Kelly Martin uses Monfort award to advance research with a focus on impoverished markets

By Tosha Jupiter

Kelly Martin began her marketing career serving a vulnerable population. During her early work in the assisted-living industry, she witnessed arbitrary decision-making, misplaced incentives, and unethical practices that disrupted people’s lives when, she believes, life should be peaceful. It bothered Martin. And it prompted her to take personal action.

She returned to school to delve deeper into marketing – and to study marketing ethics. Today, her research has a pointed focus on business topics that affect vulnerable populations the world over. Through her research and teaching, Martin is serving underrepresented populations and inspiring future business leaders to practice ethical business while creating the change they wish for the world.

Martin, an associate professor of marketing and a FirstBank Faculty Fellow, joined the College of Business in 2007. Within three years, she earned the 2010 College of Business Best Teacher Award. She garners the respect of students, colleagues, the campus community, and the business community at-large for her research, teaching, and many contributions to the business discipline.

“Kelly is a passionate and engaging professor,” says Aaron Sebesta, a former student in Martin’s quantitative analysis class – a course she teaches as part of the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program. “She is a supportive and insightful mentor for our GSSE venture team. Her experience researching the impacts of poverty on individuals' well-being makes her an incredible asset within our program.”

Martin is the first College of Business professor to receive a Monfort Professorship, the highest honor Colorado State University bestows on young professors. Martin is still in her mid-thirties, and has been a professor for less than a decade. The Monfort Family Foundation funds the professorship to support young faculty as they advance their careers through teaching and research. Each year, a committee chaired by the Provost selects two faculty members as Monfort Professorship recipients. Monfort Professors retain this prestigious designation for two years, and receive $75,000 each year to further their teaching and research. 

“Kelly does not shy away from a challenge,” says Ken Manning, chair of the Department of Marketing. “She is often learning new analytical techniques or identifying new datasets to combine in a manner to better illuminate market behaviors. She enjoys the research process as much as any professor I’ve met and I have no doubt that she will make the most of the opportunity that the Monfort Professorship offers.”

Martin doesn’t have a typical work day. Her time is divided between teaching, research, and service obligations. In addition to teaching GSSE’s quantitative analysis course in which students learn to collect, analyze, and interpret data relevant to summer fieldwork they conduct all over the world, she regularly teaches the senior capstone course for the marketing concentration. Each day finds Martin interacting with students, advancing research projects at various stages, and doing committee work.

“As an undergraduate, I was enamored with the vibrancy of university life,” says Martin. “The idea that people from all over the world gathered in one place for the primary purpose of learning was highly compelling to me. I wanted to be a part of that. I feel especially fortunate to be part of the Colorado State University community. I am grateful every day for the talented students and supportive colleagues with whom I work.”

She says being selected for a 2014-2016 CSU Monfort Professorship is her greatest professional accomplishment. The award allows her to advance her research program in directions she never thought possible—especially with respect to studying highly impoverished markets. In her field of marketing and society, she was recognized as the first Emerging Scholar for early career research contributions.

Martin has published 20 academic journal articles. Her 2012 article in the Journal of Consumer Research has likely received the most publicity. It was one of the first data-intensive investigations that suggests some important consumer theories studied in the developed world are not statistically valid in conditions of great poverty. This research advanced the notion of a “consumption adequacy threshold” wherein people need a basic minimum of goods and services for common consumption theories and theories of well-being to hold.

She holds a B.BA in marketing and operations management from Gonzaga University, an MBA from Creighton University, and a Ph.D. in marketing from Washington State University. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband, Mike, and their two sons, James-Dennis and Elliot.

Martin looks to the future of business education and research with the same gumption and optimism that inspired her career path. “In the big picture, I hope that my research matters because it redirects focus from the pure profit-driving mechanisms of marketing.”

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