Born Into Academia

Breagin K. Riley, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, was meant to become a professor. Her grandmother, a linguist, and aunt, a sociologist, were both college professors.

“I grew up around curious women telling me interesting stories and information they’d figured out,” said Professor Riley. “I actually started researching in high school through science and math fairs and during my undergraduate years I worked with faculty doing small research projects, such as coding data and qualitative analysis.”

At the Whitman School of Management, Professor Riley teaches Consumer Behavior and core marketing classes for majors and non-majors. She is affiliated with the psychology department at the College of Arts and Sciences, too.

“I’m fascinated with how social justice issues show up in markets,” she said. “How are product preferences different between consumer groups who are and are not being treated fairly, for example.”

Some of Professor Riley’s current research involves whether income tax is perceived as fair or not and how that perception impacts what people buy and what they’re willing to pay a premium to own. She also is researching how those fairness perceptions affect what social causes people are willing to support.

Much of her research involves experimentation and for that reason, she and her colleagues were instrumental in establishing the Behavioral Lab at Whitman. Founded in 2011, the Behavioral Lab was born out of faculty and student recognition of a need for a space to study human subjects in the context of business research. Studies performed in the lab today focus on a variety of topics, including consumer decision making, personalities, and team performance. Many different business disciplines are represented at the lab, including finance, marketing and supply chain management.

“We are looking at ways to establish a mobile behavioral lab, which will allow us to reach more participants across campus,” said Professor Riley.

In addition to her work at Whitman, she mentors a group of high school girls through her affiliation with the Syracuse (NY) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated. The Links is an international, not-for-profit corporation, and one of the nation’s oldest and largest women’s volunteer service organizations.

Professor Riley and her husband also enjoy traveling to visit extended family, and spending time with their “75-pound lap dog.”

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