University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School
“Her contributions to teaching and her impact go beyond her classroom ratings. She frequently meets with her current and former students outside of class to discuss how the ideas can be applied in their careers. Shiri believes that successful teaching is best measured by the long-term impact it has on one’s students, and strives to achieve that with her own students … Part of why her research has been so widely acclaimed in both academia and industry is that it focuses on one of the most important topics we face as a society: how new technologies (such as smartphones) are transforming consumers’ lives.” – Brian Bushee, Senior Vice Dean of Teaching and Learning; and Nancy Rothbard, Deputy Dean
Shiri Melumad, 33, is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Wolpow Family Faculty Scholar at University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School.
Her research focuses on the consumer psychology of technology usage, new media and user-generated content, and digital marketing. Her research articles have been published in top journals and have earned multiple awards, such as being selected as a finalist both for the Paul Green Award (for the article that “demonstrates the greatest potential to contribute to the theory, methods and practice of marketing”) as well as for the Ferber Award (for the “best dissertation-based article”).
She was also selected to be an MSI Young Scholar, an honor that is awarded biennially to scholars identified as the “likely leaders of the next generation of marketing academics.” She has earned the Wharton Teaching Excellence Award every year she has taught.
At current institution since what year? 2017
Education: Ph.D. and M.Phil. in Marketing from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business; B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in History from Columbia University.
Undergraduate courses you teach: Consumer Behavior
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… My father was a business school professor, and as a child I would sometimes sit in on his classes and watch in awe as he interacted with students. He was so brilliant and charming, and students were completely engaged with him and the material (even though it was an accounting class!). Fast forward to college; I was a psychology major and had started studying for the LSAT with plans to go to law school. Around this time, I remember my father sitting me down and gently suggesting that I consider pursuing a PhD in marketing because he thought I would enjoy research and teaching and, in his words, marketing was “basically applied psychology”. Soon thereafter I became a research assistant for a marketing professor and became enamored with the field. I knew at that point that I wanted to be a business school professor, so I switched from studying for the LSAT to studying for the GMAT!
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Almost all of my research has focused on the impacts of new technology and media on consumers’ lives. As an example, in one paper I was interested in understanding the particular type of relationship that consumers form with their smartphones. While there has been much discourse around the dangers of excessive reliance on the device, I found that for many, smartphones served as “adult pacifiers” that provide comfort and relief from moments of stress. In more recent work I explore how the use of voice technologies alters the way consumers search for information online. I find that because users tend to worry about being misunderstood when speaking to voice technology (vs. typing into a search bar), they often give more thought to what they want to indicate in their query before saying it out loud; as a result, when searching through voice technology consumers tend to provide more detailed and elaborate queries than when typing their search, which yields search returns they are more satisfied with.
If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… I think it would be interesting to work at a company like Spotify on music discovery or as a UX researcher.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? There are many great professors at the Wharton School, so I would like to think that I share their dedication. When teaching I do my best to create an interactive experience in the classroom by encouraging students to interact not just with me but with one another (so that I’m not just lecturing at them). I find that this really enhances students’ engagement with—and understanding of—the topics we cover throughout the semester.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Busy!
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: That there are no real vacations! Unlike some other occupations, as a professor there’s no real delineation between weekdays and weekends, nor are there “normal” 9-5 working hours. That said, I feel super fortunate to have a job where I look forward to working weekends.
Professor I most admire and why: My father, Professor Nahum Melumad. He was an outstanding, award-winning teacher and a truly brilliant thinker and researcher in the field of accounting. His talent inside and outside the classroom was really inspiring for me growing up, and he is the reason I chose this profession. I owe my success as a business school professor to him.
TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The students at the Wharton School are really wonderful and have been a pleasure to teach. What I enjoy most about teaching business students is their desire to not only deeply engage with the consumer behavior topics we cover in class, but to understand the real-world applicability of each topic outside of the classroom.
What is most challenging? Sometimes it’s simply keeping up with them!
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Inquisitive
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Absent
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Rigorous but fair (I hope!)
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies? I love watching documentaries and going to concerts. Relatedly, I love discovering new music; I create a new playlist every month where I keep track of my new finds.
How will you spend your summer? I’m hoping to travel somewhere in Europe this summer, ideally somewhere in Scandinavia.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Some of my favorite cities that I’ve visited are Copenhagen, Prague, and Glasgow.
Favorite book(s): “Consider the Lobster” and “Franny and Zooey”.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? “How to With John Wilson” and “Nathan for You” are tied as my favorite shows of all time; I love them because they’re both deeply funny and brilliant and shed interesting insight on human behavior (without hitting you over the head with it). I also just finished watching “The Sopranos” for the first time and am waiting for an appropriate amount of time to pass before I can watch it again from the beginning.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? It’s hard to choose, but the artists I listen to most often are Porches, Advance Base, and Tems (because they’re incredible).
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… I hope the business school of the future will become more innovative and accessible to students both in terms of the types of content being taught and the formats through which that content is disseminated. Likewise, I hope business schools will do more to break down traditional barriers that exist among different fields and will work to explore new ways for students to learn-by-doing.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Listening to and learning from their customers. As a marketing professor I stress in my classes that when companies fail, it is often because they lose sight of the need to deliver value to their customers. Areas like efficient production and skillful financial management are of course critical, but the most successful companies are those that not only maintain focus on their customers’ needs, but offer products or services that directly address those needs.
I’m grateful for… This profession, which affords an unparalleled amount of intellectual freedom and flexibility, and allows me to interact with some of the world’s brightest faculty colleagues and students!
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.