Valedictorians demonstrate range of research

Dawn Wiseman

photos by image photographique internationale

How culture impacts consumer choice

After surveying more than 2,000 people around the world, Mark Cleveland can definitively tell you that while what you eat is who you are, your calling plan has nothing to do with it.

“Culture is by far the strongest indicator of consumer behaviour,” he explained, especially for something like food. “Food plays such an integral role in tradition” that people who have moved away from their country of origin continue to eat the same or similar foods, particularly on special occasions.

Cell phones are a different story, though. “Everyone essentially has the same needs of a cell phone and other electronics,” and so this type of purchase “is quite independent of culture.”

By examining consumer behaviour across 70 different product categories (from clothing to luxury goods) and eight countries, Cleveland tried to find an empirical means of measuring the impact of globalization on local cultures.

“The anecdotal evidence can go either way,” he said, supporting the view that global forces are making everyone (and every place) more and more like, or the opposite view, that local resistances serve to more solidly entrench cultural differences.

His research indicates the truth is much more complex, and that our behaviour is usually “a strange combination of both global and local influences.”

Cleveland is now an assistant professor of marketing, management and organizational studies at the University of Western Ontario.

The economics of farming in Africa

Moses Geepu Nah Tiepoh gave a valedictory address this week at Place des Arts; a setting far removed from the world he studied for his dissertation.

Working in the interdisciplinary PhD Humanities program, Tiepoh examined farming practices and food security in West Africa through the lens of economics, political science and sociology.

Tiepoh developed an econometric model to analyze the impact of both private and communal land holdings in West African countries. He concluded that private land ownership is not an inevitable outcome of population pressure, and that in fact, in certain cases, communal holdings are more sustainable of the natural resources base.

Building from the model, he was able to make the argument that, in some regions, cash crops grown for export compete with food crops, and may hinder the ability of these regions to meet their own food requirements.

During his time at Concordia, Tiepoh became actively involved in the New Rural Economy (NRE) Project headed by Bill Reimer (Sociology and Anthropology). His contributions to NRE focused on social capital, information flows, growth, and trade liberalization in the Canadian rural sector.

Tiepoh has also taught in the Department of Economics since 2001, and continues to work with students there.