Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles of students and alumni of the Pamplin College of Business Executive Ph.D. in Business.

Industry leaders leverage advanced expertise and research skills gained in the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Executive Ph.D. program to tackle some of society’s most pressing environmental, technological, and social issues.

The Executive Ph.D. program, also known as the Ph.D. concentration in executive business research, launched in 2016 to serve experienced executives who seek the advanced knowledge and skills needed to conduct high-quality research on critical emerging issues facing the business community and the world at large. The hallmark of the Executive Ph.D. program is its part-time format — a unique opportunity that attracts students with a variety of career goals.

Advancing positive change through the prism of business education is a motivator for many Pamplin Executive Ph.D. candidates — including third-year program candidate Richard Stuebi.

A seasoned energy industry executive, entrepreneur, and consultant, Stuebi is a senior fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University and lecturer on energy and sustainability at the Boston University Questrom School of Business.

It was the desire to engage business students in environmental stewardship through his teaching and research that spurred him to pursue an Executive Ph.D. in business at Virginia Tech.

“Having taught several MBA and undergraduate classes at Boston University, I learned that I quite enjoy teaching, and the students have been very engaged. As a result, I have reshaped my ambition: In the classroom as well as with research, I am committed to advancing the frontier of understanding and educating the next generation of leaders who will combat climate change by decarbonizing the global energy sector,” Stuebi said.

Richard Stuebi headshot
Richard Stuebi. Photo courtesy of Richard Stuebi.

Stuebi’s research centers on better understanding how consumers make decisions that have substantial environmental implications.

“My research explores the antecedents that affect how consumers perceive and judge options that require tradeoffs between economic and environmental concerns, aiming to identify ‘nudges’ that marketers and policymakers might employ to induce choices that have lower environmental impact,” he said.

“Historically, the energy sector has been very focused on the supply side — optimizing operations and minimizing costs both for competitiveness and profitability. With that focus for over a century, relatively little insight has been accumulated on consumer behavior relative to energy choices, many of which have important ramifications on carbon emissions that drive climate change.”

He noted that in most business schools, energy and sustainability curriculum and research are nascent and cited the immense opportunities available to engage students, faculty, and industry leaders in these efforts.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing – also known as socially responsible or sustainable investing – has been the focus of Executive Ph.D. candidate Stuart Urban’s research in the program.

A full-time lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business, Urban has an extensive professional background in software engineering, research, and development in the private and public sectors.

Urban said his research examines “the growing movement toward ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ whose proponents believe that profit should be balanced with responsibilities the firm has to employees, customers, communities in which they operate, the environment, and society at large."

He highlights the growing role ESG investing plays in this new approach and the host of potential research and instructional opportunities under the ESG umbrella.

Stuart Urban headshot
Stuart Urban. Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins University.

Technology — specifically artificial intelligence and its effects on privacy, corporate accountability, and similar issues — represents another arena that is ripe for exploration through the business education lens.

The research of Jeremy Fei Wang, Executive Ph.D. candidate and associate professor of management and information systems at Flagler College, focuses on this charge.

Drawing on his diverse experiences in higher education, information technology, and management consulting, Wang’s research spotlights artificial intelligence-powered recommendation agents, which are personalized and advice-giving technologies that help customers overcome information overload by filtering incoming streams of information and making recommendations according to the users’ interests, preferences, needs, profiles, historical behaviors, social relationships, and contextual information.

In the e-commerce domain, recommendation agents help customers reduce uncertainty about buying products or services online and improve the quality of decision making, resulting in measurably higher sales performance and customer retention.

Recommendation agents have also been widely by online marketplaces like eBay; digital content providers Netflix and Spotify; news aggregators like Apple News; video and photo sharing platforms YouTube and Instagram; micro-blogging services like Twitter; and emerging information content platforms that combine content creation, aggregation, distribution, and live streaming. 

Jeremy Fei Wang headshot
Jeremy Fei Wang. Photo courtesy of Flagler College.

“This is an exciting research area,” he said, “and my dissertation is the first attempt in the information systems discourse to link recommendation agents design artifacts, affordances, and outcomes with user continuance intentions.”

Wang presented his paper, “An Affordance Perspective of RAs 2.0: Theorizing The New Generation Of Recommendation Agents,” at the leading Americas Conference on Information Systems in 2021, which won the Runner-Up TREO Paper – TREO Chair’s Award. He was also nominated by Pamplin’s Department of Business Information Technology to participate in the prestigious 2021 International Conference of Information Systems Doctoral Consortium where his dissertation proposal, titled “Essays on the New Generation of Recommendation Agents (RAs 2.0): An Affordance IT Design Perspective,” received accolades from conference participants.

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Written by Barbara Micale and Alexa Briehl

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