Meet Incoming Finance Professor Omer Unsal
Incoming Assistant Professor of Finance Omer Unsal received a bachelor of economics in his native Turkey, studied six months as an exchange student in Portugal while in college, and has done graduate studies in Michigan and Louisiana. He completed his MBA at Western Michigan University and expects to receive a Ph.D. in financial economics this spring from the University of New Orleans. His main research area is corporate governance, focusing on politically connected CEOs and board members.
How did you get from Turkey to Michigan and then to New Orleans?
During my senior year, at Yildiz Teknik University in Istanbul, Turkey, I was chatting with my department chair about pursuing a graduate degree abroad. She suggested I apply to Western Michigan University, where she did her master’s degree in the 1980s. At first, I hesitated given the long distance between Turkey and the U.S., because if I studied in Europe, I could easily fly to Turkey any time to see my parents or friends. On the other hand, the U.S. has some of the best colleges in the world that could provide me with more opportunities for the future.
By the time I finished graduate school, I realized that I enjoyed teaching and research and especially being a part of academia. I feel like I belong on a college campus. My finance professor, who obtained her Ph.D. from the University of New Orleans, suggested I continue a Ph.D. program in finance. I made my applications, and her recommendation helped me to receive a graduate assistantship at the University of New Orleans.
Your dissertation consists of two essays. What conclusions have you drawn?
My dissertation is basically an investigation of firm-level lobbying from different dimensions and examinations of the multi-billion-dollar lobbying spending that U.S. firms conduct to generate firm value by building political capital.
The first essay is titled “Corporate Lobbying, CEO Political Ideology and Firm Performance,” published in the Journal of Corporate Finance. I found that Republican-leaning CEOs are lobbying champions in terms of amount they spend as well as number of bills they sponsor. However, when I measure the firm performance, I found that lobbying activity does not benefit the firm value for Republican firms, while Democratic firms and apolitical firms (firms with CEOs who do not make political donations) do receive some benefit from lobbying.
The second essay is “Corporate Lobbying and Labor Relations: Evidence from Employee-Level Litigations.” I asked whether or not firms with greater number of employee litigation suits are more likely to sponsor bills about labor-related issues. I found that litigation may be a determinant for firms, which drives them to lobby to change policy proposals.
What’s your classroom style?
I believe that linking the topics to real-life examples is essential. Most students would like to know how to apply class topics to the real world. I think it is great that Merrimack has a trading lab, which provides tons of opportunities to those who would like to know more.
What interests of yours may surprise your students?
I really like farming. I lived in New Orleans for more than four years, where you can grow vegetables any time throughout the year. I also have a deep interest in space and astronomy and I like everything about planetary systems.
What attracted you to Merrimack College?
I truly appreciate that Merrimack realizes how important it is for students to gain necessary skills during their academic experience to produce career-ready students and focuses on professional development. I like programs like the Merrimack Financial Group, which creates student-alumni engagement, or the Financial Capability Center that gives students real-life experience and prepares them for the finance industry while contributing to the local community.