Embracing the unique and unusual

How upcoming assistant professor Katie Lafreniere is challenging perceptions in the business community.

“The idea actually came from a random conversation with a colleague who mentioned that swear words are inappropriate,” said Katie Lafreniere (‘19 PhD) of her research. “But I know lots of people who use that language and aren’t being malicious. There’s more to swear words than just the fact that they’re offensive. That’s not all they do. I wanted to figure out what swear words were adding to the conversation.”

Under the supervision of the Alberta School of Business’ Sarah Moore and Robert Fisher, Lafreniere delved into the power of swear words in online reviews and how they help reviewers get their points about products and businesses across. She concluded that reviews containing swear words were beneficial to shoppers and prospective customers. 

"These reviews receive more ‘useful’ votes from readers than reviews without swear words,” she said.

"‘Swear words are special because they simultaneously communicate two points of information. They convey the product’s strong attributes and the reviewer’s strong feelings about a product or business, and that’s helpful to review readers.”

After learning about her research, it’s apparent that Lafreniere is innovative in her ideas, and the Alberta School of Business is thrilled to announce that she will be bringing her uniqueness to our classrooms as an assistant professor beginning in July 2022. 

“I was thrilled when I learned that I got this position,” she said. “I love working with the faculty at the Alberta School of Business. It’s a great group of researchers and professors who are supportive and encouraging of their colleagues and students, and I look forward to being a part of this tradition.” 

When asked what she hopes to bring to this position, Lafreniere mentions that she wants to challenge perceptions, inspire diversity and be a mentor.

“As an Indigenous woman in marketing, I want to show students that you don’t have to fit a certain mold to pursue academia or the marketing field,” she said. “You don’t always have to talk a certain way, look a certain way and act a certain way to be here – it’s ok to bring in perspectives that are unique and unusual. I also want to show students that marketing is an extremely fun area of business!”

“The mentorship I received throughout my educational career was also invaluable. I experienced individuals who challenged me, encouraged me and pushed me to go further than I thought I could ever go. They helped me succeed, and I hope to do that for my students in this position.”

An unexpected path

In addition to her unique research initiatives and grit, Lafreniere brings a wealth of experience to this position.

Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Lafreniere came to Alberta on a basketball scholarship with Lakeland College. This venture came to a sudden halt when she suffered an injury that prevented her from continuing to play the sport. However, this did not deter her from continuing her education. 

After completing a diploma in management at Lakeland College, she went on to study at the University of Lethbridge. As an undergrad at the University of Lethbridge, she took a course on social marketing with Sameer Deshpande, which was a pivotal moment in her career.

“This course was eye-opening for me as a business major,” she said. “I learned that you could use the tools of marketing to change consumer behaviour in a manner that is good for  the consumer and society, and I wanted to pursue that further.” 

Under Deshpande's mentorship, she graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Lethbridge before earning her PhD at the University of Alberta. 

Though not set in stone which courses she will teach in her new role, she hopes to teach introductory marketing courses. 

“It’s pretty fun when students are new to marketing,” she said. “I enjoy being one of the first people students meet in this part of academia.”

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