Faculty Fast Five with Marketing Professor Yilong (Eric) Zheng

In this week's edition of “Fast Five: Quick Q&As with Members of the Merrimack Community,” we talk to assistant professor of marketing in the Girard School of Business, Yilong (Eric) Zheng. In his research, Zheng examines how online altruism can be harnessed to create a real-world impact.
Merrimack News

Q1: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
A: It may sound cheesy, but coming to the States was one of the turning points of my life. Back in China, I wasn’t one of the smart kids in school—or so I thought. But when I came to the U.S. for college, things changed. I had wonderful professors who supported me and challenged me to become a better student. It made me want to pursue a career where I could teach and support young adults.

Q2: What was your educational journey? 
A: As an undergraduate, I majored in psychology and minored in statistics before completing a master’s in research methods and statistics and Ph.D. in management and marketing. These fields are related because in the marketing field, we use research and methods from psychology and data analytics. When I tackle projects, I can apply different perspectives and frames of reference, and think more pragmatically.

Q3: Your research involves “pro-social crowdsourcing.” What does that mean?
A: Pro-social crowdsourcing is about harnessing the knowledge and ideas of internet users to solve real-world problems. For example, during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, a website called OpenIdeo.com asked people to contribute ideas on how to reduce the spread of the disease. It’s an interesting topic that I personally love studying.

Q4: What is your best piece of advice for college students?
A: I’d recommend that all students, particularly business students, take courses that provide practical skills, like data analytics, even if they find them challenging. In the real world, you need more than theories or concepts. You’ll be better positioned for success if you can integrate pragmatic skills into your education.

Q5: You’ve been studying wines to earn a certificate as a sommelier. What’s your favorite fun fact about wine? 
A: I learned that the best wines often come from harsh environments, which serves as a great metaphor for life. Just like those little plants, which survive and produce great wine, we become stronger when we overcome difficulties in our lives.

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