Next month one of the Rady School of Management’s first Ph.D. students, Elizabeth Keenan, will graduate from the Rady School’s Ph.D. program. Soon after, she will begin her next position as an Assistant Professor in the marketing unit at Harvard Business School.
Keenan’s background in the natural sciences ultimately led her to become interested in applying for a Ph.D. in the social sciences. Questions she encountered while working in conservation education at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, initially sparked her interest in marketing and decision making. “I noticed that a lot of the efforts we’d been making at the aquarium to encourage individuals to care about the environment and to make actual changes in their daily lives weren’t as effective as we’d hoped. I started to wonder what we could be doing better and how to better motivate individuals to care about those types of things,” said Keenan.
While completing her master’s degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Keenan met Rady School Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Marketing, Ayelet Gneezy, who encouraged Keenan to pursue a Ph.D. “She saw my unique interest in understanding what motivates individuals to make decisions that are better for the environment and better for our society as a whole,” explained Keenan.
Once at the Rady School, Keenan explored and expanded on that very interest through her Ph.D. research, centered on what motivates prosocial behavior. Her dissertation involved looking at the barriers and motivators of prosocial behavior within the contexts of pro-environmental choices, climate change judgements and charitable giving.
According to Keenan, the culture of innovation, collaboration and interdisciplinary pursuit of knowledge at the Rady School enabled her to think more broadly about her research and the effects of its different types of disciplines. Keenan had the opportunity to work with UC San Diego’s Political Science and Psychology departments, as well as with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation as an IGERT Fellow, the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary training program.
“I think [the Rady School] set me up in the best way possible and it really encouraged me to reach my full potential… It is interdisciplinary, has an open-door policy, the faculty are easy to approach and work with, and everybody here is extremely nice and kind,” said Keenan. “When I first started at Rady I was one of just a few Ph.D. students but our program has grown and we’ve really bonded over the last couple of years and in particular the last several months.”
Now, a few short weeks away from graduation, Keenan feels well prepared to begin her Assistant Professor position at Harvard Business School, in part due to the encouragement and support she received at the Rady School to start her research early-on, present at conferences, share her work with the community and network. Upon moving to Harvard Business School, Keenan will start out teaching core marketing classes to first year MBA students each fall. She will also continue her research with Rady School colleagues as well as start research projects with new collaborators from Harvard Business School.
Watch our interview with Keenan and see pictures from her Ph.D. dissertation defense and reception below.
Keenan presents her dissertation defense to a full audience of her committee members, fellow students, family, colleagues and Rady professors.
Keenan’s dissertation focused on the barriers and motivators of prosocial behavior including pro-environmental choices, climate change judgements and charitable giving.
The room cheers as Keenan successfully completes her dissertation defense.
Family, colleagues and Rady faculty congratulate Keenan. First year Ph.D. student Allie Lieberman pictured here with Keenan.
Keenan with her advisor, Ayelet Gneezy.
Keenan and her committee members (L to R) Wendy Liu (Rady School), Richard Norris (SIO) Ayelet Gneezy (Rady School), and On Amir (Rady School).
Family, colleagues, and Rady faculty toast to Keenan.
Lauren Herr is the Social Media Manager for the Rady School. In her free time she can be found snapping landscape pictures and taking advantage of San Diego’s amazing beaches and coffee shops.