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The Business School Faculty Spotlight Series: PURVI SHAH

DEPARTMENT(S): 
June 4, 2021

The Business School Faculty Spotlight Series

We’ve all done it: Picked up an item in our fridge, freezer, or cabinet, noticed that it’s past its expiration date, then promptly thrown it in the trash or compost bin. 

But who determines when food goes bad? Why should it be thrown away when it still looks, smells—and undoubtedly tastes—just fine? 

These are some of the questions that Associate Professor of Business Purvi Shah poses in her multifaceted research on marketing and brand management. 

A native of India and former marketing manager, Shah came to the states in 2013 to expand and share her marketing knowledge. As she puts it, she has “done” marketing and now she teaches it at The Business School. 

“Many of the top brands from the world are in the U.S.,” she says. “It’s really the place to be to specialize in marketing.” 

An active mentee, she has advised more than 100 WPI undergraduate and graduate students since 2014. She enjoys cultivating future managers and focuses on application-oriented instruction involving panel discussions, blogging, and real-world case studies. This helps prompt creative, critical, and reflective thinking, she says, as well as lifelong learning. 

“My goal when I teach is always ‘This person is going to be a manager someday,” she says, pointing out that many WPI students are working professionals. “I love to train budding managers and help give them the skills that they need.”

Her research runs tandem to this; most recently, Shah has focused her scholarly pursuits on the deletion and addition of brands by companies and the disposal of products by consumers. 

When it comes to the latter, expiration dates are not regulated by the FDA, she points out, so there is no uniform standard. And throwing away products that are perfectly safe and edible creates significant waste. In her work, she explores consumer experiences and opinions about expiration dates and the confusion surrounding them. 

Meanwhile, she has analyzed why firms delete brands—for example, Unilever cut its portfolio from 1,600 to just 400 brands in the early 2000s. Of course, companies make these decisions based on financial performance metrics, she explains, but other considerations include consumer needs and preferences and the company’s portfolio strategy and strategic directions and goals (and certain brands not matching these). 

Ever dedicated to service, Shah is otherwise incredibly active on and off campus—everything from teaching case analyses to Swiss exchange students, to doctoral dissertation reviews for the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, to supervising and advising a poster competition where end results were presented at regional and international conferences. She was also involved in the creation of an app for the central Massachusetts Audio Journal, which broadcasts to the visually impaired. 

“I’ve done a lot of cool things at WPI,” she says. “It’s part of why I’ve so enjoyed my experience here.”

And outside of instruction and research? 

“I love to keep learning,” she says. She has taken online courses on everything from knitting, to creating greeting cards, to the science and importance of happiness. As she describes it, “anything and everything that interests me.”

This is especially imperative, she adds, if you have dedicated yourself to teaching others. 

“I believe that teaching is a lifelong learning process,” she says. “When we teach, we learn at the same time. I think that a good teacher not only keeps the ‘fire of learning more’ burning inside her, but also inspires her students to adopt that view toward learning. If one aspires to each, one should never discontinue learning.”

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Other interests: 
--Enhancing marketing thought
--The scholarship of teaching and learning
--The science of thinking 

Publications: 
--Marketing Education Review
--American Marketing Association
--Journal of Consumer Affairs

Learn more about Purvi Shah.

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About The Business School at WPI

As the business school of a premier technological university, The Business School at Worcester Polytechnic Institute integrates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into all of its programs.

Consistent with WPI’s mission of theory and practice, The Business School emphasizes a project-based approach to learning and doing that considers the ethical and social context of everything we do. Our students take advantage of the university’s strong relationships with technology-intensive organizations around the world.

Graduates of WPI’s Business School are prepared to lead at the intersection of technology and business, applying entrepreneurial thinking and harnessing the power of technology and teamwork to solve complex human problems.

Learn more about The Business School.