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My Smith Journey

Ceren Kolsarici

Associate Professor & Ian R. Friendly Fellow of Marketing
Joined Smith School of Business faculty in 2009

Ceren Kolsarici

My journey to Smith began in August 2008, in San Diego. I was in the fifth and final year of my PhD studies at McGill University and was attending the American Marketing Association (AMA) conference. The conference is the largest recruitment event for marketing academics, the place where all graduating PhD students and hiring schools meet for first-round interviews. My AMA schedule was quite busy; I ended up doing 25 interviews over the course of three days. It was tough and tiring but, more importantly, exciting because I knew how important those three days were for the start of my career.

I was pretty clear what I was looking for in an academic setting: a school that supports and rewards high quality research and teaching, and one that has distinguished students who would challenge and push me to do better. I was looking for an environment with a continuous motivation to change, adapt, and improve. And being away from my extended family in Turkey, the social aspect was a large factor in my decision. It may sound like a cliché, but I wanted to be among people I enjoyed working with and seeing every day, people with whom I could socially engage and share out-of-work experiences. My other considerations were research funding, teaching load and frequency, the opportunities for involvement in different programs, and benefits, such as maternity leave.

After San Diego, I was invited by 11 universities for campus visits; Smith School of Business was one of them. So in October 2008, I came to Kingston and Queen’s for my campus interview, which was also a great opportunity to get to know the city and school a bit better. Right off the bat, Kingston surprised me. Having lived in big cities my whole life, I have had question marks about moving to a small town, but I found Kingston a very charming community by the water with great restaurants.

I gave a presentation and met the School of Business faculty. I had a pleasant lunch with graduate students, who impressed me with their engagement and ability to talk about research. And Kathy Lewis, in the Dean’s Office, took good care of me, picking me up and dropping me off at the train station, telling me about Kingston and the history of the School, and organizing a real estate tour with an agent. As I would later find out, not every school offers this kind of attention.

By the end of my campus visits, I had multiple offers from universities in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and it was a hard decision to make because it was multi-dimensional. I discussed the offers with my PhD supervisor, Demetrios Vakratsas, who provided good guidance. I sat down with my family and husband Arcan Nalca. While Arcan was already a faculty member at Smith School of Business, he was very clear since the beginning of my job search that I should make the choice that was best for me and that he would support that decision. In the end, I knew that Smith School of Business was the best fit; I would get the research and collegial support that I valued so highly.

So far, the experience has been everything I hoped for. Even though there is no official mentoring program, I find that the more experienced professors are supportive of junior faculty, both within and across departments, and are a source of welcome guidance. At first, for example, I developed a very ambitious teaching plan and dreamed up new marketing electives. A colleague at the school advised me to slow down and prioritize, to take time to build on my teaching skills and publish articles. I would have plenty of time in coming years, he said, to develop new courses. It was wise advice.

I have been able to carve out concentrated time for both teaching and research. At Smith, you can often schedule teaching in only one term rather than both terms, so in winter I teach and spend lots of time with students. That leaves me the rest of the year to focus on three or four research projects.

This is the kind of environment that I was hoping to find when I started my academic career, and I’m grateful to have found it here at Smith School of Business.