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Kauffman Foundation Dissertation Fellowship Winner
Kelli Frias
Ph.D. Candidate in Marketing

By Eller College

Kelli Frias, a fifth-year doctoral student in marketing, has been awarded a $20,000 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for her research, which is focused on understanding how firms derive value in the marketplace through the choice of product form. Her dissertation is co-chaired by current marketing department head and incoming Muzzy Chair in Entrepreneurship Robert Lusch and associate professor of marketing Mrinal Ghosh.

After earning her undergraduate degrees in business administration and economics from the University of California Riverside, Frias applied her interest in law working on internal investigations. She then entered the Eller College to pursuedoctoral studies in part to work with Lusch, but found that the program also allowed her to further develop her interest in law.

“I’ve been encouraged to take classes that I’m interested in,” she says. “Bob opened up lines of communication for me in the James E. Rogers College of Law, and so I’m also minoring in legal studies. My research evolved from that, because I’m interested in innovation and entrepreneurial ventures.”

Specifically, Frias has been exploring how technology, market, and firm-level resources influence the factors that entrepreneurs or firms consider in choosing a product’s form. “Marketing is a great field through which to examine these concerns,” Frias explains. She points out that intellectual property (IP) is enforced differently in different industries; the legal environment for software is different from pharmaceuticals, for example.

“What resources and factors influence the exchange market from a strategic perspective?” she asks. “What are the marketing resources within the company? Does it make more sense for that company to manufacture a product, or would it be better off licensing the technology to a third party for production andmarketing?” For example, she says, Lusch introduced her to executives at a company using GPS technology for bone replacement surgeries. “The company chose to offer the entire ‘solution kit’ to orthopedic surgeons,” she says. “I’m interested in the factors that it considered when making that decision.”

As part of the application for the Kauffman fellowship, Frias presented her research questions, methodology, and theoretical framework. Her dissertation will be a collection of essays around the overarching theme, with each essay illuminating a particular aspect of the big picture. One essay, for example, will focus on the legal environment, anther will look at the concerns of venture capitalists, and a third will look at relational resources.

Frias credits Lusch, Ghosh, and her College of Law advisor David Gantz for their support during what will be her second-to-last year in the doctoral program. She will present on her dissertation at the Allied Social Science Association / American Economic Association Conference in Atlanta in January.