Returning to UNLV is like coming home for the new assistant professor of marketing.
Though assistant professor of marketing Kaiyang Wu was born in China, the double-alumnus considers UNLV home. As a student he thrived in a diverse and inclusive community; now he’s back to teach Global Consumer Behavior to the next generation of Rebels.
Wu earned a master’s degree in hotel management (’14) from the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality and then another master’s degree in economics (’16) from Lee Business School. With urging from his UNLV mentors, he went on to complete his Ph.D. in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Wu’s research interests draw from his different educational disciplines to broadly focus on consumer welfare and understanding how people make varied consumption-related decisions.
What drew you back to UNLV?
This is home, where I feel I belong. Its inclusivity and diversity are second to none. You never feel like you are the minority or the outlier here. Everyone is different. There is a good representation of different ethnicities, genders, and minority groups on campus. You don’t see this often on other campuses across the nation. This makes people feel comfortable being who they are on this campus both as students and employees.
What inspired you to get into your field?
When I worked at a buffet, you would often see consumers keep indulging, even though they know it will make them feel uncomfortable, but the mindset is that they came to eat and to take advantage of everything they can take. I also saw a lot of food waste behavior as well. That triggered me to focus on consumer behavior and specifically to understand different consumer practices and why consumers do things, oftentimes, irrationally.
What is the biggest misconception about your field/job?
I think when I first tell people I study marketing, they think I am a salesperson because I can be quite talkative. Sales is a very important part of marketing, but nowadays marketing is a very interdisciplinary field that absorbs knowledge from different fields — psychology, economics, sociology, statistics, and computer science. It’s much more complicated than sales alone.
Who has made an impact on your professional journey?
For my master’s thesis, I had the good fortune of having (UNLV marketing professor) Anjala Krishen as my external committee member. She completely opened my eyes to the fact that there is much more I can do and there’s much more I needed to learn. At the same time, I was doing an MIS (management and information systems) certificate, and I got to know (professor) Greg Moody who is also a great researcher. Both Anjala and Greg made a big impact in changing my way of thinking, changing my way of doing research, and then they successfully convinced me to pursue my Ph.D. to get more advanced training in terms of research.
What research are you working on right now?
One of my research areas is focusing on consumer product efficacy judgment. My co-author and I have found that when it comes to products like supplements, shampoo, and beauty products … consumers generally believe that the same products are more efficacious for others than for themselves. This is because consumers generally think they are more unique than others. So, whenever they are exposed to the advertised products, they are more likely to think ‘I am the unique person’ and that the product won’t be effective for them.
I am also taking a sociological view to understand different consumption practices, specifically in Vegas. For example, in a working project, I examine how Las Vegans’ participation in Golden Knights games on the Strip helps them enhance their identification with Vegas, while such participation can be constantly interrupted by non-locals in the arena or on the Strip.
What excites you the most about returning to UNLV as a faculty member?
Every time I step on campus, I feel energized. Being in the classroom at UNLV is exciting. UNLV students are taking college classes, taking care of their families, working full-time jobs, but they are still able to manage pursing their education. I get inspiration from students knowing how many tasks they have to accomplish on a daily base. I want to be someone who helps the younger generation in Southern Nevada.
What’s the most Vegas thing you’ve done?
When I first came to UNLV, I was a graduate student here – I was over 21 – so I did go to nightclubs very frequently. But, after one semester, I was quite tired of it.
What’s one thing you think Las Vegas locals take for granted?
How close the Las Vegas Strip and the airport are located to UNLV. I didn’t realize how convenient UNLV is until I left for a few years.
Outside of your research, what are you passionate about?
I like watching sports — hockey, basketball, football, Olympics events like track and field, gymnastics, and swimming. In general, I could watch sports non-stop. Of course, I am a huge fan of our beloved Golden Knights, and I flew back to Vegas to attend the Stanley Cup final 10 days before my qualification exam. While the Knights lost the final, I did pass my exam.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I was a commencement speaker at UNLV in 2014 and I was selected as an Outstanding Graduate in 2016, and I was a student speaker at TEDx UNLV – not trying to brag, but I don’t think you can find many other UNLV alumni who have accomplished all that.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who pretend to know everything. I think it’s very important to tell people you don’t know; it actually helps you a lot, as demonstrated in my TEDx talk.