The joy and contagiously positive energy that Associate Professor of Management Marketing Rachel Bodell exudes cannot quite be understood unless experienced first hand. But to focus just on her positive attitude would be to miss her depth of experience and wisdom on subjects like student empowerment, leadership and the impact of social media on culture.

“I once had a native American student who really captured the essence of it,” Bodell said. “His culture described organizations not as a pyramid or a hierarchy, but as a circle, where you learn how to play all the roles needed to make the organization — a household or business or whatever — thrive. Knowledge is shared and roles are flexible, so that someone can step in and hold up another’s side of the circle. That illustrated my whole perspective on leadership. It’s even reflected in my marriage. I'd like to create the space to look at leadership and business and relationships differently.”

Bodell joined the Crowell School of Business faculty in fall of 2021, after teaching as an adjunct professor since 2019. She leads courses such as Consumer Behavior, Global Marketing Management, International Business, Sales and Sales Management, and Social Media, SEO, and Digital Strategies. She has a B.S. in International Business from Azusa Pacific University, an M.S. in Marketing Management from EDHEC Business School in France, and a DBA from University of Manchester, England.

Here, she shares some of her story with us.

I would probably say that business picked me before I picked business.

My family doesn't have a background in business — my dad is in medicine and my mom was a nurse. But dad was in the Navy, so I lived all over the place. My junior year of college at Azusa Pacific, I was still on the fence about my major, but I decided to go to the International Business Institute. It changed everything for me — the international aspect of business, the diverse teams you work with, the diverse customers. It wasn’t just diversity for diversity’s sake; it was diversity toward shared interests, common goals and purpose. It just was so natural for me!

To the surprise of no one, after graduation I found new experiences in new places.

I started at Bobbi Brown cosmetics in Florida. That’s my artistic side from my mom coming out. I had contact with a lot of retailers and I could compare Saks, Neiman-Marcus, Nordstroms, Bloomingdales — how their marketing, sales and retailing strategies were similar and different.

After a year, I saw it would be a long road to management, and an opportunity came to go to school in France. A top-tier AACSB school was opening a new campus with a ridiculously low tuition rate, so I sold my truck and moved overseas and got my Marketing Management master's degree. It really fit my international interests. We were doing marketing projects for luxury brands like Roberto Cavalli.

But most impressive was that these European companies had passion for doing business with a social consciousness toward people and the environment. It aligned so well with my Christian faith that my thesis centered on New Value Perspectives in Branding and Social Development. I would later carry this into my doctoral research into ethical marketing strategies.

To graduate, I needed an internship. My dad had co-founded an electronic health records startup in Washington, and I liked the idea of working for a startup. So for four years, through several merger acquisitions, I got to do business-to-business work, training, customer service and marketing — so much experience in a short period! They let me transfer to open new markets in California and that's how I got back here.

At that same time, the dean of the business school at my alma mater asked me to teach consumer behavior. I'd never considered teaching, but I did it and fell in love with higher education.

I believe that education is best when it’s experiential; it gives students exposure and empowerment.

I launched a European study abroad program for business students. My European business school alumni friends were instrumental in creating unique corporate visits, and we did a service learning project with Youth For Christ in the Czech Republic. We did biking tours of cities; I trained them how to read maps, use metros and communicate; they were intimidated at first, but they picked it up — the soft skills and basic civility, and it was amazing to see them become so confident! I like to imagine I was a small part of their development. Helping young adults be able to communicate who they are and find what they want to be, that’s empowerment.

It doesn’t require going international. Service learning is also effective. At my last school, we developed long-term relationships with two local at-risk middle schools. The service-learning process would start with market research. We went in and used focus groups and field interviews to better understand the social issues they're facing. Then I taught them about design and the communication process. They then created one-minute public service announcement videos.

I drew from President Corey's Love Kindness, his work on civility in an age of incivility. Everybody tends to value kindness, but what the Bible says about it has a lot more depth and discernment than what we see in the world. We talked about what true kindness looks like and how to communicate that in an attractive way to their audience. My students and these middle-school students typically live in different subcultures — these situations helped my students experience the same kinds of development that study abroad creates, even though it's local. I just had an article about this very thing published in Christian Higher Education!

This semester I'm trying something new!

Since this is now season three of the pandemic — I can’t believe this show got picked up for a third season! — we’re going to try something different in my “Social Media, SEO and Digital Strategies” class this semester; my students are going to write their own textbook! The students will be the contributors, I'll act as editor, and it will be public to the world as an OER (Open Educational Resource) textbook. Every year a new group of students will create an up-to-date edition. I am very excited about it!

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