Thomas McDevitt, MBA ’02
With his organization Philly Financial Planning, Thomas McDevitt, MBA ’02, has made it his mission to help empower Philadelphia’s most economically disadvantaged citizens. The nonprofit, currently in the startup phase, provides the tools and education necessary to make smart financial decisions over time and across all levels of literacy.

“Right now, we are seeking strategic partnerships with organizations,” McDevitt explains. “Philanthropists, faith-based organizations, local government officials, community and neighborhood leaders, Philadelphia-based corporations, learning institutions, banks and financial services firms can all play a meaningful role in helping us to achieve our long-term strategic goals of closing Philadelphia’s wealth gap.”

As part of Philly Financial Planning, McDevitt also hopes to roll out The Eagle’s Nest, a spin-off idea inspired by popular TV show Shark Tank. Local Philly entrepreneurs will have a chance to pitch for startup or expansion financing. An integral part of this service will be teaching inner-city entrepreneurs how to write a comprehensive business plan. His team is also working to kick off a city-wide Stock Market Challenge, where participants can win cash prizes for selecting top-performing stocks over defined, measured periods.

McDevitt has a rich history of giving back and educating diverse communities. After graduating from the Fox School with an MBA and a concentration in Finance, he co-founded a professional continuing education company, McDevitt & Kline, LLC. The second half of the organization’s namesake, Dr. Bill Kline received his PhD in Strategic Management from the Fox School in 2012. He currently oversees the daily operations at the firm as the business grows on a national scale. Since its inception, the team has provided continuing education courses to over 7,000 attorneys and CPAs.

Last year, McDevitt also became an IRS Enrolled Agent, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and Certified Financial Planner (CFP). During this tax season, he is leveraging his expertise to give back to even more members of his community by providing affordable, low priced tax resolution services and financial literacy training for Philadelphia working families and small business owners.

“The financial literacy programs that exist in Philadelphia today are definitely not addressing the root causes of generational poverty,” McDevitt explains. “In my various roles, I hope to change that by providing transformative, lifelong learning experiences for Philadelphians.”

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Etsy—the online treasure chest for all things handmade—cultivates a community for those who have a knack for crafts like candle-making, knitwear, jewelry, or pottery. With over 1.7 million active vendors and close to 28.6 million active consumers, Etsy has established a peer-to-peer business platform that eliminates the middleman of corporate production. Yet this marketplace is more than just an e-commerce site; it is a community of like-minded individuals who appreciate handicrafts.

Within the site, buyers and sellers interact through a variety of IT-enabled features, like following and messaging shops, reviewing and favoriting products, and curating lists of products. Yet as sellers socialize by favoriting and promoting others’ products, are they redirecting potential customers away from their shops?

Professor Sunil Wattal and doctoral student Ermira Zifla of the Management Information Systems Department at the Fox School of Business investigate how social mingling affects e-commerce marketplaces in their paper, “Understanding IT-enabled Social Features in Online Peer-to-Peer Business for Cultural Goods.”

“What really fascinated us about this platform is that you have this community aspect, but you are also introducing this e-commerce agenda,” says Wattal.

“We thought that sellers may have mixed incentives to participate in the online community,” adds Zifla. “On the one hand, participating by following others and posting in forums may increase the visibility of sellers and subsequently increase their sales. On the other hand,” she continues, “following other sellers and sharing their products could negatively impact sales by diverting traffic away from their own page.”

While online communities have often been the subject of research, this is one of the first studies to link social indicators with economic performance. Using a dataset of nearly 2,000 sellers on Etsy, Wattal and Zifla examined their interactions in the online community and found how socializing with others can inherently affect a shop’s sales.

The researchers identified two categories of social e-features that promote new products and validate users:

1. Community participation features—such as following other sellers and joining teams—which facilitates socializing with other members, and
2. Content curation features—such as curating favorite lists, sharing products, and favoriting shops—which serve as tools for validation and tastemaking.

“When you are following other people on Etsy, those people are listed on your page as a form of validation, for what you like to buy as a consumer or what you can provide as a producer,” said Wattal.

The researchers hypothesized that community participation and content curation would increase a seller’s online status by increasing their number of followers, but would decrease a seller’s sales by diverting attention away from their own products.

Using a web crawler to collect public information, the pair obtained a dataset of 1,728 unique glass sculpture sellers—a randomly chosen subcategory of marketplace shops on Etsy—to compile a year’s worth of data, including sellers’ followers, lists, favorited products, and sales.

Analyzing the data proved the researchers’ hypotheses correct: a 10 percent increase in community participation, like following other sellers, and content curation, like favoriting products, resulted in a 3.89 percent decrease in sales. Yet this reduction was outweighed by the effects of cultivating a stronger social following. In other words, the same activities that led to a direct decrease in sales helped sellers attract more followers, and were associated with an indirect increase in sales by 4.64 percent—an overall net gain.

“IT-enabled features have benefits that supersede the negative,” says Wattal, “since exposure is what can ultimately lead you to be on an influential list or you can simply commercialize yourself to the point of high-status.”

Trends can come and go as quickly as a trendsetting blogger changes her mind. Yet in the realm of vintage trinkets and artisanal finds, relationships stay relevant.

This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.

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In 2017, charitable giving exceeded $410 billion across America. Out of that total, individuals donated $286.65 billion and corporate giving amounted to $20.77 billion.

In 2016, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the nation’s first children’s hospital and a nonprofit organization, received five million dollars from the Wawa Foundation, Wawa Inc.’s nonprofit corporation dedicated to philanthropic ventures and charitable giving, which went towards the development of the Wawa Volunteer Center in CHOP.

Why did Wawa invest that much into the volunteer program, and why is philanthropy such a large part of the maintenance of nonprofit organizations? Neil Batiancila, the featured guest speaker for the February 9th Fox Board Fellows meeting, explains the motivations behind individual and corporate philanthropy while detailing his own experience in the field.

Batiancila, a 2011 Fox MBA graduate, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Political Science in 1999, but instead of pursuing an expected career path, he began his philanthropic journey as an Americorps member.

After spending a year in Philadelphia as a volunteer teaching elementary students at the Hartranft John F. School, he joined City Year, an educational nonprofit located in Boston, and stayed there for 10 years as Co-Executive Director of the Philadelphia branch.

He worked for Aramark, a food service corporation, as Director of Community Relations for a period of time before joining CHOP’s staff as their Executive Director of Campaign Operations, and stayed there for 7 years. In March 2017 he received an offer for the position of the Chief Development Officer at Philadelphia Zoo and has been working there since the beginning of 2019.

Batiancila’s philanthropic nature stems from the environment in which he grew up. Both of his parents were physicians and immigrants who gave back to their communities in the Philippines. His father returned to the Philippines to fundraise for the implementation of a critical care facility on the island where his older brother and best friend passed away without access to any local emergency care resources. With these kinds of values embedded in his family, Batiancila went on to work for several nonprofits following the same kind of giving nature.

In order to successfully draw in potential donors and those who are willing to give, Batiancila encourages nonprofits to provide an experience that inspires a deeper connection with the nonprofit’s purpose and to find those who can personally connect to the values of the organization.

Batiancila mentions the importance of building a strong fundraising infrastructure that is able to help the organization grow its donor pool and maintain its current givers.

“One of the hallmarks of strong corporate philanthropy is to facilitate workplace giving, and to develop this philanthropic culture within the organization,” Batiancila explains. “Like anything in the world, if you want people to do the right thing you have to make it easier for them to do so.”

When CHOP launched a 2-year campaign the first to know and the first to celebrate were the employees. They wanted to make sure that the employees were included first and foremost to show that they held significance in the decisions and they were cherished enough for the hospital to share and celebrate this news with them first. The hospital makes a point to emphasize their employees’ value, and in doing so bolsters employee morale so that workplace giving is not so much enforced as it is an act of appreciation.

One of the reasons for charitable giving on both the individual and corporate forefront is to make a difference and for the altruistic sense of self-empowerment that comes with any kind of philanthropy. Giving to the greater good is the heart of philanthropy.

“Most people are charitable in this country, they give because the plate comes across on Sunday. It’s part of the ethics of America to give forward to other communities,” Batiancila said. “When people are appreciative of their experience, they like to express that and share it through philanthropy,”

On the corporate side, there are tax incentives to philanthropic giving, with the Educational Income Tax Credit program, which reimburses the money spent giving to nonprofits. It is an effective opportunity to advertise their company and create brand awareness at a much cheaper price.

Charitable giving also reinforces the alignment of goals and brand values that will benefit the business. Doing well by doing good, says Batiancila, is a branch of cause marketing. Aligning the corporation with a nonprofit that fits its values is a smart business investment.

Giving to a nonprofit also opens doors for company networking, the more organizations the corporation is exposed to, the stronger its community network. Strength is your reputation, Batiancila says.

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Data-driven decision-making is now the norm in many workplaces. Executives collect and analyze information to inform hiring practices, promotions, and insurance premiums. However, Leora Eisenstadt, assistant professor of Legal Studies at the Fox School, warns that the kinds of data that employers can track should be safeguarded by law, to both protect employees’ privacy and limit employers’ liability.

For many, work and personal time have begun to blur together as smartphones and emails have invaded the home. As this line erodes between the home and office, employees are often left unaware that their employers can glean so much information from their personal lives. “Most of us have left enormous data trails,” says Eisenstadt, “that employers are now beginning to access in order to create the most efficient workplaces possible.”

With social media, FitBits, and online healthcare platforms, Eisenstadt says, employers are gathering data from more than just workplace activities. Healthcare service platforms, for example, can tell by looking at internet searches, prescriptions changes, or specialist appointments that employees are planning to start a family or have major surgery.

The platforms indicate that only top-level numbers are shared with employers, not individual names of employees. However, she argues, “that knowledge could lead to companies making decisions about promotions, hiring, and terminations based on this information.” Narrowing down gender and age, for example, could give employers enough clues to know which of their employees were likely to be trying to have a baby soon.

In her paper, “Data Analytics and the Erosion of the Work/Non-Work Divide,” which was accepted for publication by the American Business Law Journal, Eisenstadt asserts that the current legal statutes do not provide enough protection to both employers and employees. “Laws like HIPAA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act likely do not apply to data gleaned from search queries,” she says. And there are virtually no laws or regulations prohibiting employers from collecting and relying on data gleaned from employees’ social media profiles, from facial recognition software, or from Fitbits.

So why should employers care about overreaches into employee privacy?

“The erosion of the work/non-work divide will impact the concept of a ‘scope of employment’ and employer attempts to avoid liability for their workers’ actions,” says Eisenstadt. Over the years, courts have seen the line blur between personal and work-related activities—like a case in 1928 in which an auto sales manager crashed a car, killing an employee on the way home from a staff appreciation dinner. The courts found the company liable for the death, and considered the events to be “within the scope of employment.” This move toward an expanding “scope of employment” has only grown with the advent of laptop computers, smartphones, and the myriad other devices and technologies that make it easier and sometimes even essential to bring work outside of the traditional physical boundaries of the workplace.

By gathering data from nonwork activities, Eisenstadt cautions that employers may be pushing this trend to new, more troubling places. By eroding the work/non-work divide so dramatically, companies may be opening themselves up to new liabilities for employee health issues, violent outbursts, or other employee behavior that would previously have been considered to be outside the “scope of employment.”

Data analytics can be an extremely powerful tool. “It allows humans to capture, analyze, and use massive quantities of data,” says Eisenstadt, “that the human brain can not make sense of on its own.” Yet, in today’s environment of data concerns and privacy breaches, Eisenstadt warns, companies should be cautious of data mining that goes too far.

This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.

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In today’s fast-paced society, if there is one word that doesn’t escape us, it is “busy.” How does this ongoing obsession with the idea of being busy affect the choices we make?

As a behavioral scientist, Monica Wadhwa, associate professor in Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, studies the impact of having a busy mindset on decision making. In a paper that was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Wadhwa discovered that people who see themselves as busy are more likely to make decisions that are beneficial in the long run, such as making healthier choices.

Prior research has established that high-stress situations—especially when work has to be completed within set deadlines—impair consumers’ ability to exercise self-control. As a result, people tend to give in to impulses that have negative long-term health consequences.

But turns out that that is not the end of the story. While being overworked can be problematic, there are benefits to feeling busy.

Wadhwa highlights that there lies a difference between being busy under time pressure and having a busy mindset. “A busy mindset is merely a perception that one is busy,” says Wadhwa. “Two people could have the same amount of work to do, but the perceptions of busyness could differ.”

Wadhwa notes, “Feeling busy gives people a sense of pride.” This behavior stems from the fact that busy people are perceived to be more important and have a higher social status. “It makes us feel valued and makes us believe that every moment of our lives matters,” says Wadhwa. “When you feel you are important, you make decisions that are better for you from a long-term beneficial perspective.”

For example, if one had to choose between an apple and a chocolate brownie, someone who is under significant time pressure would give in to their momentary impulses and pick the brownie. However, a person with a busy mindset would more likely focus on the long-term implications of the choice. Wadhwa says, “They’re more likely to choose the apple, favoring health consequences over taste, which provides only immediate gratification.”

To capture the busy mindset behavior over a wide range of scenarios, Wadhwa and her fellow researchers, Jeehye Christine Kim and Amitava Chattopadhyay, conducted seven experiments, including a field study. In one of the experiments, the researchers analyzed the buying pattern of students at a college dining hall. “We created two types of visual signs to be posted on different days,” explains Wadhwa. One read “Good to go, for busy college students!” whereas the other read “Good to go, for summer college students!” Wadhwa notes that the days when ‘busyness’ was made salient through visual signs, students chose to consume less unhealthy food and fewer fat calories.

To analyze how busyness affects branding, the researchers compared the buying behavior of consumers for brands perceived to be indulgent, such as Carl’s Jr. For the study, consumers were shown an advertisement that featured a tagline that either made busyness salient (It’s good to go for busy college students) or not (It’s good to go for college students). Those participants who saw the ad with busy tagline were less likely to consume the indulgent food from Carl’s Jr. than those who saw the ad with a non-busy tagline. It turns out that for brands that are not perceived as indulgent, such as Subway, busy taglines did not negatively impact consumption behaviors.

The researchers also studied the impact of this mindset on other self-control situations, like saving for retirement among adults and making good grades among students. “We asked adults the percentage of income they are willing to save,” says Wadhwa. “Busy people were willing to save more.” Similar behavior was seen in students—busier students said they’d rather take extra credit even if it means more work.

The findings of this study, besides adding a new dimension to the otherwise popular perspective of being busy, also have important real-world implications, especially to marketers. A growing number of commercials are using the busy appeal to make the product more relevant and favorable to new-age consumers. But the study shows that this strategy could backfire for brands that are perceived as indulgent. “For instance, Dunkin Donuts’ advertisements using a busy appeal may actually reduce consumers’ desire for donuts,” adds Wadhwa.

To consumers and policymakers who are concerned with people’s self-discipline, especially in societal problems such as overeating and food waste, Wadhwa offers: “Perhaps activating a busy mindset may be an effective nudge to facilitate self-control behavior.”

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute: Lori Bush Seed Fund from Fox School of Business on Vimeo.

“I would not be at the level I am at right now without IEI or the Lori Bush Seed Fund,” says Stephanie Taylor, CEO and founder of TailorFit Laundry LLC. “And I’m really grateful for that.”

Recently, three beneficiaries of the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund, Stephanie Taylor, Emily Kight and Heather Jones sat down together in the new Accelerator at the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) to discuss their careers, the role that funding played in furthering their business ventures and offered advice to women entrepreneurs.

The Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund provides funding to women entrepreneurs ranging from $500-$10,000 based on defined needs. Funds are provided with the purpose of supporting companies in proving their concept, and where the money will have a significant impact on the company’s ability to progress.

The fund, much like its namesake, supports ideas and models that advance women in entrepreneurship. Lori Hermelin Bush, MBA ‘85, is the former CEO of Rodan + Fields. During her time there, she guided the skincare company to an annualized run rate of over $1B in revenue. To learn more about her, click here.

Taylor, a full-time student at the Fox School, taps IEI’s extensive resources to elevate her business, especially while the company is in the startup phase. Since she was awarded funding, TailorFit Laundry, a mobile laundry service based in Philadelphia, has a host of recurring customers and is being discovered on Google by visitors to the area, including a Los Angeles Lakers sports commentator. She has also seized the opportunity to promote her business during events such as Temple Fest.

She advises women entrepreneurs to believe in their ideas and to dive in headfirst. “You have to know your worth in order for others to know your worth,” she says. “And if you overthink it, you’re never going to jump. That’s what you have to do, you have to just jump.”

Emily Kight

In 2017, Emily Kight, BSBIOE ‘18, won second place in Be Your Own Boss Bowl®) (BYOBB®), a business plan competition hosted by IEI. She pitched Prohibere, a leave-in conditioner that she created to lessen the effects of trichotillomania (TTM), a hair pulling disorder that Kight has personal experience coping with. With the funding from BYOBB and the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund, she was able to manufacture, create packaging and launch digital marketing for Prohibere, which is now available on Amazon.

“Being selected to compete in BYOBB® and other competitions is nerve-wracking because I had never really talked to anyone about this hair pulling disorder that I have had for 20 years,” says Kight. “I’m not big on public speaking, and this was the last thing I wanted to talk about in front of an audience, but it really helped to get started.”

When getting started with a business, Kight suggests, try to remember that failing isn’t a bad thing. “Failure is how you grow and develop as a businessperson.”

She recently decided to move on to her next challenge and is using her bioengineering education to develop a urine test used to screen for ovarian cancer. Funding from the Innovative Idea Competition, BYOBB® and GoFundMe has helped her partner with an R&D laboratory with the goal of creating an affordable, FDA-approved test prototype.  

When Heather Jones came up with the idea for her company Luci, she knew that she

Heather Jones

wanted to come back to her alma mater, Temple University, for help from the Fox School. She went to IEI for help building out her concept: a community-driven, multi-benefit skin care line made with vegan, cruelty-free ingredients set at a price that millennial and Get Z consumers could afford.

The line launched in September of 2018 and currently has multiple retail channels. The Luci team is now focused on growing their Glow Getter program across college campuses, where brand ambassadors can earn commission while sharing and promoting Luci products. Luci products are made in Milan, Italy, so the money Jones was awarded from the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund helped her develop packaging, with shipping logistics and supporting marketing efforts.

“The best feedback is when you get it from the customer. As entrepreneurs, we have to pivot very quickly based on what people say. For me, that has been a very important thing to take on,” she says.

Interested in finding out how IEI can help you achieve your entrepreneurial goals? Visit iei.temple.edu.  

This Sunday, March 17th is the one day of the year that everyone can experience the Luck of the Irish. Many people celebrate the holiday in different ways, such as cooking up some corned beef and cabbage, going to parades, and playing St. Patrick’s Day themed games.

At the Fox School of Business, we love the opportunity to eat, drink and support alumni at the same time. Create your own “Temple Made Bar Crawl” or pop by any of these alumni-owned businesses this St. Patrick’s Day!

Love City Brewing Company

The view from outside Love City Brewing Company

Melissa Walter, EDU ‘11, met her future husband and business partner over a keg of beer at the friend’s New Year’s Eve party. As their love grew, so did their interest in brewing craft beer. The story of Love City can be summed up in nine simple words: “Love for each other, for craft beer, for Philadelphia.” They have 15+ beers to choose from, as well as a host of signature cocktails, wine and cider. The bar often hosts local food trucks like 2 Street Sammies, Ole Tapas and more.

Charlie was a sinner. & Bar Bombon

If you are looking to spend Paddy’s Day in a classy joint drinking cocktails and munching on vegan food, look no further than Charlie was a sinner. or Bar Bombon, owned by Nicole Marquis, TFMA ’05.

Charlie was a sinner. is an all vegan Midtown Village bar with small plates and strong drinks. The dark, moody bar is great for a date or small get together. This is not your typical bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but for some, that could be its allure.

For a bit of holiday cultural fusion, stop by Bar Bombon, a vegan Puerto Rican spot serving arepas, tacos, empanadas and more. Even if the weather is cold, drinking a salted grapefruit margarita or a Hotel Nacional De Cube (white rum, apricot liqueur, pineapple and lemon) you will feel like you could step out of the bar and onto a beach.

Victory Brewing Company

Victory Brewing beers

Friends from fifth-grade and beyond, Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, TYL ‘85, used their shared love of beer to open their own brewery in Downingtown, PA. Victory Brewing can be found at their 300-seat brewery in Downingtown, Parkesburg, Kennett Square and in retail stores across the tri-state area and beyond. So, even if you plan to stay home and hang with friends on Sunday, you can pick up a six-pack of Victory Brewing beer.

No matter what vibe you are going for to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, there is a bar or a beer to fit the bill and support the Temple University community at the same time.

It’s the moment every woman dreads: A routine breast self-examination during an otherwise relaxing shower ends in the panic-inducing discovery of a lump.

Often, what happens next is a long, harrowing journey through a combination of biopsies, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. While it’s true that, thanks to advancements in screening and treatment, more and more women survive breast cancer, it’s also true that 80 percent of breast cancer cases have already advanced to an invasive stage at the time of diagnosis.

Today, just 20 percent of breast cancers are identified at the earliest stage, when treatment is most effective and the five-year survivorship rate hovers near 100 percent.

Carlos Barrero, MD, and Oscar Perez-Leal, MD, assistant professors in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at Temple University’s School of Pharmacy, wants to change all that. “I believe we can invert those numbers so we’re discovering 80 percent of breast cancers at the very earliest stage,” he says.  

The research Barrero and Perez-Leal are conducting may represent a major breakthrough in breast cancer screening. Their work could lead to a simple routine blood test that detects breast cancer sooner than ever before for more women. To do this, Barrero and Perez-Leal are working on identifying a set of biomarkers for breast cancer, a specific signature of early-stage breast cancer detectable in a blood sample.

Their work on this project received funding through the Office for the Vice President of Research’s Targeted Grant Program, and the team is currently in the process of securing additional funding from the National Institutes for Health, and the National Cancer Institute. Perez-Leal is also using the knowledge gleaned from his master’s degree from the Fox School’s Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship program to turn the idea into a feasible product.

Though mammograms are a recommended cancer screening for women age 40 and older, only 65 percent of women over 40 have had one in the past two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“Many women avoid mammograms because they can be uncomfortable, and because of the hassle of needing to make a separate appointment. If screening for early-stage breast cancer became a part of routine blood work, more women would be screened regularly,” says Barrero. That would likely result in more early diagnoses, more effective treatment, and ultimately more long-term cancer survivors.

Through systems biology, advances in mass spectrometry technology that allow the detection of very low concentration of proteins and metabolites, and the availability of large public datasets from thousands of breast cancer tumors, Barrero and Perez-Leal can move this cutting-edge work forward. “Most research of this kind starts with analyzing the blood sample. We start by analyzing the data,” says Perez-Leal. It’s a fresh approach to a longstanding problem.

The researchers start by looking for specific proteins secreted by breast cancer tumor cells across many thousands of samples drawn from breast cancer tumors. The team is searching for a signature set of proteins that can be detected in very low amounts. A vast data set and formidable computing power are essential for finding the precise biomarkers that could, in five to 10 years, lead to the blood test. Recently upgraded mass spectrometry equipment at Temple’s School of Pharmacy allows him to carry out this innovative research.   

The promise of this research extends even beyond the hopes of early detection into the possibility of new, more effective medicines to battle breast cancer. Going forward, biomarkers are likely to be an increasingly hot topic for those in the pharmaceutical industry, which represents a significant part of the U.S. economy. Biomarkers such as these are often used as a reference point in drug development; when the biomarkers diminish or disappear in blood tests, it’s evidence that the new drug is working.

Current treatments for breast cancer are effective, but they come with their own health risks and side effects, some of which lead to different health challenges years after patients have recovered from cancer. The identification of these biomarkers would also mean that, in addition to early intervention, a breast cancer patient could get a form of personalized medicine, which is another area of potential business growth for the pharmaceutical industry. For patients, that might mean fewer side effects and complications down the line.

“It’s rare to find a scientist with a business background,” says Perez-Leal. He praises the Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship program with helping him take an idea, establish a business plan, and pitch to investors. “The research community should continue to focus on finding solutions and products to real problems.”

Clearly, breast cancer is a real problem, as the most common cancer among women: one in eight will face a diagnosis in her lifetime. But if Barrero and Perez-Leal succeed, it will be a game-changing advance. Many more women will be diagnosed in cancer’s earliest stages, receive more personalized treatment, overcome the disease, and lead long and healthy lives.

This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.

Members of the EMBA Beijing cohort

 

In late 2018, 26 of China’s top business executives came together in Beijing from Shanghai, Shenzhen and other popular cities to celebrate the Fox School of Business’ first cohort of the Executive MBA program in China.

The Fox EMBA was developed for business professionals looking to expand their knowledge and enhance their careers. The program consists of market-driven courses and hands-on learning experiences delivered by world-class and award-winning business leaders and faculty members. To help support the global business community, the Fox School entered into a dual-degree partnership with Renmin University. The Beijing cohort includes students with a myriad of backgrounds, both professionally and demographically. Fox School professors based in Philadelphia travel to Beijing host one class per month at Renmin University facilities.

During their opening ceremony, Professor Jason Cheng Jiang, International EMBA program faculty assistant director, provided insight into who the Fox School is, and played a short film to introduce students to the city of Philadelphia.

The first three-day course, taught by Professor Cheng Jiang, was Statistical Analysis for Management. The professor used real-world examples and practical business problems to demystify what can be a complex, obscure topic.

When the group returned to class last month, Professor Roger Kashlak visited the group to teach Contemporary Corporate Strategy, which encouraged students to focus on interaction and discussion in the boardroom and beyond. Students were divided into presentation and discussion groups, where collaboration was key.  

“The program has set up a platform for us to communicate and learn from each other,” says EMBA student Yan Cheng. “Through classroom discussions, we can share other people’s management experience. That way, everyone’s knowledge base has been enriched.”

Interested in finding out how the program can help you achieve your goals? Click here to learn more about the EMBA program.

There are two types of neighbors in a social network: the ones you know directly, and the ones your friends know. Research has shown that direct peers have a significant influence on social networks, from joining Facebook to subscribing to Netflix. Yet indirect neighbors—those with whom you have a mutual friend, but do not interact directly—can also affect behaviors.

“People want to know what others think of them,” says Paul A. Pavlou, senior associate dean of research and professor of management information systems at the Fox School, “especially those in similar positions. In order not to lose influence, an individual would eventually make the same judgment and same decision as his peers.”

Pavlou, alongside co-researchers Bin Zhang of the University of Arizona and Ramayya Krishnan of Carnegie Mellon University, studied how direct and indirect peers influence groups by using Caller Ring Back Tones (CRBT) adoption in Asian cellphone markets, in their paper published in Information Systems Research last year. In analyzing 200 million calls from 1.4 million users, the researchers overcame statistical and computational challenges of the immense dataset by using subpopulations of 200 or 500 people, each group its own network of friends.

The researchers found that, in the larger group, indirect peer influence has a significant positive effect. In the case of CRBTs, a caller’s knowledge of her acquaintances’ use of ringback tones encourage her to be “on-trend” and thus adopt the same behavior. Yet in a smaller group, a caller has a greater desire for individuality, resulting in a decision not to adopt.

This study sheds more light on the complicated, large-scale networks that exist today. By understanding how peer influence works with both direct and indirect neighbors, businesses can learn the best strategies for things like product diffusion, content creation, and software adoption within social networks. “If businesses want to trigger higher adoption rates, then for smaller groups, they only need to focus on individuals with many direct connections,” says Pavlou. “While in for larger groups, they should not only focus on popular individuals but also those who have many common friends.”

This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.

Glenn Booraem, BBA ’89

Glenn Booraem, BBA ’89, leads the Investment Stewardship team at Vanguard, voting for more than $5.5 trillion worth of investments and engaging with more than 700 different companies last year.

Booraem returned to the Fox School Feb. 5 as a one-day Executive in Residence. Shortly after arriving on campus, Booraem was a guest lecturer in a classroom with Professor Lalitha Naveen and several PhD students from the Accounting, Finance and Strategy departments. He also met with administrators, faculty and staff and attended a Translational Research Seminar in the new executive conference room at 1810 Liacouras Walk.

Since 2001, Booraem has led Vanguard’s investment stewardship efforts. He is involved in several industry initiatives, including the Investor Stewardship Group, the Investor Advisory Group for the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and is a frequent speaker on corporate governance matters.

He has been named to the National Association of Corporate Directors’ Directorship 100 list every year since 2010 and is considered one of the most influential people in corporate governance.

Board Governance

As the investment stewardship officer at Vanguard, Booraem is an expert in board governance and how it aligns with long-term value for organizations. Booraem explained that the majority of Vanguard investments are index funds, and so Vanguard buys shares in all the companies listed in a fund, such as the S&P 500, the Russell 500 or the FTSE 200. As a result, Vanguard holds shares in more than 13,000 companies around the world on behalf of 20 million clients who have invested $5.5 trillion through the firm.

“Because we are going to own all of those companies we want to make sure they are run well in the long-term interests of their owners,” Booraem says. “That really starts with the board of directors. The board of directors is the group that works for us as shareholders to select management. They hire and fire the CEO, they oversee management and they incentivize management through compensation.”

Vanguard has three ways it influences board governance and corporate management to ensure they are aligned with creating long-term value for investors. Booraem explained:

Voting 

First, they are the proxy vote on all the shares their investors hold. At annual board meetings, the stewardship team votes on all the items on the ballot for a given company.

“We’ve got a really simple mission, to take a stand for all investors, treat them fairly and give them the best chance for investment success,” Booraem says. “From a governance standpoint, taking a stand for all investors by using our voice and our vote to support better governance of companies we believe adds value and that gives our clients the best chance for investment success.”

Engagement 

When Vanguard has questions or concerns with a particular company, Booraem or another member of the team will approach the board or management for a one-to-one conversation. Vanguard engages with a company when there is an item on the ballot that they are concerned with, or if there is a crisis such as a data breach or a scandal involving management or executives.

“Having the opportunity to talk to management or the board gives us the ability to wander into the shades of gray,” Booraem says. “We have black and white opportunity on the ballot but engagement gives us the opportunity to steer our discussion in the right direction.”

Ownership

The third form of influence the stewardship team has is through regular interaction with the board and management teams of companies.

“We expect to largely, by virtue of the index funds, practically be a permanent owner of the stock over the long term,” Booraem says. “If we see gaps in their board composition, or if they have difficulty articulating how their capabilities are aligned with long-term strategy, that gives us an opportunity to say, ‘your shareholders should better understand the linkage between what you are doing on the governance side and long-term value.’”

What are index funds?

Index funds are a form of mutual funds. Mutual funds are money pooled together by a group to invest in stocks, bonds or other securities, and controlled by a manager. An index fund is a mutual fund with a portfolio of securities designed to match the components of a market index, such as Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. The purpose is to provide broad market exposure with low operating costs and relatively few changes in the portfolio.

A self-described “octopus woman,” Rakia Reynolds, BBA ‘01,  is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, strategist, storyteller, marketer and fashionista, often all at once.

Fox Go Getter Rakia Reynolds

Performing this work-life balancing act and re-defining what it means to work for herself has been a learning experience for Reynolds. When she is not caring for her family, Reynolds is running her public relations agency, Skai Blue Media, which is based in Philadelphia. Working with brands like Comcast NBCUniversal, Dell, the Home Shopping Network (HSN), United By Blue, Ted Baker and others including Serena Williams’ clothing brand, is not exhausting for Reynolds. It’s invigorating her.

“The most successful people are the ones who find the secret sauce where work doesn’t feel like work,” says Reynolds in a 2017 interview with Marie Claire. “You wake up before your alarm goes off. You know the elevator pitch of your company without having to practice. You know what your career path is if you and yourself thinking about it at night.”

In addition to her role as founder and CEO of Skai Blue Media, she is currently serving as the face of Small Business for Dell, speaking at conferences and online about the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation in small business technology. Reynolds also currently serves as the president of the Philadelphia chapter of Women in Film & Television and the event’s chair of the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications.

She makes it a habit to give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and students. Her top recommendation is to build a trusted circle, or team, to lean on. She calls it a “FriendTor” advisory board. FriendTor is a term coined by her former chief of staff, Almaz Crowe. “These people are your unpaid trusted source for honest feedback and confidants for tough decisions ranging from how to be decisive in your decision-making to how to pick the right investor. They’re those who will help you to find your true north when things look like they are going south,” she explains. Reynold’s credits her FriendTors and her family for making her success a possibility.

Reynolds will not stop until she makes each and every one of her dreams a reality. “I want everything,” Reynolds says. “And I really don’t let anything stop me when it comes to having everything, because I really believe that that’s an attainable goal.”

This is what makes Rakia Reynolds a Go-Getter. Read more about her and the other Fox School of Business Go Getters by clicking here.

How much is a hashtag worth to you?

This simple symbol has become ubiquitous across many social media platforms. Started in August 2007, the hashtag, also known as the pound (#) sign, was officially adopted by Twitter in 2009 as a way to group conversations and aggregate similar themes. Now, having spread to sites like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, the hashtag has become a key element of many companies’ social media strategies. With that pervasiveness comes power—and pitfalls.

“Creating an original hashtag gives a firm control over a specific social media space,” says Subodha Kumar, professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School. Businesses can use this tool to increase recognition of their brand, generate buzz, and expand their audiences.

Yet creating a hashtag does not automatically mean the company owns it, says Kumar. Hashtags are susceptible to hijacking, in which competitors or consumers use the hashtag for unofficial messaging—like when McDonald’s attempted to generate positive publicity with #McDStories but instead received thousands of complaints about the fast food chain.

So, how can a company protect its social media reputation? For some, the answer lies in trademarking.

“The trademark protection of hashtags can increase consumer confidence,” says Kumar. Since the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began allowing hashtags to be registered trademarks in 2013, more and more companies are protecting their intellectual social media property. In 2015, nearly 1,400 hashtags were submitted in trademark applications. “It prevents other competitors from using similar hashtags to mislead consumers.”

However, trademarks may come with a price. “Trademarking a hashtag may prevent or restrict its use,” Kumar says. The successful spread of a hashtag lies in its ability to be used by anyone, connecting millions of Twitter threads and Instagram photos into one conversation. By trademarking, companies could be stifling this kind of organic engagement.

Little research has been done to understand whether a trademarked hashtag makes a firm’s social media audience more or less engaging. Kumar, along with Naveen Kumar of the University of Memphis and Liangfei Qiu of the University of Florida, wanted to know: does trademarking a hashtag defeat its original purpose?

Kumar and his co-authors investigated the tension in these two opposing sides—the organic nature of a hashtag and the restrictive nature of a trademark—in their paper, “A Hashtag is Worth a Thousand Words: An Empirical Investigation of Social Media Strategies in Trademarking Hashtags.”

The researchers compared firm-level tweet data from 102 companies, split between a “treated” group of companies who had trademarked a hashtag between 2014 and 2017 and a “control” group of similar firms. The study compared tweets from before and after the hashtag’s trademark approval, analyzing the level of engagement through likes, comments, and tweets, as well as the linguistic content of the tweet, including its emotions, tone, and style.

Based on this study, Kumar and his colleagues discovered some key factors of making a trademarked hashtag work for a company:

1. Companies that trademark hashtags have higher social media engagement.

This study is the first to identify that trademarking hashtags can improve firms’ engagement with its audiences on social media—though the effects have varying levels of intensity for different types of firms and social strategies. “Trademarking a hashtag can increase the number of retweets by 27 percent,” says Kumar, “which is a considerable amount.”

Yet firms can not trademark hashtags arbitrarily. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office treats hashtags like any other trademark: in order to be approved, the company needs to prove that the hashtag is a key part of the firm’s identity and that trademarking works in the consumers’ favor by preventing or reducing confusion.

2. Trademarking hashtags works better for smaller, less popular companies with fewer Twitter followers.

While the study demonstrates that trademarking increases social media engagement, Kumar and his colleagues investigated how this effect varies among different types of firms. After comparing the companies in the top and bottom percentiles in terms of Twitter followers, the researchers found that firms with fewer Twitter followers had more significant increases in their engagement after trademarking hashtags than companies with larger followings.

Kumar hypothesizes that small companies see larger positive effects because fewer consumers are aware of their brands and products. “Without trademark protection, other competitors can easily use similar hashtags to mislead consumers,” he says. “In contrast, for popular firms with more Twitter followers, it is more difficult to mislead consumers, even in the absence of trademark protections.”

3. Writing styles are more important to firms that use trademarked hashtags.

The researchers also studied how companies used language in their social media strategies to understand the key drivers that cause trademarking hashtags to increase engagement. “This is based on the assumption that the way that people use words reflect how they think,” says Kumar. For example, using pronouns can reflect a self-centered focus, or using prepositions and conjunctions can indicate more nuanced thinking.

The study found that when hashtags are trademarked, a firm’s writing style becomes more important to its social media engagement. “People tend to like a more narrative and informal writing style in tweets,” Kumar says. The researchers saw that more positive, colloquial, and confident writing increase retweeting by up to 10 percent.

4. Effects of increased social media engagement last longer when hashtags are trademarked.

Recognizing that trademarking is a lengthy and expensive process, the researchers sought to discover whether the increased engagement lasted in the long term.

“Before trademarking hashtags, writing more tweets with desirable linguistic styles has only a contemporaneous effect,” says Kumar, meaning that the tweets’ increase in engagement was immediate, but dropped off quickly. After one month, it was no longer significant. “Trademarking hashtags makes things different,” Kumar says. After trademarking, the researchers found that the effects of increased engagement were still happening a month later.

Based on their research, Kumar and his colleagues believe that, especially for smaller companies with fewer followers, trademarking their intellectual social property, like hashtags, is a worthwhile investment. However, to get the maximum bang for your buck, Kumar suggests that companies consider the longevity of their chosen hashtag.

Social media can be fleeting, so invest wisely.

This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.

Throughout the month of February, the Fox School of Business is highlighting the voices and businesses of esteemed entrepreneurs, executives, volunteers and more. These talented professionals are striving to make the world a more diverse, inclusive and accessible place for future generations.

Since joining the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) as an undergraduate student at the Fox School, Tamika Boateng, BBA ’06, made the organization’s motto, “Lifting As We Climb” her personal mission. Studying asset management and risk, Boateng became passionate about helping others while on her personal journey. Along with helping others in her undergraduate class, Boateng mentored a young woman in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and through networking found a personal mentor of her own.

“My mentee helped immerse me in Philly culture and showed me so much of what the city has to offer,” she explains. “During that time we also spoke about our lives and shared experiences. We helped each other grow and learned so much from one another.”

Today, Boateng is a management consultant for financial services at PricewaterhouseCoopers and is a board member for Settlement Music School, one of the largest and oldest community schools of the arts in the U.S. The organization offers instruction in music and the arts to children and adults, regardless of age, background, ability or economic circumstances.  

She has over 13 years of experience in the financial services industry. Prior to joining PwC, Tamika served the Global Head of Bank Strategy and Relations at Vanguard. She has led global teams and had oversight of globally significant investment banks in Canada, Europe, Australia and Hong Kong. Tamika has extensive experience in investment platforms, strategy, risk and transformational initiatives in custody, transfer agency, fund accounting, endowments, donor advised funds, institutional asset management, third party oversight and brokerage services.

After graduating from Temple, Boateng went on Drexel University to pursue a Masters of Business Administration in Finance and Innovation and The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania for an Investment Management Analyst Certification.

“Being a student at the Fox school not only expanded my professional network and education, but it also helped me understand my passion. I learned how to harness and use my authenticity to navigate any situation,” says Boateng.

“People are funny about money,” said Corinne O’Connell, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia.

On November 3rd, 2018, Fox Board Fellows hosted a workshop to address the struggles of nonprofit fundraising.

As the featured guest speaker, O’Connell brought her twenty plus years of experience in the field of fundraising to share with the MBA students by presenting her strategic thought process when asking for donations.

O’Connell presenting her opening remarks, and a picture of her and the child that inspired her to commit to the nonprofit community.

“The nonprofit world is being challenged,” said Ellen Marshall. As an advisor for Fox Management Consulting and Strategic Clarity Advisors, Marshall has been working in the nonprofit realm for over twenty years, and attended the workshop in order to better understand the Fox Board Fellows program.  “For nonprofits to meet the growing needs and address this massive game-changing changes, it can’t be like it was back in the day.”

One of the most pressing obstacles when managing a nonprofit is maintaining financial stability. Money is a very sensitive issue, which makes it especially difficult for board directors when asking for donations and allocations from individuals and large organizations. In addressing this issue, and reinvigorating the purpose of the nonprofit’s endeavor, O’Connell spoke about how she manages to keep her purpose clear and strong while persuading potential donors to believe in her cause.

Her nonprofit Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia was established in 1985 as an independently chartered branch of Habitat for Humanity International, the largest home building nonprofit organization in the world.

Graduate Student members enrolled in the Fox Board Fellows program attentively listening to O’Connell’s advice

“There is never enough money, and there is entirely too much need,” O’Connell said. “To put that need into context, 800 people call us a month. 800 people. We’re right now building 12 houses a year and repairing 100.”

As a member of the board for a nonprofit, fiscal responsibility is central to managing a successful organization, because nonprofits aren’t in business for monetary profit, they fundraise for a cause.

As CEO, O’Connell spends about half of her time asking donors for monetary support. The concept of fundraising is central to the survival of not for profit organizations, allowing them to fully provide for their community.

In her explanation of how to successfully fundraise, O’Connell emphasized the importance of maintaining existing relationships in order to foster strong donor loyalty. She asserted that, for most people, numbers and statistics are not convincing enough to connect them to the cause. There needs to be an underlying purpose that the potential donor can connect to, a cause that they can identify with, reflected in their own lives.

Ellen Marshall attended the meeting to learn more about the Fox Board Fellows program and to understand how to better fundraise for a nonprofit

“You know what works? Empathy,” O’Connell said. “You gotta make a connection with people, you gotta create empathy, and you have to have people feel and know that they are empowered and that their gift counts.”

To create these connections, she suggested treating any kind of support with the same level of gratitude as with a large six figure donation. Empathy is the reason people will care about a nonprofit’s cause. “The why. That is why people give,” O’Connell said. “Start with the why, and it’s a personal thing.”

O’Connell’s speech heavily focused on the necessity to create interpersonal connections and build a relationship with the potential donor, in which effective communication and having a strong sense of the organization’s purpose will lead to success.

“She presents Habitat in such a way where she hones it down and says this is how you can help, by supporting this organization and talking about the breadth and depth of what they do, not just that they do it,” Marshall said about O’Connell’s presentation. “Telling that story and talking about what it means to have a passion or drive simplifies that complexity and helps people understand that they can act.”

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