Researchers to focus on supply-side consumption and sustainability to drive better consumer choices and business practices
TUCSON, September 22 — Professors Anita D. Bhappu and Sabrina V. Helm have been named PetSmart Associate Professors and co-directors of the Consumers, Environment, and Sustainability Initiative (CESI) within the John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. The Norton School established CESI last year with the goal of becoming a leader in innovative consumer research on sustainable consumption.
The professorships were created in alignment with the UA’s Transformation Initiative in Environment announced last year by Provost Meredith Hay, a strategic priority aimed at furthering the University's excellence and leadership in the environmental field. Diana Liverman, co-director of the campus-wide Institute of the Environment, served on the search committee. “These two scholars are tackling a critical emerging area that bridges traditional consumer research and other sciences, revealing the relationships between consumer decisions and attitudes and their impact on our planet and resources," Liverman said.
PetSmart, Inc., a longtime supporter of the Norton School and corporate partner of the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, established a $1 million endowment — a portion of which funds the CESI professorships — in support of excellence in research and education in the area of retailing and consumer sciences. "We believe in recruiting and retaining top talent at the UA, and both Dr. Bhappu and Dr. Helm are exactly the type of exemplary professors we had in mind when establishing our endowment,” said Neil Stacey, PetSmart's senior vice president of human resources.
"Dr. Bhappu and Dr. Helm bring different strengths to this initiative, and both have made substantial progress in taking CESI from an idea to a reality," said Norton School director Soyeon Shim, citing Helm's research on consumer water consumption and Bhappu's research on research on consumer engagement in agritourism.
Their work also exemplifies the collaborative nature of research at the Norton School, Shim said, noting that current CESI partners include UA scholars from the College of Engineering, the Water Resources Research Center and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Both professors are also affiliated with the UA’s Institute of the Environment and are working with the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRise) to explore consumer attitudes toward solar energy.
"Academic research and corporate interest in sustainability has focused mostly on business strategies, products and technologies. What's missing is the voice of the consumer – the human factor and demand-side perspective," said Helm. "We started CESI to fill this void, help consumers make more informed choices and motivate them to improve their quality of life without compromising the ability of other consumers and other species to flourish, today and in the future." CESI also aims to help organizations implement sustainable business practices based on scientific data on consumption of sustainable goods, services and natural resources, Helm said.
About Dr. Anita Bhappu
Chair of and an associate professor in the Retailing and Consumer Sciences Academic Program of the Norton School, Bhappu is also a research fellow of the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing. Her expertise is in conducting consumer research to develop, evaluate and improve business strategies, as well as in researching ways for work teams to better manage their diversity. Bhappu earned a B.S. in chemical engineering and went to work for Procter & Gamble before returning to the UA to earn her Ph.D. in management from the Eller College of Management. She was on the business school faculties at Southern Methodist University and Georgetown University prior to joining the Norton School in 2007.
About Dr. Sabrina Helm
An associate professor in the Retailing and Consumer Sciences Academic Program at the Norton School with a joint appointment in the Department of Marketing at the Eller College of Management, Helm's research focuses on strategies for customer bonding, the value of customer relationships, managing corporate reputation and consumer social responsibility. Helm earned her Ph.D. in business administration at Düsseldorf University, where she also served as a faculty member before serving as a visiting scholar at the Thunderbird School of Global Management and earning a tenured professorship at Witten/Herdecke University. Helm joined the Norton School in 2008.
About the Norton School
The John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences within The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences houses the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth and Families and the Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research. The Norton School offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in two academic programs: Family Studies and Human Development and Retailing and Consumer Sciences.