World-class High-caliber Speakers Tapped for Class

Thinking outside the box is an idiom often used to highlight a process or idea that is out of the ordinary. One faculty member greatly expanded the size of the standard box before developing a teaching plan for his virtual class.

Marketing Professor and Marketing Department head, Rajiv Vaidyanathan took the basic premise for his Consumer Behavior three-hour night class and transformed it from standard lecture by him or an occasional guest speaker to 11 weeks of dynamic class interaction featuring a different extraordinary global expert each week—including a Nobel Prize winner! (See the list of speakers at the end of the article.)

“I decided to flip the classroom structure and introduce students to a range of topics in consumer behavior presented by these academic and corporate professionals who are absolute leaders in the field.

“I also wanted the class format to include true interaction—with students asking questions and lively dialogue with the speakers.”

But the class didn’t just involve gaining valuable insight from these icons. There was quite a bit of reading needed in preparation for each upcoming topic.

“Many of these speakers are authors of bestselling books, and I wanted to make sure the students were knowledgeable consumers of the information the speakers would be providing.”

The class was divided into ten groups, and each group read a book by one of the authors who was presenting to the class. Each student group presented to the class their book’s content, which allowed all students in class to receive exposure to these ten books authored by the speakers. This reading was in addition to the two class textbooks plus other reading required on the topic.

“The students found it an intense and effortful experience, but most said it was worthwhile,” said Vaidyanathan. “Several students said they did more reading in this class than any other class they had taken in their college careers, but they felt they got a lot of value out of it.”

To get his field of 11 speakers, Vaidyanathan tapped into the many relationships that he has made with outstanding marketing experts throughout his career. He has been serving as the executive director of the Association for Consumer Research, the largest global scholarly organization in the marketing field, as well on the founding team of the Applied Behavioral Science Association. He also blindly approached other experts to ask for their time and assistance.

“I explained that I was an admirer of their work and told them how their work resonated with me and would resonate with the students. This was enough to get them to agree.” 

Bonus! Two of the 11 experts are LSBE alumni—Evan Williams and Gary Ludwig.

It was quite a feat to get this slate of world-class speakers. “Typically, many speakers of this caliber have speaking fees of thousands of dollars. I was quite surprised by everyone’s graciousness to speak free of charge.”

Unfortunately, the opportunity for this type of class model was only an option for last Spring semester.

“I have multiple sections of Consumer Behavior this Fall, and I cannot expect such high profile folks to speak in multiple classes or donate their time again.

I will find other ways to innovate in my classes, but I think this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these students.”

Guest Speakers

Dr. Richard Thaler
2017 Nobel Prize Winner (Economics)
Author of Nudge and Misbehaving

Also with Piyush Tantia, Chief Innovation Officer at

Dr. Samantha Cross
Professor of Marketing

Iowa State University

Dr. Michael Shermer
Author of Why People Believe Weird Things, The Believing Brain, and many others

Founder of the Skeptics Society

Dr. Darren Dahl
Professor of Marketing

University of British Columbia

Dr. Brian Wansink
Professor of Marketing

Author of Mindless Eating, Slim by Design, and others

Dr. Ash Mukherjee
Professor of Marketing

Author of The Internet Trap

Dr. Noah Goldstein
Professor of Management

Author of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive, and The Small Big

Mr. Evan Williams
Director, Key Accounts at Yougov.Com

UMD LSBE Graduate

Mr. Gary Ludwig
Executive Director at Trailblazer Transit

UMD LSBE Graduate

Mr. Connor Joyce
Behavioral Science Researcher at Microsoft

Dr. Mark Ritson
Professor of Marketing

World Marketing Thought Leader


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