FROM CLASSROOM TO CO-AUTHORSHIP: MBA Students Collaborate with Faculty

By Amy Timmes

Ever dream of seeing your name on a byline?  Would a research project of your own choosing kindle your academic interest?  Several industrious Stillman business students have been there, done that – with the help of their professors.  Working with a faculty member to research, write and—ultimately—publish an article with a notable publication gives graduate students the unique opportunity to absorb information about a subject, research a topic that interests them, and reflect their achievements on their resumes.

One Stillman MBA student, Alyson Nardi (‘13), who took Dr. Penina Orenstein’s Supply Chain Management class, needed extra credit for her concentration.   According to Dr. Orenstein, Associate Professor in the Department of Computing and Decision Sciences, “We chose this area of research because Aly enjoyed quantitative analysis.”  Dr. Orenstein described their work together as organic. “We began with a simple analysis and then expanded the work into a conference presentation at the Manufacturing and Service Operations Management (MSOM) Conference in 2012.  Aly presented the material well, and her talk generated a lot of discussion from the audience.”

Later, in December, 2012, Dr. Orenstein and Nardi’s research paper, “Balancing Supply and Demand in a Hospital Supply Chain Using a Collaborative Forecasting and Inventory Management Approach,” was published in the International Journal of Operations and Quantitative Management, Vol. 20, Issue 4, pages 259-272.

For her part, Nardi took Professor Orenstein’s class knowing nothing about supply chain management. “The way she taught the class,” said Nardi, “made the concepts of supply chain management easy to grasp, and it piqued my interest in the subject.”  Dr. Orenstein’s mentoring instilled value into Nardi’s career path, who recommends that students take advantage of working with a professor on a project, if it becomes available.  “I learn better getting my hands dirty and immersing myself in the research; it gives more insight than a book can provide.”

Another graduate student, Kelly Dallavalle (’14), was selected by Dr. Richard Hunter, Jr., Professor in the Department of Economics and Legal Studies, while taking a product liability course from him during the summer of 2013, to collaborate with him.  Their article, “Should a Legal Analysis of the Adequacy of Warning Labels Consider Issues Relating to Use of Products by Non-English Speakers?” was published in the Atlantic Law Journal, in 2014.

Dallavalle’s interest developed from studying highly-publicized cases in class.  “It was a dynamic and interesting course,” she said.  “As part of the coursework, we were asked to perform a legal analysis of a singular component of product liability by researching associated cases.” That’s when Dallavalle became interested in the ‘Duty to Warn’ [a legal concept surrounding the duty of a company to provide information about inherent dangers in a product that could potentially injure or harm a consumer].

As she read some of the cases, Dallavalle discovered one, in particular, that related to her professional career in healthcare.  “There is a high concentration of non-English speakers in our community regularly using local services and products,” she said about her research.  “If a company’s customer base consists primarily or exclusively of non-English speakers, does that company have a duty to provide a warning in their native language?” Thus, the collaboration between Dallavalle and Dr. Hunter began with an analysis, and grew into a research project, drawing in bilingual Dr. Hector Lozada, Associate Professor in the Department of Marketing at Stillman, who also collaborated with them.

A prolific writer who enjoys the craft, Dr. Hunter has authored and presented over 100 works throughout his teaching career, including 15 published books, since 1980.  He has worked with more than two dozen students to publish research articles in an array of domestic and international publications.  “It’s the best feeling in the world,” he stated, “because students make themselves valuable by showing employers that they are research-capable.  They can take an idea and move it to the next level.”

For Dallavalle, her next level came when Dr. Hunter saw potential in her research about manufacturers’ warnings.  She noted that her collaboration with Dr. Hunter aligned very closely with a real world process. “Professor Hunter was very supportive and I felt respected as a peer. He gave me quite a bit of autonomy to explore a topic that interested me in a way that blended the coursework with my own professional ambitions.”

Another pair of diligent Stillman co-authors were MBA student, Samantha Lordi (‘12), and Dr. Karen Boroff, Stillman Professor in the Department of Management and Dean Emeritus.  In 2014, the two delved into preparing and submitting a real-life case for the North American Case Research Association’s Case Research Journal, with a project entitled, “Starbright Jewelers,” in which a business owner faces an ethical dilemma regarding an employee who worked with him and his former partner.  This teaching case was subsequently featured in the February 9, 2015, edition of the Harvard Business Review.

Dr. Boroff talked about how the project evolved. “Samantha was doing an independent study project with me, and we reviewed several options of potential source material. Our focus was to find a case about a smaller firm that would spark the interest of entrepreneurs and small businesses.”  Part of the job entailed, not only submitting a well-written case study to the Journal, but also researching and writing an “Instructor’s Manual,” which discussed key teaching areas such as general management, human resource management, and business ethics.

The “Starbright Jewelers” project dove-tailed with Stillman’s mission to enrich student’s lives through ethics-centered education.  “This teaching case can be applied in any business course that teaches putting the concept of ethics into practice,” stated Dr. Boroff.  “In this particular work,” she explained, “Samantha contributed to others by advancing knowledge, and advancing our mission as well.  Samantha became the teacher, not the student.”

Lordi, who is now employed in a marketing position, explained that the research experience with Dr. Boroff was “the perfect blend,” in that it allowed her to use her strong writing skills, as an undergraduate journalism major, combined with the business principles she learned at Stillman. “The best thing about the one-on-one relationship,” said Lordi, “was that it was a collaborative effort all the way to the end.  That interaction is a great learning process that has more impact on the finished product.”

Former Harvard University President, Dr. Derek Bok, once said, “…many professors still lecture to passive audiences instead of challenging students to apply what they have learned to new questions.”

At The Stillman School of Business, where professors work with students to help them become confident researchers and diligent project coordinators, the pay-off for both teacher and student can be highly rewarding.  In an intellectual atmosphere of exchanging ideas and transforming those ideas into products on which a student sees his work reflected on a publication byline, or another student presents at an industry conference, the investment quickly becomes a source of inspiration to continue the search for new questions to be answered.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 21st print edition.

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