Foster Marketing Faculty Spotlight – Elizabeth Stearns

Get to know Elizabeth Stearns, Associate Teaching Professor of Marketing at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, who teaches the elective course titled Advertising and Promotion Management.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

My career in Advertising in NYC after my MBA at NYU/London Business School/HEC Paris was both wonderful and foundational to my teaching.  I was in executive positions (both Jr. and Sr.) at Ogilvy and at Y&R Wunderman for the better part of 15 years.

My teaching career started as an Asst. Clinical Professor at Columbia Business School (while working at Y&R) where I taught an elective called “Creating Competitive Advantage through Direct Marketing.”  This ultimately led to a full-time position at CBS as Assoc. Clinical Professor, teaching that same Direct Marketing course and also Core Marketing.  

During that time, I was also named the Australia Post Fellow in Direct Marketing at Monash University in Melbourne Australia, and held that role along with MBA teaching for almost 10 years. This position was sponsored by the Australia Post. In the role of Oz Post Fellow, I developed an 8 class course which exists to this day in Direct Marketing. It was always fun flying Down Under in our Winter period to chase the sun, and even in their Winter where I learned to love Australia Rules Football (the footie)!

I began at UW Foster in 1995 and have taught in the Full-time MBA, Evening MBA, Executive MBA, Continuing Education, and undergrad programs.  Most of my focus has been in MBA Core Marketing, Advertising, Sustainability, and as a precursor to our Data Analytics program, Direct Marketing.  

During this time, I have gratefully accepted many awards including the PACCAR Award, Full-time& Evening MBA Professor or the Year, Elective Professor of the Year, the UW Husky Green Award, as well as Professor of the Quarters, the School’s Award for Case Writing in Sustainability, and the Triple Crown Award. This last, but prized, award is very unofficial – given to me by a group of students who had taken three of my classes!

During this time frame at FOSTER, I spent four years in Chicago and taught MBA Core Marketing and Executive Seminars at Northwestern’s Kellogg School. In 2007, I was invited to teach MBA Core Marketing at HEC (Haute Etudes Commerciales) outside of Paris, where Iwas grateful to receive honorable mention for the Vernimmen Prize for Best Professor. 

Picture of Elizabeth Stearns

What are your favorite classes to teach?

My favorite classes to teach are Advertising and Sustainability. This year is no exception! 

Let’s talk about Adbiz. In this class I create as ‘real’ a scenario as possible for the student to experience what it is like to be in a Client/Agency world. The class covers all the rigorous concepts – with expert help from local executives. My role becomes the client, and the students become agencies (with their own names, logos, and directors.) Throughout the quarter there are three pitches to win the client’s business, and in the end, agencies receive awards. Each agency is judged by their peers as well as by me, and in that way students experience what it is like to judge agency pitches. The competitive format leads to great interaction and results. Students get out of their comfort zone in presenting and in real campaign creation. The last pitch is the most important in that student agencies write their own briefs and advertising solutions to get people to stop using plastic – in particular straws. A few of these campaigns have been exceptional—even leading to an audience at Starbucks.

Over the last 15 years, I have been the primary faculty member teaching in the Sustainability Space.  Fortunately there are now others contributing to this critical education. The class I am currently teaching is called The Sustainable Company. It was offered this year in Summer Session A to Evening MBAs and Executive MBAs. The class brought in our own Matt Van Winkle, two CEOs, scientists, impact investors, and entrepreneurs to augment readings in the arenas of accounting, climate & energy, environment, and beyond energy to include water, and society/labor. We use Paul Polman’s book Net Positive – which basically says that Net Zero is not enough – and this book is used as a higher goal and thought leader to underpin the class. We cover Environmental and Social Governance in the kick-off presentation from an accounting perspective, but for the rest of the class we use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The UNSDG’s are used worldwide and apply to both public and private entities. The focus of the class is the Global System.

How have you engaged with students beyond the classroom?

I have been the MBA Net Impact Faculty Advisor for about 20 years. This role has been important because  in the past, prior to more recent curriculum developments, it was often the only real avenue for students to explore issues in sustainability.

We have been designated a GOLD chapter by NI National and do outstanding leadership work though our student chapter presidents—of note is IDEA LAB and the Social Outreach Strategy Consulting.

Probably the single most important role I am honored to hold is that of the Challenge for Charity (C4C) MBA Faculty Advisor. We have retained the Golden Suitcase for many years (including the last 5), in no small part because of our absolutely fantastic student leadership, our amazing Alumni Advisory Board, and the incredible generosity of those contributing to our C$C Auction. This student lead auction, volunteer hours, and sports weekend are the trifecta for our success.And all of this in support of our charities; Boys and Girls Club of King County, Special Olympics of Washington State, and the University Food Bank among others.

What message do you have for first-year MBA students?

Welcome to FOSTER — Stop by to say hello! And GO HUSKIES.  Remember to get your tickets for football.  

Stearns with Dubs