Reach of Research
A two-sided coin, the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration leads
the way in both quality education and outstanding research. The latter often
receives less exposure, but is no less critical.
Research fuels the success of students, faculty, communities, and the College.
It attracts the finest educators to teach at the NCoBPA. It creates a platform for
students and faculty to collaborate. It invites leading scholars to inspire
students through seminars and lectures. It grows into transformational
programs across the region.
“Research constitutes a core mission of flagship universities and can bring
about discoveries that have major societal impact,” says Dr. Chih Ming Tan,
NCoBPA Associate Dean of Research.
Dr. Tan explains that career advancement for scholars — in the form of
promotions or tenure — is largely dependent on research productivity.
“To the extent that we cultivate and nurture a research environment, we
simultaneously strengthen our ability to recruit and retain the most talented
professors at UND. He adds, “And, naturally, we want our students to be trained
by the best!”
There is a personal dimension to this issue as well. In the vast majority of cases,
people who become scholars could have chosen to pursue other lucrative
careers, but they instead chose to dedicate a significant number of years
toward completing a doctoral degree.
Dr. Tan says, “This tells us that these are people who find deep fulfillment in the
creative process, the freedom to pursue discoveries, and the opportunity to
share their work. They are truly passionate about pushing forward the
intellectual frontier in their subject areas. The enthusiasm they bring to students
is infectious and directly contributes to student outcomes.”
“And that is why it is important for us to build and sustain a strong research
culture at UND S it is a key ingredient in persuading others to join our
community and to invest in our success just as we invest in theirs,” states Dr.
Each year, NCoBPA alumni throughout the world recognize the impact of
research and graciously provide their support.
One way they do this is by supporting seminars and lectures, which bring top
researchers to campus to interact with faculty and students.
Sponsored by UND alumnus Paul Korus, the College’s Korus Seminar Series in
Economics and Finance has, for nearly a decade, featured speakers from
University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, the International
Monetary Fund [IMF\, the Federal Reserve, and other well-known organizations.
Korus and fellow alumni Jim Williams and Rick Burgum, have also funded a
distinguished lectureship series that allows the College to welcome eminent
scholars in economics to give public lectures at UND. Those scholars have
included macroeconomist Dr. Robert Hall of Stanford University and health
economist Dr. Janet Currie of Princeton University.
Seminar and lecture participants spend the day learning about recent
discoveries. In the process, those from outside of North Dakota become more
familiar with the NCoBPA’s research efforts.
“These seminars connect our faculty and students to the cutting edge of
research in their disciplines and facilitate the active exchange of ideas,” says Dr.
Tan. “Alumni support empowers us and our leaders to make an impact and to
take this institution forward.”
Dr. Tan, who is a Page Endowed Chair in Applied Economics, notes the value of
endowed faculty positions. “Wouldn’t it be great if students could learn from the
very professors who wrote their textbooks? From people like Dr. Sean Valentine,
a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor whose textbook on human resource
management is now in its 14th edition.”
These professors bring extensive networks and program management
expertise. The newly-hired Burwell Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, Dr.
Sanjay Goel, is a premiere researcher in the area of family business. Dr. Tan
says, “Dr. Goel will be instrumental in helping us build out our Entrepreneurship
programs, which have seen enormous interest from students.”
Similarly, Drs. Jason Jensen and David Flynn are establishing an applied
research arm of the NCoBPA d the Institute of Policy and Business Analytics
Dr. Jensen, the IPBA’s Executive Director, says, “Our focus is on serving the
state and region by providing study results that inform decision-making.”
The Institute creates opportunities for faculty and students to engage in all
stages of the research process, involving everything from conducting surveys
and focus groups to analyzing existing economic data.
This is where the NCoBPA’s unique competencies in both business and public
administration become pivotal.
An affiliated faculty member for the IPBA, Dr. Tan says, “The NCoBPA has many
key capabilities in data analytics, economic impact analysis, policy and
regulation, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. We know that UND has many
distinguishing strengths in aerospace, autonomous systems, energy, and rural
health, to name a few.”
He describes the IPBA as a connection point between the NCoBPA and the
greater UND community, which gives rise to multidisciplinary, synergistic
effects. Many NCoBPA faculty members participate in grant applications and
publish in peer-reviewed journals related to unmanned aircraft systems and
Dr. Tan says, “The Institute clearly demonstrates the value and impact of our
College’s expertise to UND’s strategic mission.”
Since its inception in 2019, the IPBA has received numerous grants and
research contracts from local and state entities, along with support from
alumnus-donor Paul Korus.
The IPBA’s prominent location in the new Nistler Hall will, according to Dr.
Jensen, “expand research partnerships and collaborations within the College,
across campus, and beyond. We want to make an impact by becoming the goto research center in the state to inform public policy and business decisions.”
Their efforts are already spurring change. The IPBA has connected NCoBPA
faculty with state agencies such as the North Dakota Department of Commerce
and Grand Forks Housing Authority.
They have examined the effects of the COVIDf19 pandemic on workforce
development and labor supply, business sentiment, and demographics.
“Their findings have resulted in white papers that have made their way to state
lawmakers, as well as the executive branch,” says Dr. Tan.
Along with the faculty, research is also opening doors for students.
Dr. Jennifer Stoner, a recently tenured Associate Professor of Marketing and
Morrison Endowed Fellow, actively engages students in her research.
One such student is Rijana Adhikari, who completed her second master’s degree
at UND in May 2022
Originally from Nepal, Adhikari grew up fascinated by her father’s work as a
manager. She would frequently ask him how he became skilled at working with
people of diverse backgrounds. Each time, he would respond, “It comes with
“I want to be you when I grow up,” she told him. Adhikari’s father had no formal
business education, but he and other members of her family encouraged her to
pursue UND’s Master of Business Administration [MBA\ program.
Adhikari, alongside her MBA coursework, served as a Graduate Assistant for Dr.
“She let me know that if I ever wanted to do research on my own, I could,” says
Not until taking a required course in econometrics, however, did Adhikari fully
realize her enjoyment for data analysis. She quickly turned to Dr. Stoner for
consultation, who suggested she explore the Master of Applied Economics and
Predictive Analytics [MSAEPA\ program within the NCoBPA.
Adhikari was immediately drawn to this possibility, accompanied by the
prospect of continuing her work with Dr. Stoner and the Marketing Department.
Shortly after graduating from the MBA program and joining the MSAEPA
program, Adhikari began assisting Dr. Stoner with a study on
anthropomorphism, the application of human features to nonhuman objects. An
example of this marketing phenomenon is the collection of humanized candy
characters for M&M’s, or Mr. Peanut for Planters nuts.
“We are researching how anthropomorphism impacts food consumption,”
explains Adhikari. “We conducted online surveys and observed participants’
eating behaviors in a lab.”
Dr. Stoner and Adhikari are now in the process of submitting their study for
Earlier in the year, meanwhile, Adhikari was given the chance to present their
work at a university-wide event called the Three Minute Thesis [3MT\. UND
students nearing graduation compete for scholarships by summarizing their
thesis projects within three minutes.
The Department of Economics & Finance connected her to another
career advancing opportunity: an internship with the Energy and Environmental
Research Center. There, she spent a summer analyzing the cost of using food
waste to create biofuel.
Reflecting on the MSAEPA coursework, Adhikari says, “I don’t feel limited to only
financial or data analysis jobs. The courses incorporate many computing
programs like STATA, R, and SQL. This broadens my qualifications.”
All of Adhikari’s experiences at UND have expanded her professional network,
strengthened her technical skill set, and clarified her personal goals. She is now
exploring opportunities in analytics, human resources, and research with an
interest in someday returning to school for a PhD in Economics.
As someone who has visited many parts of the world, Adhikari has grown fond
of North Dakota. “I always tell my parents who are still living in Nepal, ‘It’s really
cold outside, but when I enter the NCoBPA, the people are so warm that the
cold outside doesn’t even matter anymore.”
Adhikari says, “Whenever I meet new people, they smile back at me. This is
what makes me want to stay. I love the people here and I love UND.”
From the faculty to the students, every corner of the UND campus is touched
by research. Its reach, further magnified by generous alumni, will benefit
individuals and communities long into the future.