Menlo College Professors Discuss Latest Research with OAKtoberFest Community

Menlo College Professors Discuss Latest Research with OAKtoberFest Community

Among the events that took place as part of the 2015 Menlo College OAKtoberFest weekend, three faculty members shared their research with Menlo alumni and parents of current students. Political Science Professor Melissa Michelson, Management Professor Leslie Sekerka, and Marketing Professor Fabian Eggers were the featured speakers. The discussion was moderated by Provost Terri Givens.

Political Science – Professor Melissa Michelson

Professor Melissa Michelson shared her research on voter turnout. Michelson’s books include Mobilizing Inclusion (2012), which describes results from 268 randomized experiments aimed at increasing turnout in low-propensity communities throughout California, and Living the Dream (2014), on immigration policies and undocumented Latino youth. She has a new book due to be published in 2016 on marriage equality. Michelson is currently working with San Mateo County to evaluate their pilot all-mail ballot election. Part of her involvement will include collecting data via exit polls and a post-election telephone survey, both using student research assistants. “I’m so pleased that Menlo College students will have a chance to do academic research,” she said. Michelson also noted her ongoing work to increase participation in Huron, California “the opposite of Atherton,” she explained, “where there is seasonable 40% unemployment.”

Marketing – Associate Professor Fabian Eggers

Associate Professor of Marketing Fabian Eggers began his talk with a reference to the movie Back to the Future, in which the memorable characters Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled to the future – from 1985 to 2015. Their exact arrival date was October 21, 2015. How did the filmmakers in 1989 (the year the movie was released) imagine the year 2015?

The imaginary hoverboards and flat screen televisions with video call functionality in the movie became realities by 2015, whereas self-tying Nikes and men wearing two ties are not so popular — yet.

Regarding innovation, Professor Eggers has been studying the question “What makes firms radically innovative?” with four colleagues from Indiana University, University of Liechtenstein, and Asia University, Taiwan.

Eggers and his team studied a sample of 1,897 firms to see if they could identify strategic orientations that enable companies to be innovative. Their results included a fascinating collection of paths of innovation that depended on the collaborative, daredevil, aggressive, or cautious behavior of the innovators. Eggers used graphs of the team’s findings to illustrate how different behavior patterns lead to radical innovativeness.

Management – Professor Leslie Sekerka

“Although you might think ethics and business are an oxymoron, when I mention to people I teach business ethics, everyone says, ‘we really need that,’” said Management Professor Leslie Sekerka. She recently edited Building Ethical Strength, Ethics Training in Action: An Examination of Issues, Techniques and Development.

Sekerka quizzed the audience, asking, “How many of you think you’re above average ethically?” Almost everyone raised their hands. Sekerka smiled and nodded. “Yes, everyone assumes they’re above average! Scholars have dubbed this phenomenon the ‘Lake Wobegon Effect.’ We tend to over-estimate our abilities and achievements.”

Lake Wobegon is a fictional town that is in the Garrison Keillor’s PBS radio series A Prairie Home Companion. The characterization of the story is that the town is where ‘all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.’ It has been used to describe a real and pervasive human tendency to overestimate one’s achievements and capabilities in relation to others.

Rather than assuming you’re ethical, moral agency means you actually engage in right action throughout your day. “It’s about choosing to value and apply ethics in your regular everyday tasks. This is something that we all can work on improving, at any age,” she said.

Sekerka has recently published a children’s book to start ethical awareness and learning at a much earlier age. Being a Better Bear – What it Means to be Ethical is the first of the series. Sekerka has begun a book tour of community outreach, is creating a children’s reading program, and she is including Menlo students in these activities. She already has plans for her next bear story, which will focus on dealing with ethics and peer pressure.