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Student Spotlight: Annika Abell, Marketing Doctoral Student, Heading to University of Tennessee to Teach, Conduct Research

By Keith Morelli

Annika Abell

TAMPA (December 5, 2018) -- With a background that includes founding a digital marketing agency and more than a decade as a graphic designer in Germany, Annika Abell left it all behind for academia. Now, she focuses her energy on sensory marketing, food consumption and digital marketing topics as a doctoral student about to graduate from the Muma College of Business and start a new career as educator and researcher.

Though she will walk the stage at the commencement ceremony in 2019, she’s already signed a contract to be an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, a PhD-granting, flagship university. It’s quite an accomplishment for the native of Frankfurt, Germany. And for the Muma College of Business, which places a priority on placing doctoral graduates at PhD-granting institutions.

“I wanted to land a position in a university that values and supports high-quality research and has a collegiate atmosphere,” Abell said. “Hence, I was certainly thrilled to land a job at a prestigious PhD-granting university. I am definitely interested in working with PhD students and helping them along their journey.”

Abell will begin her teaching and research duties in Knoxville in the fall of 2019. It’s the latest turn in a journey that included trips to the United States for internships and exchange programs during her undergraduate career at the Stuttgart Media School in Germany. In 2012, she began classes at Valdosta State in Georgia seeking an MBA.

“I lived with a family there and my host father, who is a chemistry professor, suggested I should look into PhD programs,” she said. “After talking to some of the marketing faculty members at VSU, I decided to apply to several schools in Florida – it was all a very spontaneous decision and a fast process.

“I took the GMAT in November, applied in December and had interviews in March,” she said. “USF seemed like a great option. I visited the school for a day by myself just to get a feel for it. I could really see myself working here. I also liked that, in the interview, the faculty highlighted the fact that there are faculty members doing research in all different kinds of areas related to marketing, such as consumer behavior, quantitative modeling, supply chain and strategy. This is great for PhD students who are not 100 percent sure what their passion and research area would be.”

Abell settled on sensory marketing and began research guided by Dipayan Biswas, whose cutting-edge work on the topic is widely cited and quoted in journals and the media around the globe.

“I came in with a specific interest in social media and digital marketing but took the first year to explore different topics,” Abell said. “The program at USF is structured in a way that allows you to work with different faculty members and explore different research areas that you might be interested in. I don’t think I would have explored sensory marketing if I had not started working with Dip Biswas and I am glad I did.

“All of the research projects I am involved in are investigating food choices in regard to healthy or unhealthy foods,” she said. “This is an exciting topic because everyone can relate to it – we all make multiple food choices every day. Additionally, with my background in digital marketing and graphic design, I enjoy investigating how people react to images, colors, brand logos and symbols.”

While she currently teaches a digital marketing course at USF, Abell says about 80 percent of her time is spent doing research.

“I would describe myself as a researcher,” she said, “however, I enjoy teaching a lot. In general, the nice thing about the academic career is the variety of tasks you are working on every day related to research, teaching and service to the department and to the discipline. It definitely doesn’t get boring.”

She has accomplished quite a lot over her years here. She was a finalist for the Marketing Management Association Outstanding Teacher-Scholar Doctoral Student competition this year and earned the Muma College of Business Doctoral Student Research Award for three consecutive years.

Her work has been recognized beyond USF. She has received two grants from the Association of Consumer Research for her work related to economically underprivileged consumer groups, represented USF at the American Marketing Association Sheth Foundation Doctoral Consortium at the University of Iowa and was a finalist for the International DLG Sensorik Award for young researchers.

So, Abell will finish up her work here over the next few months and head to Knoxville, for what she hopes will be a long-term commitment.

“In 10 years, hopefully I’ll still be in Tennessee, if I can make tenure there,” she said. “In 20 years, we’ll see. I usually don’t like to plan so far ahead. Time flies by quickly enough.”