Year 2005 | Volume 12    Southern Methodist University

 

Reading Research Receives
$3 Million Grant

SMU’s Institute for Reading Research has received a $3 million grant to conduct research on reading interventions for students with mental retardation. The U.S. Department of Education has asked the nation’s leading reading experts to conduct the first-ever study of literacy and the mentally retarded. Four universities – SMU, California-Berkeley, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Georgia State – are participating in the $12 million federal study.

The research will determine if techniques for teaching reading to children with reading difficulties apply to those with mild or moderate mental retardation. Researchers also will explore the levels of reading competence that these students can achieve.

The study will be conducted with 150 children in primary grades who have mild or moderate mental retardation. Children will receive either the special education program typically provided by the schools or an enhanced program that includes intensive reading intervention from highly trained teachers.

Observing The Battle Of The Brands

Raj Sethuraman wants to know why consumers will pay $3 for a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes when a store’s private label brand of corn flakes costs only $1.50. The associate professor of marketing in Cox School of Business conducts research on how and why consumers compare and choose national brand products versus store brands.

In a recent article in the Review of Marketing Science, he asks, “Why are consumers willing to pay a price premium for national brands even when they know that the quality of the national brands and the store brands are the same? Is it because of reputation, loyalty, experience, or simply habit?”

Sethuraman has developed an econometric model that measures brand equity and identifies factors that influence it. The model analyzes consumer survey data on 20 grocery product categories – from cereal and condiments to shampoo and toilet tissue. Grocery stores provide the perfect setting in which to study brand equity. Store brands or private labels in the United States have grown from $34 billion in 1994 to nearly $60 billion in 2002, outpacing national brand growth.

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Working The Image

A new study shows that a U.S.-backed advertising campaign may have been successful in changing certain anti-American sentiments abroad, contrary to the federal government’s decision to drop the ads because they were deemed ineffective.

SMU and Oklahoma State University researchers published the study, “Advertising as Public Diplomacy: Attitude Change Among International Audiences,” in the Journal of Advertising Research (smu.edu/adamerica). After 9/11, advertising executive Charlotte Beers created the “Shared Values Initiative” campaign for the U.S. Department of State. Five television commercials depicted Muslim Americans living happily in the United States. Primarily aimed at women, the TV spots ran in countries with large Muslim populations. Print ads were produced as well.

Dismayed that the first American television advertising campaign to the Muslim world came and went without much study, Alice Kendrick, professor at SMU’s Temerlin Advertising Institute, and Jami A. Fullerton, OSU associate professor of advertising, tested the effectiveness of the ads. The study exposed 105 international students from 25 countries to the original TV spots. After viewing the commercials, overall positive attitudes toward the U.S. government and whether Muslims were treated fairly in the United States improved significantly.

“Advertising can be an effective tool in public diplomacy and should not be discounted as a strategy,” Kendrick says.

J.C. Penney Archives Retail History

One of America’s most renowned retailers has donated archives chronicling its 100-year history to SMU’s DeGolyer Library. J.C. Penney Company Inc., headquartered in Plano, Texas, gave the materials to SMU to make them more accessible to the public.

“These significant and timeless materials will be valuable to those doing scholarly research, not only in the history of retailing but also in the broader field of American cultural studies,” says Russell Martin, director of DeGolyer Library.

The collection comprises documents on the origin, growth, and operations of the J.C. Penney Company and more than 1,400 stores; more than 20,000 photos; advertisements from 1903 to late 1990s; and James Cash Penney’s correspondence, among other items.

Penney opened his first store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, in 1902. He was the first retailer in America to charge all customers the same price for merchandise. By 1911, 22 stores operated mostly in small towns in Western states. Today, J.C. Penney is one of America’s largest retailers with approximately 1,020 stores throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, and 61 Renner department stores in Brazil.

Partners In Education

In a partnership that will impact the quality of engineering education across the state, the Texas Engineering and Technical Consortium (TETC) will be housed at SMU’s School of Engineering.

The partnership complements the mission of both organizations. TETC, a public and privately funded organization, represents Texas government, industry, and higher education. It was formed in 2001 by the Texas Legislature to increase the number of engineers. SMU’s School of Engineering sponsors The Infinity Project, which promotes engineering education in grades K-12.

TETC’s mission is to double the number of engineers and computer scientists graduating from public and private universities in the state in the next decade, substantially increasing the Texas high-tech workforce capabilities. Last year the state of Texas graduated only 3,378 new engineers.

TETC is expected to receive $15 million in state funding in the next biennium, which will be made available to colleges and universities in the form of grants. Some programs funded to date by TETC include the distribution of a high school engineering curriculum created by SMU faculty and a highly effective summer mentoring program for young engineering majors at the University of Houston.

SMU Engineering Dean Geoffrey C. Orsak says hosting TETC will allow the School of Engineering to utilize its expertise to help bring innovations to engineering education statewide. “With the persistent challenges of attracting a diverse and highly qualified workforce, the state needs an organization like TETC to ensure that we remain economically competitive in an increasingly technical economy.”

TETC works with 33 Texas colleges and universities and industry leaders such as Texas Instruments, Advanced Micro Devices, Applied Materials, National Instruments, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, SBC, and Lockheed Martin.

The Latest In Business Research

The Cox School of Business has created a Web site that features faculty research papers on accounting, finance, economics, energy, entrepreneurship, marketing, management and organizations, strategy, and technology. For more information, visit the site at www.cox.smu.edu/article/research/research.do.