University of Southern California

Linli Xu
We need someone to guide us while we take our first steps
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Linli Xu originally came to USC to visit her husband, who was pursuing a Ph.D. in economics, around Christmas in 2005. A native of China, she had finished all her coursework for a master’s degree in agricultural economics at McGill University in Canada. But that visit, and what was supposed to be a short-term post as a research assistant to a Marshall professor, changed the course of both her and her husband’s academic careers.

While working at Marshall, Xu realized she had a passion for marketing and that Marshall was the place for her to pursue a Ph.D. in the subject. (Her husband also ended up transferring to the marketing Ph.D. program and is set to graduate in 2013.)

"Marshall provides a very friendly and collaborative environment and this is very important for doctoral students," said Xu. "We need someone to guide us while we take our first steps and encourage us when we fall down, so eventually we can become independent scholars. At Marshall we get that kind of support and guidance from the faculty."

Xu says Marshall faculty members encourage students to pursue research that is fundamentally interesting, and professors provide opportunities for students to collaborate and publish in leading journals or have articles under review by the time they graduate. An article based on Xu’s dissertation, "Product Quality Investment and Advertising: Analysis of the Auto Industry," is under review at leading journal, Marketing Science.

In addition, Marshall requires that doctoral students gain teaching experience, first as teaching assistants and then as instructors in charge of their own courses – this is particularly helpful training, Xu says, for international students like herself who are pursuing academic careers.

"Not a lot of other business schools offer teaching opportunities for doctoral students. A lot of schools are evaluating job candidates on whether they can be a good teacher, so having that experience helps us establish that confidence and shows we can teach, even if English is not our native language," she said.

Xu excelled at instructing, winning the Doctoral Student Excellence in Teaching Award in 2011, which she said helped her stand out in a competitive academic job market. Xu was also awarded the James S. Ford/Commerce Associates Ph.D. Fellowship in 2010 in recognition of her outstanding scholastic achievement and research. She has joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor of marketing.