The world is very complex, and we can’t simplify or wish away all of its problems. We have to face them and be bold, innovative, and creative in how we try to solve things.”
Within a business discipline, John focuses on consumer behavior and well-being, especially as it relates to race. Race often plays a role in consumer interactions, marketing, and accessibility, and studying these topics in their entirety involves understanding how equity and diversity need to factor in. As John explained, meaningfully recognizing the role of race in consumer well-being involves not only acknowledging it but also pulling in lived experiences.
“As a Black woman, I’ve dealt with direct bias throughout my career, so I have a connection to the work I do,” she said. “I don’t see race as just a variable in my research, and I don’t see people of color as just the subject of it—they should be partners in the research process.” Though research on race in the marketplace continues to expand, John wants to focus on how it relates to public policy in her contributions to the literature.
As an expert who began her career in public policy before moving to business, John provides a unique perspective on behavioral topics in the field. While getting her PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, she found that the existing discussion around her research topics focused on consumer well-being as it pertained to individuals. “My training came from a lens of looking at judgments and decisions with a focus on how they could be structured in a way that improves or enhances well-being for the individual,” she explained. “Ultimately, this led to a discussion of societal well-being.”
When you have people doing better, you have a society functioning and operating more optimally as well.”
As her career progressed, John used this understanding of different levels of consumer well-being to take a closer look at race in marketing and consumer behavior.
John hopes to impart an interdisciplinary mindset and critical thinking skills to her Kogod students. She encourages them to take electives outside their major that may answer questions they’re curious about and study subjects such as sociology and anthropology to broaden their perspectives on race and equity issues. The university setting provides opportunities to learn that may not be so easily found later, and John pushes for business students to take advantage of that situation.
“It might not necessarily help you fill out a balance sheet,” John said of these electives, “but it will help you be more effective in terms of operating in society and understanding some of the underlying issues that we have.”Just as pressing is learning to think and ask questions about new information and where it comes from. Both explicit and implicit bias shows up in various ways, and recognizing it as it appears can help students understand the bigger picture.
I emphasize to my students that they should ask questions and not accept things as fact when it’s an opinion.”
“There are so many messages in marketing, in the media, and even in textbooks that are embedded with bias. Always try to be a critical consumer of the information you receive,” John explained.
Beyond teaching her students, John is looking forward to continuing to explore intersections in inequality and how issues like the spread of misinformation impact racial groups disproportionately. “I’m planning on looking at intersectional issues along with race, like gender bias and disparity, as well as how religious perspectives overlay with race and gender,” she said. The lived experiences of a Black woman, for example, are impacted by her race and gender, and John is interested in determining how these experiences relate to public policy and marketing issues.
John strives to put forth research that is both accessible and informative in policymaking and beyond. “My focus has always been on developing research questions that are effective not just from an academic standpoint but also from a standpoint where my insights can be taken into courthouses and statehouses,” she said. “I want to do research that’s influential to people on Capitol Hill and communities as a whole. I want my work to be very accessible in that way.” John’s multi-faceted research and perspective allow her to be a part of decision-making processes that matter to her and help her students pursue the same.