Six Questions with Jennifer Savary
"How we see ourselves (our identity) and what we hope to achieve (our goals) are two of the most fundamental drivers of consumer decision making."
What brought you to the Eller College in 2015?
The marketing department at Eller hosts a great group of researchers who do top-tier work. But beyond just their academic excellence, the group is kind, warm and welcoming, and many of them have families. Eller has done a great job of fostering academic productivity while still allowing people to live full and rewarding lives that include family and other interests. When I was deciding where to move, I found this impressive ability to balance work and personal life incredibly appealing, and so I was delighted when the group made me an offer.
What is your current research, and what most excites you about that area of focus?
I primarily study the psychology of decision making, using experimental designs. So I conduct studies, either in the lab or in a field setting. Our goal as decision making researchers in marketing is to better understand how consumers make decisions, and the factors that can influence their choices.
I have two main streams of work. First, I study how identity considerations affect people’s choices. For example, one of my papers looks at why people keep paying for subscriptions they don’t use, such as an unused gym membership or an unread subscription to The Economist. I find that quitting this sort of subscription can threaten how people see themselves (i.e., I’m not really an athletic person, or I must not be as intellectual as I thought) and therefore they sometimes keep paying for the unused subscription to avoid that negative self-signal.
In a second stream of research I investigate goals and motivation: both how people’s goals can affect their decisions, and how people make decisions about their goals.
I am excited about these domains because I believe that how we see ourselves (our identity) and what we hope to achieve (our goals) are two of the most fundamental drivers of consumer decision making.
What are you currently teaching, and what do you most enjoy about teaching?
I teach Marketing Research (MKTG 440), and several PhD seminars. In Marketing Research we learn about problem formulation, how to use secondary research to refine the problem and then how to use primary research methods to answer questions. What excites me about teaching undergraduates the basics of research is that I get to empower students at the beginning of their careers to think critically about ambiguous problems, understand how to frame those problems and then go out and seek the information they need to answer their questions. While I believe this skill is vital to success in a marketing career, I also think this ability is invaluable across all of their future endeavors.
How do you bring your research into your teaching?
Well, I am one of the very lucky professors who gets to teach about research, so they are inherently connected for me. Beyond just the methods, I often use examples of studies I am running in my class. This is especially true when we discuss how marketing researchers in industry have begun to conduct experiments across a variety of applications.
Beyond research and teaching, what are your passions?
Most of my time outside work is spent with my two boys and my wonderful and supportive husband Gideon. We’ve been lucky to meet some great family friends since we moved to town, and many weekends we are out camping or traveling around enjoying all Arizona has to offer.
For me personally, I am passionate about riding (a road bike)--most Saturday mornings I am out cycling in and around Tucson with my training partners. Another Eller professor, Alice Bonaime, and I trained for and completed the 106-mile El Tour de Tucson last fall, and we hope to do it again in 2018.
What does the Eller Experience mean to you?
Eller’s 100% engagement initiative is spot on, in my view. Eller is about passionate people, who are deeply engaged with every aspect of life--from dedication in classes and research to a true talent for having fun. The Eller Experience captures that balance, and as a result our students are well-balanced and prepared for the range of demands that lie ahead. And it is that balance that brought me here to begin with.