They come from Beijing and from Boston. They are eye-opening researchers and award-winning teachers. They boast a panoply of experience—there’s a Finnish naval veteran, a record label executive, a product developer, and a public health advocate, among others. One taught himself English with a little help from TV’s Friends. Another saved the life of a drowning boy. Their scholarship has attracted the notice of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, changing the conversation, whether the topic is finance and climate change, politics and bailouts, or the reason a car mechanic might not want your business.
And they’ve all chosen to come to the Heights, some after years of experience at Wharton, the Foster School, or the London Business School.
Meet the Carroll School’s 12 new permanent faculty for the 2020–2021 academic year.
Professor, Giuriceo Family Faculty Fellow
Country of Origin: Israel
Ph.D., University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business
M.B.A., Hebrew University, Jerusalem School of Business
B.A., Hebrew University
Areas of Interest: Corporate finance, corporate governance, political economy
It might seem unsurprising that politically connected firms would have received more federal bailout funds after the 2008 financial crisis, but Ran Duchin—a newly minted Ph.D. at the time of the meltdown—was skeptical that politics played much of a role in finance. That is, until he dug into the data. Duchin’s finding that the connected firms indeed benefited disproportionately from the bailout made national headlines. In a subsequent study, he found that the bailed-out banks engaged in riskier behavior.
“Ever since then, I’ve been interested in the political economy,” Duchin says. In a recent study published in The Review of Financial Studies, Duchin and colleagues examined federal procurement contracts. “The U.S. federal government is the largest customer in the world,” says Duchin. “They’re purchasing everything from pens and paper all the way up to nuclear missiles.” The researchers discovered that politically connected firms bid low to give the appearance of fairness, but then extract higher payments through renegotiations during the often years-long duration of the contract.
Duchin comes to the Heights from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, where he was the William Fowler Professor of Finance. He has taught undergrads as well as M.B.A. and Ph.D. students, and, all things being equal, he says he most relishes teaching undergrads. “At the end of the day, those are the ones you can influence the most,” he says. “Even ten years later, I’ll get emails from former undergrad students saying, ‘Something I learned in your class was useful at work today’ or ‘helped me in an interview.’ Hopefully, I’m helping to raise new generations of socially conscious finance experts.”
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Ph.D., Stanford University
A.M., Harvard University
B.A., Pomona College
Areas of Interest: Quantitative marketing, empirical industrial organization, economics of information, consumer decision-making, consumer habits, customer reviews, consumer finance, digitization
What’s the difference between 4.24 and 4.26? If we’re talking stars on Yelp, that tiny decimal distance could determine whether an auto mechanic will give you speedy service, along with a free cup of coffee while you wait—or turn you away altogether.
Megan Hunter often marveled at how quickly consumers came to base their purchasing decisions on customer reviews found on Yelp and other online platforms. And indeed, scholarly research does exist on this phenomenon. But until a recent study of Hunter’s, not much was known about how companies change their behavior as a result of those reviews.
What Hunter found, in the context of online reviews of auto repair shops, was that businesses either put in an extra effort or turn down risky jobs (repairs), depending on whether their average rating on a major review site is just above or just below a rounding threshold—for example, 4.25. The sites don’t actually show precise averages but rather round down a 4.24 (for example) to just 4 stars, while rounding a 4.26 up to 4 and a half stars. So if a mechanic is on the cusp of what appears to be a half-star rise or drop in rating, then he will go the extra mile to influence a customer’s review—or decide not to take on a complicated repair that could garner a mixed review.
In addition to research, Hunter relishes teaching. “I love seeing the light bulb go off for a student, when a particular concept clicks,” she says. “Students often make connections and ask questions about related topics that I would not have considered!”
Hunter has worked as a senior research analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. A native of Southern California, she grew up surfing, and since moving to Boston has taken up paddle boarding on the Charles.
Department: Information Systems
Country of Origin: China
Ph.D., Harvard Business School
M.A., Tsinghua University
B.A., Fudan University
Areas of Interest: Technology strategies, digitization and innovation, platform markets
The Washington Post called a paper of Grace Gu’s “good and important news” for civil discourse and credible information on the internet. In “Ideology and Composition Shift Among an Online Crowd: Evidence from Wikipedians,” Gu and colleagues found that—unlike on Facebook and Twitter—the anonymous editors who contribute to Wikipedia tend to move toward less segregated conversations and become more neutral over time, not more extreme. Whereas those other large online platforms use algorithms that expose users to content that aligns with their views, Wikipedia’s design forces contributors to grapple with facts they might otherwise prefer to ignore.
Asked how she was drawn to such a topic, Gu says simply, "I grew up in the Information Age, and I got quite interested in studying online information and digitization when I entered college." More recently, with debates over net neutrality raging, many have worried that the Internet is becoming more and more polarized. "So I decided to study the biases and slants in user-generated contents on Wikipedia in the hope that I can contribute theoretical and quantitative insights to this topic."
Gu takes the same spirit of shared conversation to her teaching. "What I love most about teaching is the process of mutual learning," she adds. "I have been inspired by my students in so many ways, both in class and during casual discussions. They bring new perspectives to the topics I teach, and I really enjoy hearing their thoughts and exploring with them about the newest ideas in the field."
Department: Management and Organization
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University
M.S., Harvard School of Public Health
B.S., Stanford University
Areas of Interest: Professional identity construction, positive relationships at work, embodied sensemaking
“Imagine if you asked a patient, ‘Would you want a doctor who’s actually happy with what they do, or one who’s possibly unhappy and maybe not fully engaged in their work?’”
Most would surely prefer the former in this hypothetical posed by Njoke Thomas. But she brings it up because studies show that some young doctors regret their choice of specialty about three years into their residency. She says of medical students, “They go from the conviction of wanting to be a doctor to a period of uncertainty about what kind of doctor.”
Yet some “lean into” that uncertainty, Thomas has found in her own research. “These students make peace with the discomfort of not knowing, so they can engage in discovery,” she explains. “They seem to learn more about themselves in the process. I would like to examine whether these students end up being much more satisfied with their careers in the long term.”
In particular, Thomas studies how medical students and early-career doctors handle transitions—the points at which they must choose a trajectory (for example, when moving from school to residency), but her research is relevant across sectors, including law, architecture, finance, accounting, and management—all of which embrace a variety of specializations. “A lot of careers have these junctures along the road, where you’ve got to make these key decisions before you can move on to the next phase,” she says. “One reason I do study medicine is that it’s one of the oldest and most complex professions. There’s a lot there to unpack.”
Thomas knows a bit about transitions herself. She was born in Brooklyn, where she lived until age three. At that point, she moved with her parents back to their native Trinidad. When she was 16, the family moved to Oakland, where she finished high school. For several years after college, Thomas worked in public health—a field in which she went on to earn a master’s degree from Harvard. The experience motivated her to study organizational behavior for her doctorate. In her most recent transition, Thomas comes to Boston College after three years as a postdoc at Wharton.
Country of Origin: Finland
Ph.D., Columbia Business School
M.Sc., Aalto University
B.Sc., Aalto University
Areas of Interest: Asset pricing, financial intermediaries, insurance, climate finance
Toumas Tomunen studied “catastrophe bonds” for his dissertation. “Hurricanes and typhoons can have devastating local consequences, with relatively minor impacts elsewhere,” he says. “This creates a great opportunity for risk sharing.” Catastrophe bonds are assets that allow investors to trade and share the risks from hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters.
That’s one way financial markets can mitigate the economic impacts of climate change, Tomunen says. But the markets can also help reduce carbon emissions in the first place, by allocating capital toward renewable energy. A promising instrument that Tomunen has studied is the “green bond,” whose proceeds are earmarked for climate-related investments.
“Climate change is a major challenge of our time,” Tomunen says. “It takes multidisciplinary expertise and capabilities to tackle.”
A former second lieutenant in the Finnish navy, Tomunen hails from the small town of Uusikaupunki. “The literal translation of the name is ‘new town,’” he says, “even though it’s more than 400 years old.”
Tomunen’s wife, Mari, teaches a course on cryptocurrencies at Boston College Law School.
Country of Origin: China
Ph.D., University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
M.A., Columbia University
M.A., State University of New York at Buffalo
B.A., Wuhan University
Areas of Interest: Information disclosure and its implications for decision-making and resource allocation
Miao Liu studies how people process information differently than do machines. In his dissertation, Liu examined the subtle trade-off between our human weaknesses in processing hard information and our strengths in acquiring soft information.
In distilling hard data, “I found that humans use mental shortcuts,” says Liu, “causing biases and misperceptions.” For example, loan officers in his study paid too much attention to salient features of borrowers’ applications, such as large jumps in cash flows.
“However, loan officers also produce the most useful soft information by talking to the borrower in detail after they see salient hard data,” Liu goes on. “Effectively, salience, while creating bias, also gives loan officers a hint on where to look for more soft information. In a sense, human strength and weakness are two sides of the same coin.”
As a high schooler in Beijing, Liu taught himself English with the help of repeated viewings of the TV show Friends. Now in the States for more than a decade, he enjoys traveling the country with his family. “I do not need a map while in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks,” he says.
Department: Business Analytics
Country of Origin: Russia
Ph.D., NYU, Stern School of Business
M.Phil., NYU, Stern School of Business
M.S., Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
B.S., Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
Areas of Interest: Machine learning, data-driven modeling, retail operations, sharing economy, revenue management
Dmitry Mitrofanov has unearthed insights about the sharing economy in general and ride-hailing services in particular. For one thing, customers seem very loyal to one ride-hailing service or the other, he has found. For another, price-reduction promotions have a positive short-term effect on riders’ preferences but a negative long-term effect. “This might be the case because promotions induce deal-seeking behavior in users,” he says. Customers once loyal to Uber, for example, might start exploring promotions with Lyft or another competitor, and even switch back and forth between the services for better deals.
“Sharing economy platforms have dramatically reshaped industries in nearly every corner of the world,” says Mitrofanov. As platforms such as Airbnb (apartment sharing), Getaround (car-sharing) and Lending Club (peer-to-peer lending) have become ubiquitous, so have new tech twists on classical problems within operations, such as demand forecasting and running promotions. Mitrofanov relishes figuring out how companies that employ sharing technology can solve those problems.
Along with research, “I consider teaching a fundamental, exciting, and gratifying part of academic life,” says Mitrofanov. “The most rewarding part is realizing that the course indeed prepared students with the ability to make real-world business decisions in professional environments. The most fun part is when I can use my own research to better explain some concepts in the class.”
Aimee Hoffmann Smith
Assistant Professor of the Practice
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Ph.D., Florida State University
B.S., Northwestern State University
Areas of Interest: Corporate litigation and fraud, corporate governance, executive compensation, initial public offerings, seasoned equity offerings, mergers and acquisitions
As a young girl in Maine, Aimee Hoffmann Smith towered over her peers. (She eventually grew to six feet.) This height once aided her at the beach, when, at age seven, she saved the life of a drowning 10-year-old boy.
Coming of age during the Enron and WorldCom scandals fed Smith’s interest in corporate misconduct and corporate governance. “I was intrigued by the countless examples of deceptive and intentional acts by business leaders that cost their shareholders millions,” she says. “This seemed incredibly counterintuitive to me, considering that the ultimate goal of financial management is to maximize shareholder wealth.” She went on to research the topic as a doctoral student and, later, as an assistant professor at Bentley University, contributing to findings on the impacts of securities litigation on reputation and external financing.
As an educator, Smith enjoys seeing her students progress in their understanding of finance over the course of a semester, “especially when struggling students manage to overcome personal hurdles and raise themselves to new levels of achievement,” she says. “I also love when former students contact me years after taking my class to share updates about their life events and impressive accomplishments.”
Country of Origin: Israel
Ph.D., University of Chicago
M.S., Hebrew University
B.S., Hebrew University
Areas of Interest: Competition between US firms and its implications for macroeconomic and asset pricing
“Over the past 30 years, workers have continued to produce more and more, but their wages have remained flat,” Simcha Barkai said in a video interview. Why the gap between productivity and wages? More concentration and less competition, suggests Barkai’s research. In industry after industry, the four largest firms have come to dominate the market, enabling them to boost profits while cutting costs, leading to a decline in labor’s share of the economic pie.
In his study “Declining Labor and Capital Shares,” focusing on nonfinancial companies in the U.S., Barkai showed that over the past three decades, the share of revenues going to profits has risen by 13.5 percent, while the share going to labor has declined by 6.7 percent. The share going to investment (e.g., R&D) has declined as well, by 7.2 percent. In his paper, Barkai called this an “inefficient outcome” for the economy.
“If we can increase competition to [levels] that existed in the 1980s, wages would increase by about 20 percent,” Barkai said in the video interview. His research has also been reported on by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Bloomberg, Forbes, and the Washington Post, among others.
Barkai has lived in Jerusalem, New York, Chicago, and, most recently, London, where he taught finance at the London Business School for three years. In his spare time, he enjoys playing basketball and chess.
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
M.S., Bentley University
B.A., Bentley University
Areas of Interest: Managerial and financial accounting
Ever since middle school, Doris Kelly knew she wanted to be an accountant. “I was always very analytical and fascinated with the world of business,” she says.
Today, Kelly can boast more than three decades of experience in the corporate world as a certified public accountant. Moreover, she served on the board of the Institute of Management Accountants, and currently serves as an advising CFO to small companies.
But Kelly is most proud of her achievements as a teacher. She comes to Boston College after a decade at Bentley University, where she was a faculty advisor as well as a lecturer.
“Nothing compares to getting an email from a former student telling you how much you affected their lives in a positive way,” says Kelly, who garnered Bentley’s Innovation in Teaching Award in 2017.
Associate Professor of the Practice
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
M.B.A., Indiana University
M.A., Indiana University
B.A., Grinnell College
Areas of Interest: Customer co-creation, user innovation, crowdsourcing, service recovery, managerial response to online customer reviews
“Whether you’re into writing Linux code, printing stuff on your 3D printer, customizing a pair of Vans sneakers, or creating your own TikTok videos, there have never been so many different ways to create original content and share it with the world,” says Matthew O’Hern, who studies customer co-creation. “It’s fun and exciting to work on a topic that is always evolving and that really focuses on the creative side of digital marketing.”
In customer co-creation, companies include the consumer in product development, as in the examples above. The process can extend to troubleshooting, as well. In a recent study on the topic, O’Hern and colleagues found that in certain cases, customers who experience a service failure prefer to receive service support from a fellow customer, rather than from a firm employee. “Help offered by a fellow customer gave the affected consumer a greater sense of community support,” O’Hern explains.
Besides research, a major reason O’Hern decided to become a professor was the chance to guide students and prepare them to accomplish their career goals. “The aspect of teaching that is most rewarding is when I can introduce my students to a new approach, tool, or idea that they can directly apply in their internships or full-time jobs and that they can use to set themselves apart from other job candidates,” said O'Hern, who previously taught marketing at the University of New Hampshire.
A native of Sioux City, Iowa, O’Hern has lived in France, Germany, and Austria, where he met his wife. Following Austrian tradition, the couple held two weddings—a church wedding and a civil ceremony. Groom O’Hern planned the latter. “We said our vows in a limo at a drive-in wedding chapel in Las Vegas. It was the first time that her parents and my parents had ever met, and I have to say that this was a great call,” he says. “The wedding took 15 minutes to organize, everybody had a good time, and there was zero drama. I’d call that a win!”
Department: Management and Organization
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Education: B.A., Brown University
Areas of Interest: Strategic management; digital strategy, including attribution analysis using machine learning and AI
Jerry Potts started at MFS Investments, America’s oldest mutual fund company, right after college, answering the phones. He rose quickly through the ranks, eventually becoming vice president of marketing. Over 36 years of leading groups large and small—at both MFS and a record label he founded in his spare time—Potts has learned a lot about management, and for the past eight years he’s been passing on that knowledge to Carroll School students as an adjunct professor.
This year, Potts joins the faculty as a full-time lecturer, teaching multiple sections of Strategic Management. The capstone course prepares juniors and seniors to think like managers in a complex, global economy. “The idea is to take all the pieces you’ve learned in finance or marketing or whatever your discipline is, and learn how companies integrate all this stuff,” says Potts. He uses case studies pulled from major real-life companies such as Walmart, Netflix, Apple, and Amazon. “You know these companies as a consumer,” Potts says. “Here, you flip it around and think of their strategy from the manager’s perspective.”
Analyzing management while keeping the big picture in mind makes sense for a business school situated within a Jesuit university, says Potts: “I’m a big believer in the Jesuit idea of developing your brain as a whole. Specializing intently on something is okay, but you’re better at it when you understand the broader context.”
A guitarist, Potts founded Eastern Front Records in 1994. (Artists include singer-songwriter Martin Sexton, who has played Carnegie Hall and the Newport Folk Festival and whose music has been heard on NBC’s Scrubs and Parenthood.) Potts also founded an early internet radio venture in 1999. He now chairs the board of Passim, the storied music venue and school in Harvard Square.
In addition, the Carroll School of Management has a new visiting professor—Jonathan Beck, in the Marketing Department. The Carroll School welcomes Beck, who is teaching Research for Marketing Decisions. Read his full bio here.
Photography by Lee Pellegrini and Peter Julian, Boston College Office of University Communications. Images also used with permissions from Grace Gu and Simcha Barkai.