Where Academic Research Fuels 360-Degree Learning

Brand Story – Pacific University bridges the classroom with the wider world, priming students to bring forth a new wave of solutions.

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At Pacific University’s College of Business, professors draw on their academic research to keep coursework rooted in the real world, enriching classrooms with highly relevant experiential learning.

By leveraging their research projects and professional networks, the school’s faculty give students a three-dimensional education that reflects this moment in time.

“Academic research is advancing at an incredible pace, sometimes outstripping the examples found in textbooks,” says Dr. Lena Cavusoglu, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Pacific University. “Students value the opportunity to engage with current, real-world examples presented by their professors.”

For her social media marketing class, for example, Cavusoglu created a chapter on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to ensure that the marketers of tomorrow are aware of the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of consumer groups—issues not always commonplace in textbooks.

Pacific University Assistant Professor of Operations Management Dr. Hossein Rikhtehgar Berenji agrees: “We’re not just discussing hypothetical scenarios in the classroom. Instead, we’re actively linking our lectures to the world’s pressing problems and business challenges.”

Research-driven experiences that bring lessons to life

When teaching project management and concurrent design and manufacturing, Rikhtehgar Berenji turns to his COVID-19 research, which focuses on the strategic overlapping of production phases that occurred during vaccine development. Instead of simply learning about the concept, students step into a recent case of expedited project management and come to understand the gambles manufacturers take when time is of the essence. 

“This concept without the research has no meaning,” Rikhtehgar Berenji adds. “Students can better envision the challenge or the factors I’m discussing if they are presented with the actual scenario and problem within a specific context, along with strategies for addressing them.”

Pacific University’s College of Business professors bring lessons to life further by calling upon their network of research collaborators—from coinvestigators sharing their experiences to corporate executives dissecting a case study.  

During a chapter on netnography, a qualitative marketing research method focused on understanding the cultures and behaviors of online communities, Cavusoglu brings in her coinvestigator, Professor Robert Kozinets, the founder of netnography, to lead a workshop on the topic: “To learn the method from the person who founded the method is a lifetime opportunity,” she says. 

“This is a very important part of experiential learning,” continues Rikhtehgar Berenji, who often invites industry executives to contribute to the classroom. “Today, the new generation knows how to collect information, and they are coming to universities to get more than that. The value is in starting conversations around business challenges, and we do that by inviting executives and researchers to class.” 

Business as an avenue for social and environmental impact 

Not only does the incorporation of research demonstrate the relevance of business topics, it also debunks misconceptions around the study of business, redefining it as a field in which students can positively impact the world, whether via public health, DEI, operations, crisis management or beyond. 

Take Cavusoglu’s, and co-investigator Prof. Russell Belk from York University, Canada, and their production of “Face Value,” a short film compiling qualitative data that documents the psychological, cultural, and social barriers for people with facial differences, such as a scar or deformity. Recipient of the 2023 Association for Consumer Research Best Film Award, the documentary strives for face equality and gives a platform to people with facial differences who are marginalized and stigmatized within the society.

 “All my work is about giving those communities a voice,” Cavusoglu notes. “Students tell me, ‘We thought we were just going to make people buy more.’ Marketing research does not necessarily have to be all about branding and marketing strategy. It can also be about advocating for consumer wellbeing. Through my research I aim to foster a more egalitarian society with a marketplace that is inclusive.”

While Cavusoglu’s research focuses on creating a positive impact toward DEI and true representation, especially for historically marginalized or stigmatized groups, Rikhtehgar Berenji’s seeks to identify models that boost sustainability, inform related public policy, optimize resource management, and improve farm operations and agricultural productivity. 

“We can use business analytics, operations and project management along with technology to save human lives by utilizing it in humanitarian operations and crisis management” he elaborates. “I think that, more and more, people will see that business school graduates can be helpful in finding solutions that resolve high-level challenges.”

Presenting and tackling real-life scenarios in the classroom helps prepare students to hit the ground running post-graduation, or even before. To solidify their problem-solving abilities, Rikhtehgar Berenji incorporates experiential simulation games that let students resolve dynamic situations related to supply chains and operations management. His proposal, titled “Online (Simulation) Games with Stochastic Factors and New Feedback Structures to Enhance Student Engagement and Learning,” has since received one of Pacific University’s Teaching Advancement and Research Grant in Educational Technology (TARGET) grants. 

The researcher’s approach to teaching—which involves first-hand accounts, guest speakers, case studies, relevant data and new research methodologies—results in a learning experience that bridges the classroom with the wider world, priming students to bring forth a new wave of solutions.

Pacific University Faculty Spotlights

Dr. Lena Cavusoglu Assistant Professor of Marketing

Specialty: Transformative Consumer Research 

Focus Area: DEI, including stigma, bias, misrepresentation and underrepresentation

Research Highlights: 

Face Value
Documenting the psychological, cultural & social barriers for people with facial differences through an award-winning short film

“More-Than-Human Prejudice: Using Netnography to Investigate Perceptions of Algorithmic Bias”
Examining consumer & producer perceptions of fairness, prejudice & bias in platform algorithms

“Extending the Diversity Conversation: Fashion Consumption Experiences of Underrepresented and Underserved Women”
Giving voice to the experiences of female consumers of various races or ethnicities, social classes, buying power, sexual orientations and physical appearances 

Dr. Hossein Rikhtehgar BerenjiAssistant Professor of Operations Management; VP, Colleges, Production & Operations Management Society 

Specialty: Business Analytics & Operations Management

Focus Areas: Humanitarian operations & crisis management; social & environmental responsibility; and pedagogical research

Research Highlights: 

COVID-19 Business Operations & Supply Chains 
Studying the concurrent management of multiple phases of vaccine development;
and the shortage of swabs for COVID-19 testing kits 

Sustainability & Operations Management  
Investigating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; the significant role of a sustainable & efficient food supply chain in eliminating hunger; & agribusiness, specifically optimization via new technologies 

“Online (Simulation) Games With Stochastic Factors & New Feedback Structures to Enhance Student Engagement and Learning” 
Proposing the use of simulation games in learning; recipient of Pacific University’s TARGET grant.

Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.