Making a mark in marketing research
For 20 years, the MSMR program has produced highly coveted graduates ready to succeed
Chris Wallace was promoted from analyst to manager within six months of joining VHA, the nation’s largest health care group purchasing organization. Less than four years later, the company named him director of market research. Such rapid corporate climbs are common for graduates of UT Arlington’s master of science in marketing research program.
“The MSMR program gave me knowledge and skills that nobody else had,” he said. “It enabled me to do things nobody else could.”
The research bug bit Wallace as a UT Arlington undergraduate business student. He enjoyed research so much that he took an analyst job with a small research company after earning his bachelor’s degree. He further delved into the tools and techniques of marketing research by enrolling in the MSMR program a few years later.
He has applied the knowledge gained in many facets of business—marketing communication, product management, strategic planning, product development, customer satisfaction—and he cites three professors as instrumental in his education: Mark Peterson, Susan Kleiser and Glen Jarboe, who recently retired.
“Dr. Kleiser provided the strong foundation of statistical techniques that are the cornerstone of advanced market research. Dr. Jarboe showed me how to apply these techniques to real-world marketing. And Dr. Peterson challenged me to look at problems from different perspectives.”
The MSMR mixes the theoretical and practical aspects of marketing research, making it almost a one-of-a-kind offering, said Director John Bassler, who organized a reception in October celebrating the program’s 20-year anniversary.
“We have a much higher proportion of teaching faculty who have significant experience in the marketing research industry,” Bassler said. “We also include components of real-world experience during the students’ time in the program.”
These components feature real clients working with students in courses or the Marketing Department’s Research Center on a range of projects, including a brand personality study for TXU residential electricity customers, a Hispanic markets qualitative study for leasing customers with Ford Motor Co. and an Internet competitive intelligence project and brand personality project with Fossil.
Bassler noted that most large corporations rely heavily on marketing research to stay ahead of the competition, either by supporting an in-house marketing department or spending big bucks for marketing research. MSMR graduates are prepared to work in either arena because of their experience with projects designed jointly by faculty and corporate partners.
Students serve 960 hours as interns to qualify for a degree. The effort pays off, Bassler says, as every MSMR graduate has found a career in marketing research.
That includes the first two, Janette Giombetti Ghedotte and Kris Kumar, in 1991. Ghedotte has worked for Cohen Homes in Michigan for 13 years. Kumar is senior director of global consumer insights for Burger King and serves as the fast-food chain’s representative on the MSMR program’s advisory board, which reads like a who’s who of corporate giants and major marketing firms.
Alumnus Chien Le chose the program because it was among the few offered in the United States. Le works with Verizon Wireless as planning and analysis manager for customer relationship management.
“The program helped me greatly in my career—it’s how I got my first job,” Le said. “I particularly learned a lot from Glen Jarboe. He taught more about actual practice rather than theory only.”
Wallace continues to utilize the skills he learned in the program. VHA introduced segmentation strategy, dealing with how to meet the unique needs of distinct customer groups, shortly after he joined the company. His training in data analysis helped other employees understand customers and develop customized marketing approaches. He also helped company managers decide how to develop optimal products. To smooth the process, Wallace introduced discrete choice modeling.
When the company needed to develop new services, he provided ideas, concept testing and positioning strategies. When the company needed sales, he identified targets and developed messaging. When the threat of new competitors prompted the company to develop a fresh strategic direction and focus more on its core business, he helped senior leadership understand customer perspectives concerning the marketplace and VHA’s role in it.
“Needless to say, the MSMR program has been paramount in my career,” Wallace said. “Getting the MSMR degree was one of the best career decisions I’ve made.”
— Kim Pewitt-Jones