Professor Brings New Meaning to Renaissance Man

Jim Alvarez Mourey
What do advanced brain imaging techniques have to do with marketing? Jim Alvarez Mourey, a new assistant professor in the Department of Marketing​ at the Driehaus College of Business, will tell you neuroscience gives you a peek under the hood.

After spending several years working at marketing firms, Alvarez Mourey decided to pursue a PhD in marketing at the University of Michigan. He wanted to understand what leads consumers to make certain choices. Analyzing brain scans is but one of several scientific techniques Mourey uses to grasp what happens when a person reacts to a brand. Read on to learn what Alvarez Mourey looks forward to most in his role as a professor and why you might hear tunes coming from his classroom.

Q: You are joining DePaul's Driehaus College of Business with a freshly minted PhD in marketing from the University of Michigan. What drew you to DePaul?

As a southern Illinois native, I have been familiar with Chicago and DePaul my entire life. Many of my friends attended the university and raved about their wonderful experiences. The day I met the DePaul faculty and interviewed with them for the first time, I felt this extremely special feeling that, at first, I couldn't quite put my finger on. I could tell everyone truly valued a balance of great research and great teaching. DePaul was the only place that felt like "home" to me — a great university, with great students and faculty, in a world-class city? I keep pinching myself to see if I'm actually awake or if I'm dreaming. Now that I am here I cannot imagine myself anywhere else.

Q: Prior to pursuing your doctorate, you worked at a marketing firm. What real-world lessons did you gain that influence your current research?

When I was working with companies on their marketing and management initiatives, I noticed how even the best laid plans often went awry. Despite careful planning, research and execution, marketing campaigns are not always successful. It reminded me of performances on stage that would be a hit one night but a flop the next. I realized so much of what we experience in the real world is actually influenced by very subtle factors that we don't even consciously perceive. My research explores these subtle influences on our choices and behavior. For example, the decoration on a plate might lead us to consume more or less food without us even realizing it.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about teaching at DePaul?

The most rewarding part about the field is the ability to truly change the lives of students — to open their eyes to new paths in life they never knew existed. Although research matters, you also have the opportunity to help young people prepare for the rest of their lives, to inspire them, to provide them with tools with which they can change the world. My colleagues in marketing all share this view. We all believe in service to the students, which is not something you find at many universities these days. So I am most looking forward to working with a team of brilliant, amazing and genuinely caring people to help offer our students the best marketing education we can provide to make their bright futures even brighter.

Q: In addition to your expertise in marketing, you also have a performing arts background. How did you get interested in the performing arts?

I was in grade school, and my gifted education teacher introduced me to a wonderful program. I got to work with a team of other kids to write skits, perform and then compete on an international level. That put me on the road to theatre, musicals, learning instruments, a cappella groups and improv comedy, which I still continue to this day. In fact, I will be starting classes at Second City soon — a lifelong dream. When I started business school, I wanted to be an investment banker or accountant, but then I realized that being "creative" and being an "accountant" probably wasn't a good idea. (I don't look good in stripes or bright orange.) Marketing, like improv, involves an audience and a product. You also need to stay keenly aware of how in touch your market is with your product so that you can alter it when necessary. So, in some roundabout way, I have spent my entire life learning to be a marketer.

Q: We hear that sometimes you sing in class. What are your favorite tunes?

"American Pie" is often a crowd pleaser, (I actually sang it during an interview once) as is the classic "Leaving on a Jet Plane." I keep on top of all the latest songs, so I take requests.

This profile originally appeared in DePaul's Newsline.

Read more about Professor Alvarez Mourey and the college's other new faculty members.

Also learn from Bloomberg Businessweek why his hiring represents a milestone for faculty diversity.​​​​