Essays in Applied Industrial Organization

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    Thesis advisor: Julie H. MortimerThis dissertation investigates firms' strategic decisions in industries characterized by a retail sector and the subsequent welfare implications. The first chapter studies retailer assortment choices; the second investigates the effectiveness of retailer online advertising. In many industries producers reach consumers only through the retail sector. Retailer product assortment choices are crucial determinants of consumer welfare as well as retailers' and producers' profitability. Limited shelf space, an inherent characteristic of the brick-and-mortar retail sector, necessitates careful selection of product offerings. The assortment decision within a product category consists of two broad questions: "How many products to offer?" and "Which products to offer?". In sole-authored work, the first chapter focuses on the latter question and investigates the drivers and welfare consequences of retail product selections. While retailer assortment choices are primarily governed by consumers' preferences and retail sector competition, vertical contracts with producers may also influence product offerings, and, in turn, product availability in the market. From the producers' perspective, obtaining product distribution is imperative. Hence, producers frequently provide financial incentives to retailers to secure their patronage. These incentives often take the form of vendor allowances: lump-sum payments to retailers that do not directly depend on sales volume. They can take the form of slotting fees, warehousing allowances, cash discounts, allowances for damaged goods, or operating support (e.g. stocking personnel). Considering the spread of the retail sector, the impact of vertical contracts on product selections may substantially affect consumer welfare and firm profitability. Therefore, it is not surprising that vendor allowances have been the subject of policy discussion. Policy makers have raised concerns that these payments are harming disproportionately small producers and limiting consumer choice. Nevertheless, the Federal Trade Commission abstains from providing clear guidelines on the use of these payments due to unclear theoretical predictions and scarce empirical evidence. The main impediment to empirical analysis has been the proprietary nature of vertical contracts and firm costs. To overcome these data limitations, I develop a novel framework that allows me to quantify vendor allowances and analyze their effects on product selections and welfare. Using only data on retail prices, quantity sold, and retailer offerings, I estimate vendor allowances as retailers' opportunity cost of shelf space. Specifically, retailers face shelf-space limitations, hence, the opportunity cost of supplying a product is the sacrificed profits from not supplying a different product in its place. With limited assumptions on producer and retailer bargaining protocol, set estimates of vendor allowances are recovered. Additionally, by assuming that producers make take-it-or-leave-it offers, point estimates can be obtained. Lower bounds from set estimates imply that, on average, vendor allowances amount to at least 5% of retailer revenues. These results suggest that vendor allowances are likely important for retailer profitability, given that public grocery chains in the U.S. report profit margins on the order of 2-4% of revenues. To investigate the effects of these payments on product selections and welfare, I apply model estimates to simulate how market outcomes change in the absence of vendor allowances. The "what-if" experiment predicts that, absent vendor allowances, retailers fare worse, product variety is reduced as retailers replace "niche" products with "mainstream" options, but consumers are nevertheless better off. Small producers, which offer high-volume products, increase market distribution and profits, but, absent marginal cost data, consequences for large producers are uncertain. The work extends our understanding of how firms' strategic interactions in the marketplace may affect consumer welfare and firm profitability through product availability. The second chapter presents a coauthored work with Alexander Bleier and Maik Eisenbeiss that analyzes the use of online advertising personalization by an online retailer. Online advertising has become an important channel through which firms attempt to influence consumer behavior and increase sales. To improve effectiveness, firms today tailor their advertisements to individual consumers with a method called retargeting. In retargeting, firms track the shopping behaviors of individual consumers' visiting their online stores and, subsequently, deliver individualized display banner ads as consumers continue browsing the Web. While this method has gained traction in the online advertising industry, research in the field is still in its infancy. This work furthers our understanding of advertising personalization by analyzing two questions: How effective is ad personalization in attracting individual consumers back to the online store? And, do different personalization approaches have distinct impacts on consumers' engagement behaviors with the online store? To answer these research questions, we exploit unique data from a randomized field experiment conducted in cooperation with a major fashion and sporting goods retailer. This study compares the effects of online banners with very high, medium, and low degrees of content personalization. For example, very high personalization refers to ads showing consumers products that they had viewed at their previous visit to the retailer's online store. Medium personalization includes products from the most viewed category or brand of their previous visit. And low personalization delivers random products from the retailer's assortment without any connection to a consumer's previous shopping behavior. Results suggest that ads with very high personalization are more effective in bringing consumers back to the online store than the other campaigns. However, we also find that the gain in visits of very high- over medium-personalization banners stems mainly from visit with low consumer engagement.Thesis (PhD) — Boston College, 2016.Submitted to: Boston College. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.Discipline: Economics

    Called to be Catholic: Religious Practices that Nourish Women's Spirituality

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    Three Catholic women shared the unique experiences that shaped their relationship with Catholicism and the customs they practice today in order to sustain their faith. Each of the three speakers discussed their personal histories and how religion played a vital role in their development.with Kate Carter, Sr. Mary Sweeney, S.C., and Nancy Pineda-MadridHeights Roo

    "I was a stranger and you welcomed me": A Catholic vision for immigration reform

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    Listen to Archbishop Thomas Wenski discuss the Catholic vision on Immigration Reform

    "Mi Na Kpa Glagla Nu Aklunon: We will Lend a Hand To God”: Challenges and Opportunities of Double Religious Belonging in Benin and Nigeria

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    Thesis advisor: Catherine CornilleThesis advisor: Margaret GuiderThesis (STL) — Boston College, 2021.Submitted to: Boston College. School of Theology and Ministry.Discipline: Sacred Theology

    Race, Religion, and Class at the Intersection of High-Skilled Immigration in the US:

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    Thesis advisor: Eve E. SpanglerThesis advisor: C. Shawn C. McGuffeyMy dissertation, “Race, Religion, and Class at the Intersection of High-Skilled Immigration,” takes a comprehensive approach to understanding the contemporary contexts of U.S. immigration underlined by Islamophobia and neo-liberal conditions of the U.S. economy. Methodologically, the data for my dissertation comes from the lived experiences of first-generation South-Asian Muslim immigrants arriving as young adults in search of their American dream, pursuing their graduate education in the fields of liberal arts, and science and technology, finding job prospects as high-skilled labor, growing into families, and emerging as American citizens. I study their acculturation and integration experiences, using two distinct groups of high-skilled migrants, i.e., short-term (international students) and long-term (permanent-residents), for which I conducted a total of 68 life-history interviews across the two categories. These ethno-racial and religiously othered identities located at the confluence of their Asian American and South Asian identities, model minority stereotypes, and racialized Muslim constructs present a unique window in examining the social and cultural processes of high-skilled immigration underlined by the political contexts of the War on Terror (WOT) era, and the recent Muslim ban. I study these intersectional identities using the case of Pakistani migrants, who continue to be the largest Muslim immigrant group by national origins in the U.S. Moreover, they also have higher skill levels than the native population (MPI 2015), making the non-white, Pakistani Muslim immigrant experience in the U.S. ideal for the study of high-skilled immigration.The first chapter, titled “Double Consciousness: How Pakistani Graduate Students Navigate Their Contested Identities in American Universities,” contributes to the knowledge of contemporary contexts of Islamophobia. It presents a global and transnational frame to DuBoisian theories of double consciousness, illustrating how Pakistani graduate students perceive their religious and national identities as threatening within the Western political constructs of Islamic terrorism. They experience a sense of twoness as they pursue their academic lives in the United States. While they see their religion as an extension of their cultural selves, they battle with the social constructions of terrorism imposed on their Muslim and Pakistani identities by the American political rhetoric on WOT. Thus, continuously challenging the stereotypes surrounding their contested identities as global Muslim migrants. The research has been published alongside educational policy practitioners and academics in a Springer publication titled International Students from Asia: The Two-Way Street of Learning and Living Globalization. The second chapter, titled “Gendered acculturation: Pakistani international graduate students navigating U.S. culture,” is a publication in the Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and presents new ways of thinking about the acculturation of non-white migrants as a gendered process. I demonstrate that the interplay of their intersectional identities underlines their acculturative strategies. Moreover, their gender identity emerges as a master status, shaping how they interact with different aspects of American culture distinct from their home cultural settings. The third article, titled “From 9/11 to Travel Bans: The Contemporary Ethno-Racial, High-Skilled Muslim American experience,” focused on the experiences of long-term immigrants, examines how South Asian Muslim Americans come to terms with the outburst of Islamophobia surrounding their ethno-racial and religious identities. The study theoretically contributes to understanding the intersectional relationships of upwardly mobile classed, gendered, and racialized immigrant identities that conflate the issues of race and religion. Bringing together racialization theory, intersectionality theory, and the concept of master status, I demonstrate how high-skilled Muslim immigrants present their understandings of the Islamophobic contexts of the American mainstream. I show that while their religious identity serves as a master status to their racialized experiences, the intersectional dimensions of their complex identities are crucial to how they experience overt and covert forms of Islamophobia in their personal and professional lives.Thesis (PhD) — Boston College, 2021.Submitted to: Boston College. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.Discipline: Sociology

    The Vaporfly Effect: Innovation or Omitted Variables?

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    Thesis advisor: Christopher MaxwellNike claims that their shoes, the Nike Vaporfly 4%'s, will make you 4% faster in your next marathon. This claim is evaluated by way of econometric analysis of large scale, publicly sourced data. This study seeks to prove whether or not Nike's claim is valid, and assess the implications of such technology in both competitive and amateur running.Thesis (BA) — Boston College, 2021.Submitted to: Boston College. College of Arts and Sciences.Discipline: Departmental Honors.Discipline: Economics

    Thinking with Games in the British Novel, 1801-1901

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    Thesis advisor: Maia McAleaveyMy dissertation explores how nineteenth-century novelists imagined rational thinking as a cognitive resource distributed through physical, social, national, and even imperial channels. Scholars studying nineteenth-century discourses of mind frequently position rational thinking as the normalized given against those unconscious and irrational modes of thought most indicative of the period's scientific discoveries. My project argues, in contrast, that writers were just as invested in exploring rational thinking as multivalent procedure, a versatile category of mental activity that could be layered into novelistic representations of thinking by "thinking with games": that is, incorporating forms of thinking as discussed by popular print media. By reading novels alongside historical gaming practices and gaming literatures and incorporating the insights of twenty-first century cognitive theory, I demonstrate that novelists Maria Edgeworth, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, and Rudyard Kipling experimented with models of gaming to make rational thinking less abstract and reveal its action across bodies, objects, and communities. If Victorian mind-sciences uncovered "thinking fast," games prioritized "thinking slow," a distinction described by psychologist Daniel Kahneman in his recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2013). Scenes of games often slow thinking down, allowing the author to expose the complex processes of rational, cognitive performance. Furthermore, such scenes register the expanded perspective of recent cognitive literary studies such as those by Alan Palmer and Lisa Zunshine, which understand thinking, at least in part, as externalized and social. In effect, by reading scenes of thinking along the lines proposed by strategic gaming, I demonstrate how novels imagined social possibilities for internal processing that extend beyond the bounds of any individual's consciousness. Of course, games easily serve as literary tropes or metaphors; but analyzing scenes of gaming alongside games literature underscores how authors incorporated frameworks of teachable, social thinking from gaming into their representations of rational consciousness. For strategy games literature, better play required learning how to read the minds of other players, how to turn their thinking inside out. The nineteenth-century novel's relationship to games is best understood, I suggest, within the landscape of popular games literature published at its side - sometimes literally. An article on "Whistology" appears just after an installment of The Woman in White in Dickens's All the Year Round; the Cornhill Magazine published a paean to "Chess" amid the serialization of George Eliot's Romola. As a genre, strategy manuals developed new techniques for exercising the cognitive abilities of their readers and, often along parallel lines, so do the novels I discuss. Prompting the reader to think like a game player often involved recreating the kinds of dynamic, active thinking taught by games literature through the novel's form. My dissertation explores how authors used such forms to train their readers in habits of memory, deduction, and foresight encouraged by strategy gaming.Thesis (PhD) — Boston College, 2017.Submitted to: Boston College. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.Discipline: English

    Examining the Role of Magnesium Ions in the Structural Stability of Ribosomal Subunits and An Investigation of a Novel Anticancer Therapeutic: Analyzing the Binding Affinity of a Stapled p53 Peptide Analog for Regulator MDM2

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    Thesis advisor: Udayan MohantyComputational research can play a crucial component in the discovery of unique biochemical phenomena, from answering fundamental questions about molecular function and structure to the modeling of designed pharmaceuticals to cure many debilitating illnesses. Here computational methods are employed to examine the exquisite role that magnesium ions play in stabilizing ribosomal subunits responsible for protein translation and to analyze the potential of a proposed anticancer drug for a pathway that is impaired in the majority of human cancer cases.Thesis (BS) — Boston College, 2011.Submitted to: Boston College. College of Arts and Sciences.Discipline: College Honors Program.Discipline: Chemistry

    Understanding the kinetic profile of phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C from Listeria monocytogenes

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    Thesis advisor: Mary F. RobertsThe phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) from Listeria monocytogenes (a monomer in solution) shows unusual kinetic properties compared to other well-studied phospholipases: (i) increased specific activity with decreasing protein concentration, (ii) activation of the phosphotransferase step by salts, and (iii) activation of both the interfacial phosphotransferase and water-soluble phosphodiesterase steps by zwitterionic and neutral amphiphiles. A variety of biophysical studies (fluorescence, NMR, monolayer, vesicle binding) of enzyme/lipid complexes coupled with kinetics have allowed us to propose a model that accounts for these features. The enzyme binds tightly to anionic surfaces and much more weakly to a zwitterionic interface. The tight binding can be reduced by adding KCl at concentrations that activate the enzyme. In the crystal structure of the enzyme, many basic residues are clustered on the sides and bottom of TIM-barrel far away from the opening to the active site. These cause the enzyme to adopt a non-productive orientation on negatively charged membranes that leads to a reversible clustering of anionic lipids and vesicle aggregation. An increased surface concentration of zwitterionic / neutral amphiphiles along with the salt disperses the anionic substrate, shields charges on the protein, and enhances productive encounters of the protein with substrate molecules. This model has been tested by examining the behavior of enzyme with citraconylated lysines and mutants of neutral surface residues at the rim of the active site. The unusual kinetic behavior of this PI-PLC also appears to contribute to the escape of L. monocytogenes from vacuoles during infection.Thesis (PhD) — Boston College, 2008.Submitted to: Boston College. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.Discipline: Chemistry

    Leadership Practices that Affect Student Achievement: Creating a Supportive Organization for Learning

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    Thesis advisor: Diana PullinIt is widely accepted that school leadership has both a direct and indirect impact on student achievement. Hitt and Tucker’s (2016) Unified Leadership framework summarized a decade of work by numerous researchers identifying the five most effective leadership domains that influence student learning. Using that work as a conceptual framework, this qualitative case study analyzed one of the five interdependent leadership domains in an urban elementary school that succeeded in educating traditionally marginalized students and outperformed other schools with similar demographics in the district. This study focused on the fourth of Hitt and Tucker’s (2016) key leadership domains or practices: creating a supportive organization for learning. Creating a supportive organization for learning is important because just as teachers need to establish a sense of well-being and trust for students to learn in their classroom, administrators must establish the same sense of trust and comfort to create an environment where teachers can teach to their highest capacity. This study explored whether the key leadership practices of creating a supportive organization for learning were present in a school and whether the school leaders believed that presence of the attributes contributed to the effectiveness of the school. This study found that the five attributes of creating a supportive organization for learning were present at the school in that the principal built capacity in her building, the school resources targeted student achievement and there was a belief that all students can learn. Importantly, the superintendent also highlighted the principal’s ability to push her staff to continuous results without pushing so hard that they lost trust in her and love for the students they serve. There were, however, opportunities for improvement including creating a clear set of district supports for schools and improving cultural proficiency at the school level. We also found that administrators in the district believe that school leaders have made the school successful by setting high expectations for the students, no matter their situation, and created a culture of productive collaboration that was focused on continuously improving student achievement, key components of creating a supportive organization for learning.Thesis (EdD) — Boston College, 2018.Submitted to: Boston College. Lynch School of Education.Discipline: Educational Leadership and Higher Education
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