Aaron McDonald

Graduate Spotlight: Aaron McDonald, PhD ’20

At the Lundquist College of Business, Aaron McDonald, PhD ’20 in management, combined his experience in the high-tech industry, coworking spaces, and sustainability into a teaching and learning experience like no other.

His resulting research in strategy, technology, sustainability, networks, and organizational research methods garnered him roles as conference presenter and panelist, a published paper, and several more publications in the works.

His research with associate professor of management Ralph Heidl on wearable sensors (in this case, using Bluetooth) and organizational research also earned a grant from the Kageyama Endowment Fund.

McDonald also coauthored the paper “Social Sustainability as Buying Local: Effects of Soft Policy, Meso-Level Actors, and Social Influences on Purchase Intentions” with Francesco Testa of Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies; Michael Russo, Lundquist Professor of Sustainable Management; T. Bettina Cornwell, Professor of Marketing and Oliphant Chair in Sports Business; and Brandon Reich, PhD ’18.

Behavioral changes like eating locally contribute to worldwide sustainability, according to the United Nations and others. In the paper, the authors investigate “soft” social norms and belief systems that persuade voluntary action at the distributor and retailer level. The paper appeared in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing in 2018.

McDonald also served as an Annual Meeting Reviewer for the Western Academy of Management in 2019 and has been an Academy of Management Annual Meeting Reviewer since 2017.

But his research credentials are just the beginning. McDonald’s stellar teaching talent in courses—including firm strategy, negotiation strategies, and entrepreneurship—earned him the Roger Best Award for Best PhD Student Instructor in 2019 as well as Department of Management commendations for teaching in 2018 and 2017.

“To my fellow PhD graduates, we have achieved something quite extraordinary. I hope we all are able to take our expertise and create some understanding in the world,” he said.

Up next for McDonald is a position as assistant professor of management at California State University San Marcos.

“I am looking forward to working with the students and community in San Diego County, continuing my research on how firms influence the rules of the game that affect society, and basking in the sunshine at the beach,” McDonald added.

—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications