Spring 2018 - Student Spotlight
MBA Candidate, Graduate Research Assistant
Following undergraduate studies at Bloomsburg University, as well as an MS at St. Joe’s, Carissa pursued a successful career in finance – first at Vanguard, then at Comcast. She is now happily pursuing her passion in the understanding of Consumer Behavior, in both her research capacity and in her studies. We chose Carissa for our first MBA Student ‘Spotlight’ because she embodies the Villanova spirit – she has always pursued excellence, both in academia and professionally – she believes in achievement with integrity, and in giving back. And she cherishes the faith-based tradition of the University.
Q1: Has there been any one person in your life who has been your inspiration?
A: I certainly had professors in college who inspired me. One great example is the time I was encouraged by two of my professors at Bloomsburg – Dr. Peter Bohling and Dr. Martina Vidovic – to pursue a highly competitive internship in Washington D.C. It was with the US Treasury. Only three students were going to be selected. I would never have even considered applying for such a competitive internship, but I followed my professors’ advice, and wrote the necessary essays and applied. And lo and behold, I was accepted into the internship. This was my first step into the complete unknown! It inspired me beyond just the internship, though. It inspired me to know what I’m truly capable of, to truly believe in myself, and to always pursue my own path.
Q2: Your career has evolved, shifting your focus from finance to your present pursuits within the field of consumer behavior. Was there any one moment that caused that shift in focus, or did it evolve gradually?
A: It was definitely gradual, though I did have an early interest in Behavioral Finance, the “Why” behind the numbers. There was a project I worked on while I was at Vanguard that did have a profound impact on me and first triggered my interest in gaining a better understanding of Consumer Behavior. The project dealt with Vanguard’s Advisors and the marketing approach the advisors used for retaining their clients. As I look back, it really opened my eyes to what we can learn by having a better understanding of what motivates the consumer. Of the 30 Vanguard customers who were interviewed for this project, I had the opportunity to participate personally in several of the interviews. I learned so much from speaking with Vanguard’s customers! There is much that we can learn within Marketing if we ask the question: “What impacts our quantitative decision making?”, and then really, truly consider the customer in the process: “If their needs are not met, what are the next steps that the consumer is going to take?”. I knew that I needed to “Stop Talking and Start Listening”! It was at that point I realized my passion.
Q3: Why did you choose Villanova for your MBA?
A: I love the values of Villanova – it’s very deeply rooted in religion, which has been an anchor for my life. Villanova is also known for its integrity, for its great academics, and for graduating “go-getters”. I started as a part-time student, with a thirst for knowledge. I’m thrilled to now be a full-time graduate fellowship student and research assistant in a field that I love! Working in digital alterations and sensory marketing with Dr. Cho is certainly challenging, but it’s been just the environment that I’m looking for – it stretches me beyond what I thought I could deliver. I also work with Dr. Lucy Chen in Accounting. Both professors have been instrumental in enabling me to learn what it takes to be a true researcher, as well as a teacher and a mentor. And they’ve also helped me to understand that I have to keep an open mind and do my best to remove my own biases from the equation. One thing I’ve learned is this: Success comes down to asking the right questions, presenting your own views clearly – enabling others to relate your findings to current published research – and taking action.
Q4: Can you tell me about the Social Responsibility project you and your MBA team are undertaking in collaboration with Dennis Morgan, EMBA ' 17?
A: We were presented with a nonprofit that could use our help. The nonprofit we’re working with is Bancroft [a nonprofit provider of behavioral health services for those with brain injuries or intellectual disabilities]. We felt that our team was well-equipped to understand and address their needs: In addition to myself, we have an Engineer, a Nurse, 2 Lawyers, and a VP of Finance. We knew that we needed to identify Bancroft’s “points of pain”: State regulations put pressure on them. There are employee turnover rates to consider. Funding is being reduced. Tuition for those attending the school remains flat, yet the pressure to do more keeps increasing. We’re still in the midst of our research and there is a lot we still need to dig into. But we know the areas we need to focus on: (1) Regulatory, (2) Financial, (3) Internal morale. The whole project is forcing us into the unknown. We definitely feel that we’ll be able to address a lot of their “pain points”, as well as identify any possible inefficiencies and help in their strategic plans moving forward.