Glam Grads Q&A: Rhia Catapano

April 11, 2016, 1:57 a.m.

Rhia Catapano is a first year Ph.D. student in the marketing department at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. For this edition of the Glam Grads series, The Daily spoke with Catapano about her marketing research and the transition to Stanford life.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): Can you tell me a little about your Ph.D. experience?

Rhia Catapano (RC): [I’m involved with] behavioral marketing, [which] basically is a type of research about consumers and the decisions they make and why they make those decisions. In a lot of ways, it is really similar to psychology related to choice. So, the research I have done recently, a lot of it relates to happiness of choice. For example, we have one project where we are looking at how to make happiness longer after an experience.

TSD: Does this research deal a lot with big data analytics and behavioral economics or more with the psychological aspects?

RC: My department in particular is more psychology based, and less big data, and we do a lot of experimental manipulation in order to isolate certain variables, rather than using big data, where it is a little more correlational and it is hard to isolate what exactly is happening.

TSD: Is there anything that has particularly surprised you in your research?

RC: I think that the findings of the research have surprised me less than how difficult it is sometimes to conduct the research. Because a lot of the things we are working with, small manipulations, cause sometimes big changes. It is sometimes very challenging finding ways to manipulate very minor aspects of the situation and see how it can entirely change the way people react in that situation. In terms of findings, a lot of it comes from my own intuitions on what might be true about the world, and I haven’t found anything really surprising in that regard yet.

TSD: How did your time in Korea and New York impact your decision to focus on marketing?

RC: After college, I wanted to travel and take a little bit of time to figure what I wanted in my career. So I decided to move to South Korea to teach English, largely because it would give me an opportunity to travel and think about what I really wanted without being in a really high pressure situation and committing to anything for too long. And I found that, while I was teaching, that I enjoyed it overall, [but] it wasn’t as intellectually stimulating as much as I wanted. And I was surprised at the extent in which I miss being in an academic environment and being with people who had interesting people in the word. So while I was in Korea, I decided to start volunteering in a psychology lab in Korea. I really enjoyed it and had done research during my undergrad, which led me to apply to Ph.D. programs in both psychology and marketing. I ended up deciding that Stanford had the best researchers for me to work with and came here.

TSD: Has Stanford surprised you in many ways?

RC: So something I have been really happy about here is how I think, in a lot of places for graduate school, people spend a lot of time with only people in their own department, who have very similar interests and are working with very similar research topics. But something I am seeing at the business school at Stanford is that we have a bunch of different departments under the umbrella of the business school that do totally different and unrelated research. But, because we are under the umbrella of the business school, we spend a lot of time together. So a lot of my best friends are from different departments and are using different methodologies and answer different questions from mine. I had the opportunity to make friend with these people thanks to the GSB.

TSD: Is there a lot of interaction with the other schools, like the School of Engineering?

RC: There’s not a lot of interaction necessarily with the other graduate students, except for in the psychology department. Because my research is so similar to social psych. research, we take a lot of classes in the social psychology department. I know a handful of students in psych. But overall, the business school doesn’t interact that much with other graduate schools.

TSD: A more fun question: Where do you like to hang out around Stanford?

RC: Usually graduate students hang out in apartments … That’s so lame, hanging out at Kennedy. Yeah, my favorite place to hang out is the common room in the graduate dorm, because that is a nice place to organize things with groups of friends you know and have a low key situation to have dinner and hang out with people.


Contact Christina Pan at [email protected].

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