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Business Law course introduces undergrads to academic research

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

student holding microscope in library

Once considered the domain of faculty and graduate students, academic research is quickly becoming a staple of Krannert’s undergraduate curriculum. From participation in conferences and competitions through the Purdue Office of Undergraduate Research to school-specific experiential learning initiatives and individual courses, management students have numerous opportunities to apply knowledge in their chosen career field or related areas of learning.

An example is the Contracts for Managers (MGMT 59000) course taught by Cliff Fisher, a clinical professor of management and head of the Krannert School’s Law, Communications and Ethics area. Fisher has been honored as an inductee into Purdue University's Book of Great Teachers. He also received Purdue’s Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher Award, and was inducted as a Fellow of the Teaching Academy at Purdue.  

“The mission of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the contract legal environment as it pertains to both for-profit and non-profit organizations,” Fisher says. “They have the opportunity to learn about a wide range of substantive rules of public law as well as understand the ethical considerations and their influence on politics and society.”

One of the key components is a research study and paper that students can submit for consideration as a conference presentation and/or journal publication. Among the standout student researchers from previous iterations of the course is Krannert alumnus Alexis Martinez, who is attending law school at IUPUI. Martinez presented a paper at the Society of Legal Scholars Annual Conference at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, UK, in September 2019, titled “A Comparative Look at Data Privacy in the European Union and United States.”


In addition, 2021 graduate Hannah Burnau and Fisher completed legal research titled “Comparing Transatlantic Intellectual Property Boilerplating Practices Following General Data Protection Regulation.” A virtual presentation of the paper was given for the Society of Legal Scholars Annual Conference in September 2020.

Jayden Mougin, Matthew Radford, and Sam Calderone were three students in Fisher’s Contracts for Managers course spring term 2021. They did research in the course, and then over the summer and fall 2021 worked with Fisher on a paper titled “Evolution of Clickwrap & Browserwrap,” which has been accepted for publication by Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal. All three graduated from Purdue in 2021. Mougin is now a law student. Both Radford and Calderone recently took the LSAT and will be going to law school in fall 2022.

“My experiences in MGMT 590 and the SLS Conference were wonderful and helped shape my interests in the legal profession,” says Burnau, who is now attending Michigan State University College of Law. “I was able to connect with mentors at the University of Exeter and University of Edinburgh through SLS as well.”

To begin the process, Fisher helped students navigate a research platform used in many law schools. “Learning how to filter through thousands of case law and statutes will transfer to any other course that requires research and certainly to law school if someone is considering going,” says Martinez. Another fundamental skill acquired by student co-researchers was teamwork. “Our team spent hours together planning, drafting, and editing our paper,” she says. “It gives you real experience on distributing assignments, giving constructive feedback, and meeting deadlines.”

Other former students with peer-reviewed research on their vitas include former 3 +2 student Joshua Groh, now a senior finance manager at Procter & Gamble, who presented “Alleged Antitrust Violations in Collegiate Athletics” at the 8th International Conference on Restructuring of the Global Economy Conference of the Academy of Business & Retail Management in Oxford, UK, in July 2018.

The study, which he co-authored with Krannert accounting and finance major Chase Walter, was subsequently published in the International Educational Scientific Research Journal. In addition to learning about antitrust violations in college athletics, Groh took away a larger lesson about academic research in any field.

“Research can, at first, appear very daunting,” he says. “Students are first exposed to the finished product of another’s research without visibility into the incremental steps needed to achieve that goal. It begins with a curiosity, a drive to dive deeper into something that excites you. My first recommendation to students is to take it slow, focus on the curiosity, and see where the exploration journey takes you. Be deliberate and disciplined about pursuing the topic, but if you need to alter the focus part way through, do it. 

“Your first research journey doesn’t have to be solo either; finding a friend to pursue a common curiosity can not only build a valuable friendship, but also make researching more fun and motivating.  Completing any form of research, whether one page or a dozen, helps you grow as a human being and can launch interests which drive you toward even greater pursuits.”