Michael Luchs is Professor of Marketing at the College of William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of
Business, and came to visit us at the School of Management as part of his work with Professor Carlos Trujillo and to meet our faculty and students.
In this interview, Professor Luchs told us about his academic life, future aspirations and his first-time impressions of Bogotá and the School of Management.
- During your visit, what has surprised you about Colombia?
I have had a great experience of the city. I arrived on Saturday and so had the whole of Sunday off, and so I went on a five-hour bike tour around the city. We saw lots of sight and went on the ciclovía but we also stopped in a market to try different fruits and vegetables, and then we played tejo, which was pretty amazing. When the tour ended, I walked over to Monserrate and took the cable car up just in time for sunset.
- What would you highlight from your visit to Universidad de los Andes School of Management?
- When and why did you decide to pursue an academic career?
So I worked in industry for about 15 years before getting my PhD. It was a combination of things that made me decide, some of it personal and some of it altruistic I worked in industry and then in consulting and from a lifestyle perspective I was working 70 hours a week with a young family. And so I knew I needed to make a change and I had worked in different companies and knew that I couldn’t be creative and academia felt like a place where I could be creative but also just enjoy the community and the lifestyle.
- What are the most satisfying aspects of being a scholar?
You know I think it's the freedom to focus on the things you think are important and how you define that differs by individuals and that is complicated because it depends on what your ideas are what you have been exposed to. But I feel like we are entrusted by our universities and private or public institutions to do things that are valuable. So I think academics have a mission which is to contribute and that could be a contribution to academia through good research or to promote positive change in society and our capital markets which are succeeding in some ways and failing in others, so having a purpose is more important than the paycheck! The paycheck is important too!
- How does your work contribute to society as a whole?
So I focus on consumer behavior so it’s basically how we all spend money and how we relate to the material world of things. My research has until the last few years focused on sustainable consumption, trying to make better choices. But I have broadened that concept to what I refer to as consumer wisdom, which is basically, how do we help consumers think about their lifestyles more realistically so that they can imagine the lives they want to lead balance that with the resources they have and make decisions that promote their wellbeing but also their values, rather than being so influenced by the market, by advertising, by large corporations, and instead have people feel the power and the tools to be more active in making better choices that help them and help society. And so I am a small part of hopefully helping shape that. So that for me is my mission.
- What other research areas would you like to develop in the future?
A variety of projects. I am starting to venture backwards into my background in product development to work with designers to think about how they can design products for a wiser society. So consumers are limited by what’s available on the market and so working with the other side and trying to figure out how to focus the energies and passions of designers so that they can design products that are best suited to this future economy, an economy that is less wasteful that promotes more joy and wellbeing for more people. I think designers have a huge role in making that possible and my hope is that through promoting my theory of consumer wisdom and how consumers can act differently and aligning that with how we can produce differently can lead to a more sustainable system of consumption and production.
- How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
Very active. So I depend on my students learning a lot before class from videos and articles. Just to give you a bit of context, I teach courses on innovation and sustainable innovation and what I am trying to help students understand is that the need for more sustainable options is a great opportunity for new innovations, it’s a great business opportunity. But new innovations depend on a lot of abilities and resources, and so teams. What I am trying to teach my students is how you effectively work in a team to understand people’s needs, society’s needs, to generate new product and service options and to validate those through qualitative research. So we normally put students together in a class and tell them to go do a project, but we don’t tell them how to do that project in a team. So I am trying to show them, how do you lead a team, how do you run a brainstorming session, how do you deal with conflict and come to a consensus. So I guess that’s my philosophy.
- What is the most important thing you learn from your interaction with your students?
Professor Carlos Trujillo, tells us about why he invited Professor Luchs to the School of Management:
- How did you get to know the professor? What are the main research links?
Michael is an accomplished scholar in the field of consumer behavior with an emphasis on well-being and sustainability, which coincides with my interests and agenda. We met recently at a conference and we started to collaborate on a couple a research projects.
- What is the main purpose of the professor’s visit?
To promote the topic of sustainable consumption within the school and for our students, to expand the reach and recognition of the sustainability area and the CODS to make progress on our research agenda.
- Why is it important to have this professor visit the School?
Sustainability and marketing, and sustainable consumption in particular, are topics that still have little resonance within the school, especially for our students. This visit contributes to increasing awareness and outreach of the topic and contributing to expanding the school’s reputation regarding sustainability issues.
- What are the expectations in terms of her research contribution to the academic area?
As I said, we are already starting a research collaboration that will make progress and be strengthened because of his visit. He can take the opportunity to meet other colleagues and doctoral students and to expand the depth our collaboration.