Dr. Ann Fairhurst
Professor and Interim Department Head - Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management
College of Education, Health and Human Sciences
Where and when was your research/creative experience as an undergraduate?
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
What did you do?
I worked on a traditional fashion merchandising/home economics project. I was responsible for textile testing of different fabrications and how they laundered (this was before today’s stain removal products). Basically, I and two other students did laundry.
How did your mentor help you?
My Mentor was Ruth Turner, and I worked on her project. She taught me to be very precise and detail-oriented. She took me to market several times a year, and was the biggest influence on my decision to pursue a Ph.D.
What is your favorite memory from that time?
All of the support I received from the faculty. They were really committed to help you achieve your goals.
How did your experience benefit you?
It taught me the scientific method and gave me an idea of projects that are researchable.
How does that experience impact your student engagement today?
The process she used is mine – hands-off and supportive. I let students create ideas, go with the flow, work through it and maybe discard it, and never throw out ideas unless there is no theoretical framework. Students have to be self-motivated to work with me. In retail management, we have a senior capstone that provides problem-based learning. We work with industry partners who provide problems that students solve. Undergraduates need to be critical thinkers, to make their own decisions, to think creatively about solutions.
What advice would you offer to students today who seek a similar experience?
Take the initiative and contact a faculty member. We’re very tight with our students, and hope all students would feel comfortable coming to us with an idea or following up on something mentioned in class.
Why should students seek such an experience?
Everyday in retail, you have to come up with solutions, to solve problems, to know what’s happening outside your bubble. You need to be aware of what’s going on around you. Research in retail is consumer-driven, focusing on needs, wants, etc. They generate so much data that you don’t know what to do with it all. You must be able to decipher it in terms that make sense to the store, to the department, to the consumer group.
What interesting fact about yourself might surprise your students?
That I like to knit, and that I’m very involved with the Maryville Farmers Market.
Office of Undergraduate Research
1534 White Ave.
Knoxville, TN 37996-1529
Phone: (865) 974-1475