Thinking Outside the Textbook
Associate Professor of Marketing, Whirlpool Faculty Fellow
When she was growing up, Rebecca Slotegraaf enjoyed playing logic games with her father, a former professor of math.
“He would even show me some of the exercises and problems he created for his college students when I was still in high school,” Slotegraaf says. “I’ve always been interested in what makes things tick.”
Before joining the Marketing Department at Kelley in 2000, Slotegraaf tracked customer satisfaction data for the automotive industry. The job was in line with her interests, but she soon became more interested in what caused the data to come out as it did. “You get to a certain point where you’re getting a customer satisfaction rate of 8.7 out of 10 every quarter. So what do you fix? Is it good, is it bad?”
Joining the Marketing Department at Kelley—a department she calls “one of the best in the country”—has enabled Slotegraaf to pursue her research interests, which include the short- and long-term value of marketing resources and capabilities for new product innovation and product strategies.
“There are no pretenses here; people are just themselves. My colleagues, the students, and the overall environment make the Kelley School a very rewarding place to be.”
Slotegraaf’s research approach essentially involves questioning ideas that are accepted as fact. “If everyone believes a=b, I ask, ‘Are we sure they equal each other? What if we did this—maybe they don’t equal each other anymore.’ For me, that’s interesting.”
In 2005, Slotegraaf was named an Eli Lilly Faculty Fellow and received the 3M University Relations Faculty Grant in both 2005 and 2006. She was selected as one of Marketing Science Institute’s Young Scholars in 2007, an honor that is awarded every two years to approximately 25 of the most promising pre-tenure marketing academics worldwide.
To teach her undergraduate students new ideas that they won’t find in textbooks, Slotegraaf brings in real-world examples of how companies solve business problems and asks students how they would have handled the situation. Often, students press her for the “right” answer—and that’s when she enjoys challenging them to think more expansively.
“I ask, ‘What if I was to tell you there are four answers here?’ When they get out into the business world, there is no one right answer. They have to consider ‘What do I think is the most important and how can I defend my answer?’ As executives, that’s what they’ll have to do.”
Moments of clarity, when a student suddenly understands an abstract concept, are what make teaching so rewarding, Slotegraaf says.
“When you get to see somebody’s eyes click and they’re like ‘Oh yeah, I just hadn’t thought about it that way before,’ that’s the fun part.”
- Colleagues at Kelley:
“My colleagues in the marketing department are some of the best in the country, and it’s nice because it doesn’t feel competitive here. When someone receives an honor or gets published, we all celebrate for that person.”
- Favorite Kelley School moment:
“The first day in my office, it hit me that I had the flexibility to research all of the topics I was interested in. That was fun.”
- Staying in touch:
“It’s great to hear from former students, and it’s so rewarding when former students tell you how much your class has helped them in their new job.”
- Beautiful Bloomington:
“I love the outdoors so much, and Bloomington is between three gorgeous national forests. There’s just so much beauty surrounding the area, and there are so many different arts and cultural events here.”