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Research on ‘Slacktivism’ opens doors to dream job

UBC Sauder’s rigorous PhD program attracts impactful researchers that drive change in the global marketplace. It prepares students, like Kirk Kristofferson, for ambitious roles, but also provides the framework for academic success in and out of the classroom.

Meet Kirk

Kirk Kristofferson has been producing impactful consumer behaviour research since his days as a PhD student in the Marketing & Behavioural Science Division at UBC Sauder.

Kirk Kristofferson

Back in 2013, Kristofferson co-authored his first paper, on ‘Slacktivism’ - which found that ‘liking’ a campaign on social media may lead to less meaningful support in the real world – in the Journal of Consumer Research. The research garnered positive media attention and helped Kristofferson land a role as Assistant Professor at Arizona State University (ASU).

“At UBC Sauder I was trained to do impactful research and I think we achieved that with this paper,” says Kristofferson. “Non-profit organizations were dedicating significant resources into these types of social media campaigns under the assumption that they led to more meaningful support for the cause.”

“But,” he continues: “We were able to demonstrate they may not be eliciting that support, and could provide insight to non-profits about when and why token support can help them achieve their missions.”

With a family of entrepreneurs and educators, the combination of business and academia was a concept Kristofferson was exposed to throughout his childhood in Gimli, Manitoba


But it took a University of Manitoba (U of M) marketing class with Darren Dahl - now Senior Associate Dean at UBC Sauder and ranked as the second leading marketing researcher in the world by the American

Marketing Association - to spark his interest in consumer behaviour.

“Darren shared his curiosity with me, along with the process that he undertook in his work: Everything from the “less exciting” tasks of data entry to the really cool aspects of experimental design and execution,” recalls Kristofferson. He finished his undergraduate degree in business from the U of M, but it would take eight years in the corporate business world before he would email Prof. Dahl at UBC Sauder and pursue his “love of research”.

Working with world class researchers

Darren Dahl

It’s true that the research Kristofferson wanted to pursue “aligned perfectly” with the work of Katherine White and Darren Dahl in UBC Sauder’s Marketing and Behavioural Science Division, which made them optimal PhD advisors. But it was their encouragement to pursue his own ideas that stood out for Kristofferson.

“The highlight of learning from Darren and Kate, specifically, was that they each have their own style and interests, but both encouraged me to explore the questions that were important to me,” he explains. “We were and are a great team.”

In fact, the PhD program at UBC Sauder is designed to foster tightknit relationships between faculty and students, explains Darren Dahl, professor of marketing and behavioural science at UBC Sauder.

“We have a very collegiate program,” he says. “And we have a hope and an expectation that students will work very closely with faculty and with each other with respect to their ideas and their research.”

It was also during his time at UBC Sauder that Kristofferson was first introduced to the case method - a style of teaching, which differs from the traditional lecturing by using real-world case studies. In one course Kristofferson now teaches at ASU, he says he exclusively uses this method with exceptional results.

“The feedback I receive from my students has been very positive,” says Kristofferson. “Were it not for my training in the case method, I would not be as successful in the classroom.

Opening doors to the world

Kristofferson credits his experience at UBC Sauder and the connection with his advisors with not only the opportunity to obtain his role as an assistant professor at a top research university, but also the potential to develop and build a strong research program.

86% of UBC Sauder PhD grads have secured academic placements

One of Kristofferson’s current research topics is understanding the use of virtual reality technology in marketing, and the impact it has on consumers.

“I would not be where I am today without the time and attention that my advisors and the entire marketing department gave me. Doing my PhD at UBC Sauder was the absolute best decision I could have made.”