by Martin Mende.
I consider myself lucky beyond words to have found my way into the field of service research, a career I never would have dreamt of pursuing when I started university. This career affords us the privilege of working alongside some incredibly bright, kind, and hard-working individuals. As I reflect on my journey so far, I was extremely fortunate to have encountered many inspiring scholars along the way. I cannot mention them all here, but I want to highlight a few of my key academic role models. These scholars are not only important members of my academic family, but they have become the dearest of friends. My adventure started as a student at the Catholic University at Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (Germany), and continues to this day in my role as faculty member at Florida State University.
Getting Hooked on Service with Professor Bernd Stauss.
My first academic role model was Bernd Stauss, who taught an “Introduction to Service Management” course at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, a small, highly innovative business school (located one hour north of Munich). Bernd Stauss was a major driver of the school’s innovation: in fact, in 1997, he established the first Chair for Service Management at a German university, which he held until his retirement in 2010. Attending Bernd’s interactive lectures was always insightful and fun: not only did he introduce me to the seminal research of many of the field’s heroes (i.e., papers by Valarie Zeithaml, Len Berry, Parsu, and Mary Jo Bitner); I also vividly remember how Bernd engaged students with his contagious passion for great service management. Bernd always gave 100% as a professor – nothing mattered more than the students in his classroom. I am striving to follow his approach whenever I step into the classroom. Bernd Stauss is also an exceptional conceptual thinker who made major contributions to the field of service management, particularly in the area of complaint management. Closely working with Bernd, I learned that persistence and work ethic are key determinants of high-quality research. Bernd patiently met with me (a lot!) about my research and pushed me to generate fresh ideas for service research. A final lesson I learned from Bernd is the crucial importance of a team culture in an academic unit: to this day, when I think about what a great Marketing department should look like, I recall that Bernd always emphasized the importance of a caring, cohesive, and supportive culture at his Chair (operationalized through, for example, birthday celebrations, Christmas dinners, and strategic planning retreats in the Bavarian Alps).
At the Epicenter of Service at ASU.
It is no exaggeration to say that a semester I spent abroad at Arizona State University changed my life. These months at one of the world’s epicenters of service research were a pivotal opportunity in my journey. I got to know Mike Hutt and Beth Walker during this visit. When meeting with them about research, I was in awe of their exceptional minds, as well as their grasp of theory and literature. However, what was even more striking was Mike’s and Beth’s dedication to finding the best in my thoughts (which was not always easy); their advice always aimed to enhance the probability of a project’s success, keenly focused on the kernel of potential in an idea. I also observed that, whether during research presentations, conversations in the hallway, or one-on-one meetings, Mike and Beth always treated others with the greatest dignity and respect. This nurturing approach provided a safe zone where doctoral students could feel confident to produce their best work. I remind myself often of this important lesson as I have the great privilege of working with doctoral students today.
After relocating to ASU to pursue an academic career in the U.S. system, I was lucky enough to be supervised by Mary Jo Bitner and Ruth Bolton, with Amy Ostrom also serving on my committee. I know that I do not need to go into any more depths here, because these names say it all! It still is surreal to think I was so fortunate to learn from these prolific scholars, who were so consistently generous with their time and their feedback, and patiently pushed me to always focus on excellence and to be the best scholar I could be. It is difficult to fully describe the fundamental impact these three amazing women had on me with their selfless efforts to help me improve. I have taken their invaluable lessons with me into every paper I write, into my teaching, and into my service to the discipline as well.
In reflecting the impact Mike, Beth, Mary Jo, Ruth, and Amy had on me makes me realize they were all heavily involved in helping me navigate not only my (and my wife’s) scholarly journey but also our lives. Over the last 15+ years, they were co-authors and research collaborators, as well as mentors, teachers, colleagues, financial advisors, career counselors, and most importantly, friends to both of us. They have been like lighthouses as we navigated the (at times, dynamic) waters of a “coupled academic” career. I deeply treasure the many corresponding memories, like the wonderful friends who provided them.
Working with Service Champions on a Daily Basis.
Since becoming a faculty member, first at the University of Kentucky, and now at Florida State University, I have had the privilege of getting to know many inspiring people along the journey. Two very special people at FSU are Mike Brady and Charlie Hofacker. Mike Brady is not only our department chair, but he is also the Editor of the Journal of Service Research … and he teaches a 900-seat online Marketing Principles course. What is exceptional about Mike is that he is simply excellent in absolutely everything(!) he does, be that as a researcher, teacher, editor, or department chair (with regard to the latter, you should ask him about his “CASA Model”). Of course, you all know Charlie Hofacker, because he literally is “AMA’s ELMAR”; as such, Charlie keeps the entire Marketing discipline informed of everything worth knowing! Charlie is so inspiring as he is a true renaissance man: he is extremely well-versed both methodologically and theoretically, in Marketing and beyond, and he shares his ideas generously and always with kindness. He gives so much to our discipline, and he is simply a wonderful person as he does so. Working alongside role models such as Mike and Charlie inspires me to be the best colleague I can be for our department.
Enamored with the Service Community.
I cannot be clear enough about the fact that my journey of becoming a service scholar would never have happened without the encouragement, guidance, generosity, and kindness of countless outstanding scholars in our field! I believe that is a noteworthy characteristic of our scholarly community: since my first “Frontiers in Service” Conference in 2005, I have always experienced a community that (1) strives for excellence in research but also (2) emphasizes caring, empathy, support, and inclusiveness as some of its core values. To me, this is not coincidental but a function of the exceptional scholars who were the founders and champions of our Service Community over the last decades (e.g., just take a look at the Lovelock Career Contributions Award Winners). I deeply treasure this culture that strives for high-quality research as well as kindness. Such a culture should not be taken for granted; it needs to be recognized, appreciated, and nurtured. I am delighted that the next generation of leaders in our field, for example the leadership team of SERVSIG, wholeheartedly embraces this philosophy – this is yet another reason why I am enamored with the Service Community.
I am humbled and grateful to have this Service Community in my professional and personal life and I hope to enjoy this privilege for many years to come! With that said, I would like to invite Stacey Robinson to share her role models!
Martin Mende, PhD
Associate Professor of Marketing
College of Business, Florida State University.