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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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August 12, 2011

Shannon Cummins Receives Presidential Graduate Fellowship

Shannon Cummins, a marketing Ph.D. student at the UNL College of Business Administration, was recently awarded a 2011-12 Presidential Graduate Fellowship by the University of Nebraska. Cummins, who has been recognized for excellence in teaching and research, plans to use the award to assist her ongoing research which examines how board member ties between companies influence those firm’s marketing strategies and performance outcomes.

Cummins will receive a stipend provided through the University of Nebraska Foundation that will allow her to focus most of her time as a fifth year graduate student on her unique research project.

“The recipients of Presidential Graduate Fellowships are among the University of Nebraska’s most outstanding students -- future scientists, teachers and business leaders who are accomplishing extraordinary things in the laboratory, the classroom and beyond,” said University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken. “We are fortunate to have a level of private support that allows us to provide these students an opportunity to devote full time to their academic pursuits. I’m confident we will see great things from each of our fellows.”

Cummins’ research takes an interdisciplinary approach to how competing companies cooperate through networking and shared board members. She believes it’s an under investigated topic in traditional marketing research. Her own interest in the subject was originally sparked during her undergraduate studies in the UNL economics department.

“Dr. Greg Hayden in the economics department introduced me to board member dynamics in undergraduate classes,” said Cummins. “We typically think about firms as being independent especially within industries. There may be a lot of firms competing against one another and you assume that they aren’t cooperating at all. But interestingly, they often have board member ties and relationships to one another. Their ability to share information and communicate with each other to learn things about their marketing environment and their fellow competitors may actually give them the opportunity to cooperate.”

Cummins studied a unique blend of marketing, management and economic topics while at UNL, including being published in the Journal of Economic Issues.

“I never intended for this to become my dissertation but it’s become it. It’s kind of a mix of different disciplines because I’m looking at marketing strategies, I’m looking at management and it’s a bit of a new push in marketing to investigate financial outcomes. Is marketing having an impact on financial incomes? That’s something that marketing is starting to look at but hasn’t really tied it in yet with this idea of connections with board members.”

So far Cummins’ research has suggested that these board member ties between firms can have a positive impact on performance outcomes. The bigger issue for her now is to look at whether this influence through networking actually plays a role in company strategies.

“Probably, it’s these strategies that drive your performance outcomes or at least that is what has always been observed. But are board members influencing those strategies? It’s not that were saying that board members are the Holy Grail but that they may be an asset that hasn’t been fully considered in the past.”

Cummins, who has previously presented research at the American Marketing Educator’s Conference, intends to complete her dissertation in the spring of 2012. She hopes to continue to carve out her unique position in networking research and would like to eventually expand her current research to look at the impact of social media strategies in business and the impact it has on individuals and other types of networks.