Spotlights of the USC Marshall/Leventhal Family

Lisa Cavanaugh

Sharing a passion for ideas

Marshall students are smart. With rigorous admissions standards, describing them as intelligent and hard working would not be surprising. What has surprised and impressed me, however, is the exuberance with which they approach ideas. Good humored and ambitious, eager to learn and share, and willing to take risks both within and beyond our classroom. They are men and women after my own heart.

Since an early age, I have always loved ideas—learning about others’ ideas, sharing my own ideas, and considering how they can change the world for the better (or worse). As a researcher, I now have the privilege of not only discussing ideas but also testing them. I spend much of my time working to understand how emotions and relationships influence consumer behavior. The process of gaining novel insights, discussing new findings and furthering the science of consumer psychology and marketing is what makes research so rewarding for me. It is a joy to work with others who share a passion for asking interesting questions and seeking out thoughtful answers.

My passion for ideas often spills over from the laboratory into the classroom. I enjoy sharing new research findings with my students and encourage them to dive into some research of their own. Every year I challenge my students with an intensive semester-long team project in which they form a relationship with an LA area business and devise an integrated marketing communications campaign. As part of the project, my students conduct market research to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing their clients (e.g., USC-student entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations). The results have been quite impressive. As an example, one LA-based client was so impressed that they insisted the students present their ideas to the organization’s national headquarters in Washington DC. Receiving emails and notes of thanks from former students who have secured great jobs (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, Paramount Studios, Ogilvy & Mather, to name a few) and who credit our class and the project as turnkey to their success always humbles me.

As a researcher, I am continuously examining the world around me, asking questions, formulating hypotheses, and testing ideas in an effort to better understand the psychology of consumers. As a professor, my goal is to foster a passion for ideas and to help my students’ successfully transition from college undergraduates to enterprising young businessmen and women who are active learners, innovators, and thoughtful citizens. I am especially grateful to the parents and early mentors of my students, who have nurtured their personal and intellectual growth and entrusted these young minds to us at USC Marshall.

With energetic students and professors, world-renowned researchers, and active alumni, we have a wonderfully vibrant community filled with ideas. Often I feel like I have the best job in the world!

Fight On!