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Kirk Kristofferson: Geeking out on marketing

Faculty Sketch

When Assistant Professor Kirk Kristofferson is lecturing in class, sometimes you can detect a faint Canadian accent when he gets excited about the subject matter. That’s because Kirk grew up in a little Icelandic community outside of Winnipeg, in the Canadian province of Manitoba, just north of North Dakota.

“My mom’s side of the family are all entrepreneurs and my dad’s side of the family are all in education,” says Kirk. He feels as if he’s experiencing the best of both worlds.

“I had an inkling I might go the business route, so as an undergrad, I majored in marketing,” he says.

“One of my jobs was to work as a research assistant for a marketing professor. We became good friends. He mentored me, helped to build those skillsets in me, but he also showed me the academic world. I got to help with some of his research, run experiments, I got to see this whole inner world that a lot of students don’t get to see,” Kirk reminisces.

After graduation, Kirk worked in the corporate world for 8 years, before realizing he wanted to do something different.

“I looked in the mirror and asked myself, ‘What the heck are you going to do next?’”

That’s when he reached back out to his friend and mentor, the marketing professor.

“He knew one day I’d email him when I was ready. I was ready.” Kirk ended up completing his PhD at the University of British Columbia. 

“The consumer behavior field is small. You get to know people pretty quickly. I connected with Andrea Morales and we started working on a research project together that investigated Black Friday violence. Through this work, she invited me to come out here to ASU to help run one of our experiments. While I was out here, I got to know the faculty and talk to some ASU PhD students, and I just loved everything about it,” says Kirk.

“When I got back to Vancouver, I told my wife, Melissa, ‘I really hope they’re hiring when I am on the job market,’” he says. “And it just happened that they were in fact looking for a consumer behavior researcher. And now I teach here! I feel like I’ve come full circle,” he says.

“I’m a really curious guy. I really love the type of research I do. I want to figure out why we behave the way we do. To dig down and run experiments and try to understand how our minds work,” says Kirk. “Teaching is also very fulfilling. I teach a marketing capstone course and I get to push the students outside of their comfort zones and watch them grow so so much before they leave ASU.”

Kirk is determined to help them create better habits so they’ll succeed in the world after graduation. “I love being able to help and mentor students, just like the great mentors I had who prepared me.”


What do you like about your job?

The people. The culture. The support you get. And of course, the students are amazing.

What have you learned on another job that you’ve applied at W. P. Carey School?

Many years ago, I spent a year in Australia. During that time, I managed a bar in downtown Sydney. You manage people, but you are also in there working your tail off on the front line with everyone else. That experience taught me how to put my nose down and just work. And that’s something that’s carried over into the academic world. It takes mental and physical fortitude. In the world of research, it’s on us to drive our projects forward, to understand the literature, to be current, and to make a real difference in the field. And that means we have to put our noses down and get to work.

What’s your favorite W. P. Carey School event?

I know everyone says graduation, but it really is an awesome event. The cool thing for me is I get to see my students embark on this new adventure. I love that the department faculty get to be a part of the diploma presentation during convocation and get to shake the graduates’ hands. I get to see them cross the stage and congratulate them. This sense of accomplishment and watching them take the next step is very motivating.

Have you ever received especially good advice?

Everybody is smart. It’s the ones that work the hardest and that are the most dedicated that will succeed. I saw it in the real world, and in the academic world, and I try to pass that knowledge on to my students today. 

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

My very first job was at age 16. The local TV station wanted someone to help generate revenue by soliciting local business owners to buy advertising. I learned how to do cold calls, build business relationships, create ads, and manage campaigns. It was a lot of responsibility, but taught me the social skills that you need in sales and in business.


What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

I went bungee jumping off a cliff in Switzerland.

If you could be in any other career, what would it be?

I’d be an astronaut at NASA.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

There are so many places but if I have to choose one, I would like to take my wife to in New Zealand.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I’ve always been on the athletic side, but I didn’t take up running until grad school. My wife was a runner, so I started doing it to spend more time with her. It’s healthy and it’s fun. Now I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve run a few half-marathons.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?

The force. The first movie I ever saw was Return of the Jedi. My name is Kirk — I can get away with being a little bit of a nerd.


  • Salty or sweet? Sweet
  • Coffee or tea? Coffee
  • Soda or energy drink? Coffee
  • Cat or dog? Dog
  • Truck or car? Car
  • Board games or video games? Board games
  • Fiction or non-fiction? Fiction
  • Facebook or face-to-face? Face-to-face
  • Breakfast or lunch? Breakfast
  • Morning person or night owl? This is a complicated question. I’m a night-owl by nature, but I’m a well-trained morning person nowadays.