Katz Doctoral Student Receives Grant to Study Video Game Industry

Christian Hughes, a doctoral candidate in marketing at the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, recently received the EBSCO Answers in Action Grant. The grant is awarded by the American Marketing Association (AMA) to research projects that represent deep interaction and collaboration between academics and industry firms.

With the assistance from the grant, Hughes and her mentor, Vanitha Swaminathan, the Katz School’s Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing, will work in collaboration with Schell Games, a gaming design and development company located in Pittsburgh.

"The research explores the impact of audience diversity on propensity to share positive and negative word-of-mouth. It also examines how companies such as Schell Games can leverage online word-of-mouth shared by social influencers to build awareness and trial for their online games," Swaminathan says.

In addition to the opportunity to gather empirical evidence in marketing, Hughes says she is looking forward to studying the video game industry in depth.

"It is a huge help to have grant money to be able to run experiments. This is a unique grant because it's specifically designed for collaboration in order to gain an industry perspective," Hughes says. "It challenges us to answer the question 'How can we bring theoretical underpinnings to a real-world environment?'"

"Vanitha encouraged me to apply for the grant and the process really took off from there. I submitted a paper on internet bloggers and influencers, which is now under review at the Journal of Marketing. This grant provided me the opportunity to continue that research," Hughes says.

Hughes recently presented her research at the 2018 AMA Winter Academic Conference in New Orleans, where the theme was “Integrating Paradigms in a World Where Marketing is Everywhere.” Her paper “Communicating in a Melting Pot: How Audience Diversity Impacts Word of Mouth Valence” was awarded best paper in the “Connected Consumers and Social Media” theme.

The experience of being recognized with a best paper at the AMA conference is representative of the level of support Hughes has received in the doctoral program.

"I chose to enroll in the Katz doctoral program because it has a great reputation and great placements after graduation," Hughes says. "I am surrounded by a very productive group of people in the program."

Swaminathan says that Hughes has many traits that make her a successful researcher and scholar.

"Christian is a great example of the type of PhD student here at Pitt. She has an excellent skillset in empirical modeling of large data, but she uses it to address meaningful problems with a strong theoretical relevance," Swaminathan says.

At Katz, Hughes has participated in a number of activities. As president of the doctoral student organization, Hughes organizes social and academic events for PhD students across all business disciplines. Hughes has also presented at a number of different conferences, including the 2017 AMA Winter Academic Conference in Orlando, Fla. and 2016 Theory and Practice in Marketing Conference at Texas A&M University.

Hughes received a B.S. and M.A. in Statistics from the University of Pittsburgh. She is expected to graduate with her PhD in 2019, when she plans to join the faculty ranks at a top research institution.