews’ winning paper was co-authored by Zheng Fang, of China’s Sichuan University and Anindya Ghose, of New York University.

Also at the conference, Andrews’ research papers earned two further distinctions. The same paper that received the conference’s overall Best Paper Award also garnered the Best Track Paper Award in the Digital Marketing & Social Media track. Another of her research papers, titled “The Effectiveness of Cause Marketing” received the Best Track Paper Award in the Social Responsibility & Sustainability track.

“Michelle is so hard-working and innovative in her thinking for what’s coming next for the Marketing discipline, and the Best Conference Paper Award recognizes her for that,” Dr. Luo said. “Hopefully, this significant award will be influential, not only for our school but also for marketing on the whole, in demonstrating how to connect with consumers anytime, anywhere.”

Finance PhD student Jamie Weathers would not have chosen the Fox School had it not been for the PhD Project.

In the fall of 2010, Weathers applied to a conference sponsored by the PhD Project, which was held in Chicago and featured an array of speakers and various networking opportunities. “It was extremely energizing, motivational, and it made you feel like you can do it,” Weathers said. Weathers, a single mother, said that she was most motivated to pursue her PhD when she heard the story of another single mother, with three children, working toward her doctorate.

While attending the doctoral school fair at the PhD Project Conference, Weathers, a Kentucky native, met Fox School Associate Dean of Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives Paul A. Pavlou, as well as Bernie Milano. It was not until then that Temple University and the Fox School were on her radar.

Weathers described her first year as a doctoral students as an experience in which she had to learn how to “read” again, as she had not come from a background in academic research.  Through the PhD Project, she is a member of the Finance Doctoral Students Association (DSA), which has provided a safe space for Weathers to figure out where she stood in this new realm of academia.

“That’s the good thing about the DSA,” Weathers said of the PhD Project’s support networks in five business disciplines.  “People give you help and advice.  You get to share your experiences with others, and you know that you’re not alone.” Weathers feels just as grateful to be a part of Fox’s Department of Finance. “The faculty and my colleagues here are a wonderful support system,” she said. “Temple is a perfect fit for me.”

-Alexis Wright-Whitley

A recent graduate of the PhD program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business has received international acclaim for her research paper.

Dr. Dan Zhang, a 2012 PhD alumna of the Fox School, recently was recognized as the runner-up for the Christer Karlsson Best Paper Award for her paper titled, “Affect, Attitude, and Meaning: Assessing the Universality of Aesthetic Design in a Transnational Marketing Context.”

Dr. Zhang, who co-authored the paper with Fox School marketing professors Dr. Anthony Di Benedetto and Dr. Eric Eisenstein, was honored at the 21st International Product Development Management Conference, which ran June 15-17 in Limerick, Ireland.

“I am so grateful for all the support I received from the school, the professors, the staff, the study participants, and my dearest family, as I was working on this project,” Dr. Zhang said. “I am especially thankful to my dissertation committee, who supported and helped me unconditionally.”

“I am also very thankful to my colleagues, who provided valuable comments and encouragement when I was presenting the early stage results of this project at the Design Conference organized by the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary. Without the support and help from so many people, I would not have been where I am today.”

The award recognizes the best papers submitted to the IPDMC. Dr. Zhang’s paper stemmed in part from her dissertation at the Fox School of Business, focusing on the universality of design.

Zhang’s research investigated the prevalence of the affect, attitude and meaning of designs in a product context. Zhang compared the responses of Chinese and American consumers to product designs produced by Chinese and U.S.-based designers. She found the affect toward a design tended to be consistent regardless of culture, but attitude – and especially meaning – of a design were difficult to translate across cultural lines and national borders.

“It is important for firms selling into the global market to understand if there are cultural differences in response to product design, or whether a single design will elicit similar responses across cultures,” Dr. Zhang said. “The results are important to global companies making decisions about product design outsourcing and about which designers to include on the product team.”

The paper has not yet been published. Dr. Zhang said she plans to soon submit the paper for review, to a quality marketing academic journal.

Megan Whelan

When Bernard J. Milano, BS ’61, led the formation of the PhD Project in 1994 to support African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in attaining their business PhDs and becoming professors, there were fewer than 300 people of color in the country with doctorates in business.

As the PhD Project celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, more than 1,230 minority professors teach in business schools (slightly over 4 percent of the total), and there are about 330 minority doctoral students in business disciplines.

“We’ve multiplied the role models and the awareness, and more and more students are going to experience seeing a faculty member of color, which means that if they’re a person of color this might be a career they aspire to because they’ve experienced it firsthand,” said Milano, who in May 2014 received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Fox School’s Department of Accounting.

The PhD Project includes five minority Doctoral Students Associations (DSAs) to support members who are pursuing business doctoral degrees in accounting, finance, information systems, management and marketing. The organization hosts summer conferences for doctoral students in conjunction with meetings of professional associations — for example, the American Accounting Association — so current doctoral students and those who are about to embark on their programs can establish their networks from the beginning.

The PhD Project also leads an invitation only conference in the fall for those considering applying to doctoral programs. Last year, the over 350 attendees could network with more than 100 U.S. doctoral programs.

“A doctoral program is like walking into a house with lots of rooms,” Milano said, emphasizing that for many students it’s a complete departure from their careers to shift focus to academics. “You don’t know what’s in the next room, and you might be shocked at what you see. We open all those doors so that even before a person starts, they know what happens at each successive stage so they have more confidence and more courage.” The supportive network pays dividends:

The completion rate among doctoral students affiliated with the PhD Project’s DSAs is approximately 90 percent. And 97 percent of PhD recipients who come through the PhD Project stay in academia, serving as role models and  mentors on business-school faculty.

When Milano started the PhD Project, he was leading national recruiting for KPMG. During the five decades Milano has been with the firm, he has held positions of increasing responsibility, including national partner in charge of university relations and national partner in charge of human resources.

He is currently president and board  member of the KPMG Foundation, which  supports business schools and students  with special emphasis on accounting  programs; the KPMG Disaster Relief Fund, which provides funds to qualified charitable organizations and to KPMG partners and employees who have suffered financial losses due to natural disasters; and the PhD Project.

“People in the academic world have said this is the most powerful, most successful diversity initiative they have experienced, and when you think about it, we’ve put in a sustainable, long-term change,” said  Milano, who was awarded the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education’s 2013 Advocacy Award.

“We know that when a person becomes a professor and stands in front of that classroom and teaches three sections a week over a 20-year career, they’re going to be impacting thousands of lives,” he added. “Almost all of us can point to a teacher or a professor who has turned our head and given us confidence to pursue a certain direction.” –Brandon Lausch

Second-year PhD student Christine Wegner recently won the North American Society for Sport Management’s (NASSM) 2014 Student Research Competition.

NASSM strives to promote, stimulate, and encourage study, research, scholarly writing, and professional development in the area of sport management — both theoretical and applied aspects.

Wegner’s winning paper, titled Black Girls Run: Identity Creation Within a National Running Group for Black Women, was based on a survey conducted by the School of Tourism Hospitality Management’s (STHM) Sport Industry Research Center’s (SIRC) in February 2013 on members of Black Girls Run!, an organization that aims to fight obesity by promoting healthy lifestyles and running events among African-American women. Wegner studied how members of Black Girl Run! identify with the organization and with running and how the identifications changed over time.

She found that the longer women remained in the organization, the more strongly they identified with it, just as they identified as runners, as they began to run more outside of Black Girls Run.

NASSM’s Student Paper Review Committee evaluated each submission through a blind review process based on relevance or significance of the topic, theoretical bases, methodology, discussion and interpretation, and clarity of writing.

“I think that my research is important,” Wegner said. “I’m glad that it can be shared with others at this level, because it’s something that has to get out there.”

Wegner’s area of research focuses on organizational identity formation and the utilization of sport for social change on a contextual level. She has also worked with other organizations through SIRC, such as Students Run Philly Style, which trains students to run half or full marathons and strives to reduce rates of obesity, decrease juvenile delinquency and improve students’ school attendance and academic performance.

“Looking back, I can see ways in which the program has improved my skill set,” Wegner said. “Both STHM and the Fox School have been very supportive.”

The Fox and STHM Young Scholars Forum initially funded the project on which Wegner’s paper is based. Wegner also received grant funding from Texas A&M.

Prior to joining STHM, Wegner received her MS in Education from Brooklyn College and her BA in Latin from Vassar College.

— Alexis Wright-Whitley

 

Fox School of Business students paced back and forth, quietly practicing their presentation for the 8th Young Scholars Interdisciplinary Forum held on April 23rd in the MBA Commons of Alter Hall.

Over fifty students and faculty members enjoyed lunch while the record-breaking number of nineteen proposal groups presented their posters and explained their research projects to the evaluation committee members and guests.  The afternoon’s program began with a welcome from Dean. M. Moshe Porat and Associate Dean Paul Pavlou, who is the founder of the Young Scholars program and the school’s Chief Research Officer.

“Each semester marks a greater success than the last, such as this year’s record number of nineteen proposals,” said Pavlou.

So far, over sixty proposals have been funded, which includes more than 115 faculty members and PhD students from the Fox School of Business and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, but also includes group members from colleges across Temple University, and numerous universities around the world.

The Young Scholars Interdisciplinary Forum is open to current Fox School of Business PhD students and junior members of the Fox School faculty, where they are eligible to submit proposals for seed initial funding to undertake interdisciplinary research projects. An annual amount of $25,000 is dispersed among the proposals to encourage and support early stages of interdisciplinary collaborative research. Proposals typically receive funding ranging from $50 up to $5,000.

The aim of the Young Scholars program is to provide seed funding for students and faculty to pursue high-quality interdisciplinary research that can result in journal publications, additional outside funding grants, and broader recognition of the Fox School of Business’ research work.

For more information on the Young Scholars Interdisciplinary Forum, including recipients of seed-funding for their research work, can be found on the Fox School’s research website.

-Nodyia Fedrick

Mike Obal, a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School of Business, recently won the 2013 Robert Robicheaux Dissertation Proposal Award from the Society for Marketing Advances (SMA).

“It’s just really exciting to win an international award,” he said. “I know that it’s the type of award that people from various countries compete for, so it’s nice to get that recognition from a reputable, external organization.”

Those who had meritorious dissertation proposals with a research focus in supply chain management or business-to-business marketing were encouraged to apply for the award from SMA. Proposals were evaluated through a blind-review format. SMA, a premier marketing association, hosts an annual conference that brings together marketing educators and professionals from throughout the United States and abroad. It currently has members from 34 countries.

Obal’s dissertation examines the adoption and acceptance of disruptive technologies within firms. Disruptive technologies are a type of technology that starts as a niche product but falls short of a primary technology. Over time, this type of technology improves to the point that it actually replaces the primary technology, therefore disrupting the market.

“However, predicting what technologies will be disruptive and which ones won’t has been a long-standing issue in marketing, management information systems and other fields,” Obal said.

He specifically studied cloud computing and how firms are deciding whether to move away from more traditional software in favor of cloud computing platforms.

Obal was drawn to this type of research because he saw an opportunity to fill gaps in academic literature and a lack of understanding of key technologies, such as cloud computing, from a practitioner’s standpoint. Companies that consider purchasing this type of technology consistently have issues in determining who to buy the products from and what to look for in cloud-computing packages.

“It’s this realistic sort of issue that firms don’t necessarily have a straight answer for,” Obal said.

In February 2013, Obal completed his dissertation proposal, titled “Analyzing the Roles of Buyers, Suppliers and Employees on the Adoption of Disruptive Technology.” As part of the SMA recognition, he won a trip to Hilton Head, S.C., where he will receive a $500 award.

Obal’s research interests also include trust development in online marketplaces, the usage of online interpersonal ties in purchasing decisions and the role of interorganizational relationships on technology adoption.

Obal has published in Industrial Marketing Management, the Journal of Service Management and the International Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications. He has also presented at conferences — including the American Marketing Association (AMA), the Academy of Marketing Science (AMS), and the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) — and represented Temple at the 2012 AMA-Sheth Foundation Doctoral Consortium.

Before coming to the Fox School, Obal was an instructor of business and coordinator for the Community Center for Entrepreneurship at Bunker Hill Community College. He has also worked as a search-marketing specialist at iProspect, a sales manager at the Boston Beer Company and a graduate assistant at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Obal obtained an MBA in marketing from UMass Boston and a BS in marketing from Syracuse University. –Alexis Wright-Whitley

It’s not every day that you get a chance to work alongside the president. But Fox School of Business PhD student Pat Barbro is one of the lucky people who does.

Barbro, a PhD candidate in marketing, is the teaching assistant for Temple University President Neil D. Theobald’s class, titled President’s Seminar – Organizational Change at Temple University.

Barbro had not anticipated an opportunity for the position. Theobald asked the Dean’s Office in the Fox School of Business to provide him with recommendations of students who would best suit the teaching assistant position.

“The Dean’s Office called me and asked if I would be interested,” Barbro said. “It sounded really unique, so I thought, ‘Sure, I’m interested.’” After interviewing with Dr. Theobald, he was offered the position.

As teaching assistant, Barbro handles various class-related activities, including preparing and gathering necessities for Theobald before the start of each class and corresponding with students outside of class hours. He has also been asked to assist in co-teaching on subjects such as healthcare and insurance.

The class is broken into two parts that together take a year to complete. The first semester served as an overview of various parts of the university, providing students with a multitude of information with the intent of having them figure out what it is they would like to fix or see changed at the university.

“My favorite part about the class is actually learning more about the university and all of the nuances of what goes on that I would have no idea about otherwise,” Barbro said. “And I enjoy seeing the interaction from two different sides: president and freshman thoughts. It gives you a lot of perspective on how people view things.”

Theobald chose to tap into the pool of freshman students who were President’s Scholars, which is the top scholarship Temple offers, and who demonstrated leadership qualities.

At the end of the Fall 2013 semester, after discussing topics regarding on-campus safety, dining services, healthcare, the commuter experience and student debt, among others, the students were asked to write a paper about an issue that stood out to them and that they would like to be a part of changing.

This semester, they will work in groups to develop and propose ways in which they can implement change on the topic they chose. This involves giving students access to a plethora of resources as well as access to departmental heads.

Some of the questions students seek to answer include: How can we make students feel safer on or around campus?; How can Temple improve its overall dining experience (i.e., food options, meal plans, locations)?; How can Temple improve student healthcare services?; and How can Temple create a more financially literate student body?

The end goal is for the students to create a project proposal that Theobald and the university can implement as the students continue their time at Temple.

Barbro was slightly surprised by the working relationship he and Theobald maintain.

“Initially knowing you’re working with the head, president or CEO, you think, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Barbro said. “But even just from the interview, I could tell how laid back and self-sufficient he is. He’s also surprisingly accessible, considering that he’s busy 20 hours a day.”

—Alexis Wright-Whitley

 

Ash Vasudevan, PhD ’96, describes himself as being driven to make a difference and drawn to the unknown.

Case in point: He co-founded a nationwide talent search in India to find the next big-league-caliber baseball pitcher in a country where cricket dominates sports. Launched in 2007, that reality TV competition spanned a dozen cities and attracted 35,000 participants.

The theory behind the competition is that innate athletic ability can be applied across sports requiring similar skills, such as from cricket to baseball. It culminated in 18-year-olds Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel—javelin throwers who disliked cricket and had never heard of baseball—becoming the first Indians to sign professional sports contracts in North America (both with the Pittsburgh Pirates).

By now the story might sound familiar. Disney’s Million Dollar Arm—based on the competition of the same name—premieres nationally May 16 with Vasudevan being played by Aasif Mandvi of The Daily with Jon Stewart.

The movie chronicles the first season of Million Dollar Arm, which Vasudevan launched with sports agent JB Bernstein (portrayed by Jon Hamm) and Will Chang, who has ownership stakes in a number of professional teams, including the San Francisco Giants and the D.C. United. Vasudevan, who co-founded Seven Figures Management with Bernstein and Chang, is managing general partner of San Mateo, Calif.–based Edge Holdings, which creates and funds ventures in technology, media and entertainment.

“Life really would be boring if you didn’t take risks,” Vasudevan said of his business philosophy. “I’m drawn to the uncertainty. It’s the tried-and-true methods I don’t find particularly appealing. I like trying something nobody has tried before.”

Vasudevan has been involved in ventures ranging from reQall, a global business focusing on personal-assistance technology, to Gigante, a documentary about Major League Baseball player Andres Torres, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Going to India to find a star pitcher did not resonate with many of Vasudevan’s friends. Some suggested he and his colleagues should recruit in markets such as Japan or South America, which have produced numerous big leaguers, but Vasudevan countered that established scouting systems in those markets are much more likely to identify premier talent, leaving fewer gunslingers available to compete for reality TV.

Production of Season 3 of Million Dollar Arm is expected to start in the fall. Before that, of course, Vasudevan and colleagues will experience what it is like to inspire a feature film and to be portrayed in a movie shown around the world.

“The first time I watched myself on the screen, it was weird,” Vasudevan said of Mandvi’s performance. “To see Jon Hamm addressing my character, and reliving some of those conversations, is a lot of fun. We never imagined we would have such a wonderful global platform to tell our story.”