Elizabeth Keenan, Ph.D.

Ph.D., 2015

Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School

B.S., Biology – Loyola Marymount University

M.S.S., Marine Biodiversity and Conservation – UC San Diego

Ph.D. Marketing – Rady School of Management, UC San Diego

Why a Ph.D.?

My background in the natural sciences led to my interest in applying for a Ph.D. in the social sciences. Specifically, questions I encountered while working in conservation education at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, sparked my interest in marketing and decision-making. I noticed that a lot of the efforts we had been making at the aquarium to encourage individuals to care about the environment and to make changes in their daily lives were not as effective as we had hoped. I started to wonder what we could be doing better and how to motivate individuals to engage in environmentally friendly practices.

Why did you choose the Rady School?

While I was completing a master’s degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I met Ayelet Gneezy, associate professor of behavioral sciences and marketing at the Rady School, who encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D. She saw my unique interest in understanding what motivates individuals to make decisions that are better for the environment and better for our society as a whole. The Rady School’s Ph.D. program was brand new at the time so there was no program history to go by, but there were exceptional faculty, like Professor Gneezy, whom I knew I might have the chance to work with if I applied.

What was the focus of your research?

During my doctoral studies, I explored barriers and motivators of prosocial behavior within the contexts of pro-environmental choices, climate change and charitable giving.

What was it like collaborating with Rady faculty?

I enjoyed my time collaborating with the Rady School faculty. There is a wonderful cache of talent at the Rady School. I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from the faculty and fellow students, who both challenged and inspired me. The faculty has a welcoming, open-door culture that helped to encourage both asking questions, and learning from the answers.

Most valuable experience at the Rady School?

The Rady School seemed to foster a culture of innovation, collaboration, and interdisciplinary pursuit of knowledge, which was essential in supporting the types of questions I was (and am) interested in. As a result of this openness, I had the opportunity to work with people across UC San Diego. I collaborated with UC San Diego’s Political Science and Psychology departments, as well as with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation as an IGERT Fellow, the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary training program.

un fact about you?

I was a contestant on the Family Feud two years in a row while in middle school.

Post-Ph.D. career?

I am walking in the footsteps of my faculty advisors. I am an assistant professor in the marketing unit at Harvard Business School.

One thing about the Rady School that you didn’t expect?

The endless supply of beautiful sunsets. I grew up in San Diego, so I am no stranger to sunsets, but the Rady School truly has an excellent view. It made working late worth it!

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