New Projects in Business Education

In ongoing research, educators tackle regional poverty, fake news, and bank fraud.

SEEKING SOLUTIONS TO POVERTY

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) in North Carolina is committing resources to study barriers to economic mobility faced by low-income communities in surrounding Forsyth County. The school recently awarded grants to five faculty, who will conduct four research projects, all focused on Forsyth County residents.

Grant recipients include Michelle Lewis, associate professor of psychology, who will study whether optimal decision making and motivation are compromised by poverty; Zagros Madjd-Sadadi, professor of economics, who will investigate changing industrial and occupational structures; Greg Taylor, associate professor of business analytics, who will assess the impact of the local bankruptcy system on economic mobility; and Alice Etim, associate professor of management information systems, and James Etim, professor of education, who will explore the impact of education, information, and communications technology on socioeconomic status.

These types of studies will be coordinated by WSSU’s newly opened Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM). “We’re asking professors in psychology, business, education, economics, and information systems to help us understand the impediments to moving up and out of poverty. What’s keeping people back? Where are the broken rungs of the ladder?” says Craig Richardson, professor of economics and CSEM’s director. “We need to find answers after asking the hard questions, because it’s very expensive to be poor, and people who are poor have an incredible lack of leverage in our society.”

PREDICTING FRAUD

When a bank’s clients commit fraud within its financial system, it often can go undetected for long periods of time. In some cases, financial institutions themselves can become implicated in scandal. That was the case last year in Canada, when leaked files, called the Paradise Papers, indicated that more than 3,000 Canadian entities had evaded taxes.

Lamia Chourou and Samir Saadi of the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management in Ontario, Canada, want to identify methods banks can use to detect such fraud much earlier in their study “Can Banks Anticipate Corporate Misconduct?” By analyzing data from five banks in emerging economies, the pair hope to discover strategies that banks can adopt to improve their regulations and train employees to identify suspicious client behaviors.

FIGHTING ‘FAKE NEWS’

With the rise of social media, ideas spread quickly—a phenomenon that can be dangerous when some people use the popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to spread false information with an intent to manipulate the public’s view of reality.

Companies such as Google and Facebook have announced new efforts to identify and stop the spread of false information on the internet, but universities have a role to play as well, says Garlin Gilchrist II. He is the executive director of the new Center for Social Media Responsibility, part of the University of Michigan’s School of Information in Ann Arbor.

Center research teams will create tools that not only support social media organizations in their responsibility to stop the spread of fake news, but also help users become savvier media consumers who can spot fake news and its sources—and refuse to pass it along.

“Our information ecosystem determines what we all know, understand and believe,” says Aviv Ovadya, a technologist who will work at the center. “If it fails, then we fail with it.”