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Darla Moore School of Business

Ph.D. graduate accepts “dream job” upon leaving the Moore School

May 28, 2020

Ph.D. May 2020 graduate Sotires Pagiavlas said that he has wanted to be a professor since he began writing and presenting research papers in elementary school.

Growing up, Pagiavlas’ mother constantly encouraged him to communicate his love for research and new ideas, while his father, a marketing professor, told him he had the aptitude for scholarly work. Pagiavlas then found himself extremely interested in marketing courses as an undergraduate business student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was permitted to take two methods-related Ph.D. seminars during his undergraduate studies with Jeff Edwards, a UNC Belk Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior, and Pagiavlas said he “loved everything about those courses.”

“Once I realized I could understand and enjoy the quantitative aspect of scholarship, I knew that a Ph.D. in marketing would be ideal for me,” said Pagiavlas, who completed his Ph.D. in business administration with an emphasis in marketing.

After applying to several Ph.D. programs, Pagiavlas was elated to receive his acceptance to the Moore School’s Ph.D. program.

“The Moore School’s marketing faculty were very well-regarded by people whose guidance I valued, and they were willing to look beyond some of the weaker aspects of my application [of not having previous professional experience or an advanced degree],” Pagiavlas said. “The warmth they showed, the welcoming energy they shared and the belief in me they conveyed each convinced me that the Moore School would be the perfect place for me to study the type of topics I was interested in.”

As part of the Ph.D. program, Pagiavlas has spent the past five years researching product and service failures and how consumers respond to them.

“I am no stranger to failures, so it’s a bit poetic that my dissertation research is focused on examining how consumers respond to product and service failures, specifically in digital environments,” Pagiavlas said. “My topic arose naturally from the issues I was interested in investigating: consumer compliance to product recalls and the assistance service-seeking consumers provide to one another on online forums.”

Pagiavlas explained his dissertation topic with the example of car recalls. More than 50 million vehicles are recalled in a given year, but everyone knows individuals who will “roll the dice, knowingly or unknowingly,” and choose not to comply with the recall.

“Consumers who drive these recalled cars, either because they are unaware they’ve been recalled or because they don’t deem the issue serious enough to address, place everyone in danger,” Pagiavlas said.

However, Pagiavlas’ research has found that new digital marketing measures to advertise the importance of these vehicular recalls have prompted a positive change among consumers. 

“My first dissertation essay finds that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s digital marketing efforts may have improved consumer compliance to recalls by 6.4 percent annually,” he said. “This translates to the prevention of potentially hundreds of accidents, each of which has an average economic cost of $14,000. When you consider that there are more than 950 product recalls in the U.S. auto industry in an average year, the contribution of this digital initiative to public welfare is very meaningful.”

Using skills and methodologies he learned from several courses he took early in his Ph.D. program, Pagiavlas said the “cross-pollination” of coursework across departments that Moore School Ph.D. students are encouraged to pursue has put him in a “fantastic” position to thrive in academia.

Eager to continue developing and sharing his research, Pagiavlas has accepted an assistant professor of marketing position at The Pennsylvania State University beginning in fall 2020. He hopes to pursue meaningful projects and to “try to convince some undergraduate students that marketing is an exciting field to study.”

Pagiavlas said he is grateful for the Moore School faculty’s constant encouragement during his Ph.D. coursework.

“I have felt tremendously supported at the Moore School during moments in which friends of mine at other universities have felt isolated,” he said. “The most prominent example is from a few years ago when I was in a bit of a precarious position with my research progress. My now-co-advisor, Kartik Kalaignanam, took on a tremendous amount of responsibility to mentor me through my time in the program when he was under no obligation to do so. His support and patience, along with that of Felipe Thomaz [former Moore School faculty now at the University of Oxford] and [Moore School faculty members] Manpreet Gill, Sungsik Park and Paul Bliese, eventually culminated in me landing my dream job. While these types of experiences are rare for Ph.D. students, they’ve luckily typified my time as a Moore School student.”

-Erin Mooney


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