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Smith celebrates research and teaching excellence

Posted on January 31, 2024
A group photo of the winners of Smith's 2023 Research Excellence Awards

Kingston, Ont. – Each year, the Smith community gathers to acknowledge and appreciate the exceptional contributions made by the business school's research faculty and students. This month, Smith gathered to celebrate the 2023 Research Excellence Awards.

“Research plays a central role in creating new knowledge that positively contributes to business and society. We are immensely proud of the contributions of our faculty and students and the impact of their work,” said Dean Wanda Costen.

Five faculty and two students were recognized by their peers for their contributions both to and beyond the business school.

Ning Zhang, Commerce ’83 Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Accounting, and previous winner of the New Researcher Achievement Award, was the 2023 recipient of the Research Excellence Award.

Zhang joined the business school in 2010. His research explores the role of information and incentives in financial markets and in firm investment decisions, and has been published in FT50 journals. One of his recent papers with Smith colleague Mike Welker, former PhD student Zheng Liu (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) and Hongtao Shen and Yang Zhao of Jinan (University in China), shed light on the negative impact of earnings management on the environment.

In his acceptance speech, Zhang gave particular thanks to Welker. “Mike has been a constant source of guidance and support in exploring, nurturing my growth, and helping me navigate in this academic research world,” he said. “This award is a testament to our collaborative efforts and serves as a celebration of our shared success.”

Assistant Professor of Management Science and Scotiabank Scholar Guang Li and Assistant Professor of Marketing Nicole Robitaille were both honoured with the New Researcher Award, which recognizes the work of pre-tenure faculty.

Li joined Smith in 2016. Her research interests span revenue management, retail operations, customer choice modelling, and interfaces between operations management and marketing, accounting and finance. Her most recent published work in the Journal of Production and Operations Management investigated optimal contingent free shipping pricing decisions of online grocers.

“The interdisciplinary research journey is an exciting ride, though the real rollercoaster is the review and publishing process,” she said, explaining that the paper took seven years to publish. “Research demands our resilience and pushes us to rediscover our work’s value in tough times…I look forward to facing future challenges with the same perseverance and enthusiasm that this New Researcher Award represents.”

Robitaille, who joined Smith in 2014, is a behavioural scientist whose research lies at the intersection of consumer behaviour and decision making, with a particular focus on discovering ways to improve consumer welfare, marketing and public policy across a variety of domains such as finance, health and sustainability. Her research on the use of behavioural interventions to increase organ donor registration rates was the recipient of a 2023 Financial Times Responsible Business Education Award.

Robitaille praised the encouragement and support she’s received at Smith in the pursuit of her research. “I’ve always felt really supported in doing work that has impact; beyond work that impacts theory – which I hope to do as well – but work that impacts society,” she said. “Without that unwavering support, I don’t know that I would have the success I have today.”

Earning the 2023 Graduate Research Supervision Award was Anthony Goerzen, Sobey Professor of International Business. Goerzen joined the business school in 2010. His nomination was supported by current and former students who described him as a professional mentor, warm personal coach, and inspiring role model.

“While PhD supervision requires a great deal of time and intensity of effort, what I really enjoy about working with PhD students is that they always seem ready to work hard, to go the extra mile to learn and for personal growth. It has been a pleasure to be a part of that effort,” Goerzen said, sharing the honour with his PhD students, of whom he said he is very proud.

Assistant Professor of Digital Technology Gongtai Wang, who joined Smith in 2022, was also recognized for his work with students as the recipient of the Graduate Teaching Excellence Award. He was praised for his patient, clear and supportive demeanour and his willingness to invest time and effort in guiding students in their academic growth.

There is one thing that is more joyful than getting my own research published, which is getting my students’ work published,” said Wang who teaches Advanced Topics in IS Design, Development and Implementation in the PhD program. The more students fail, the more they learn and the faster they become a competent researcher. That is the very idea behind my course design. What I can do for them is make sure that they fail in the right direction.”

Two PhD students were also recognized during the awards ceremony for their work.

Kaylee Somerville was presented with the New PhD Student Research Excellence Award for her work that draws insights from fields such as behavioural economics and psychology to examine the barriers that managers face in being effective leaders. She and her supervisor Julian Barling are co-authors on a forthcoming chapter, The Psychology of Organizational Leadership, in An Introduction to Contemporary Work Psychology.  

Rounding out this year’s awards was PhD candidate Alyssa Grocutt. Supervised by Julian Barling, Grocutt was the recipient of last year’s New PhD Student Research Excellence Award. This year, she was recognized with the PhD Student Research Excellence Award for her continued work on workplace safety. Her research in this area was also recently recognized with the Minerva Rising Star of the Year Award.

“When you are a top research institution, what you’re also doing is directing, preparing and producing the future of the academy. There is no greater honour and no greater responsibility,” said Costen. "We are very proud of the work of our graduate students with support from their faculty colleagues.”