Stern Stories

CHANGE. RESEARCH IT.

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Stern Undergraduate College Celebrates Legacy in Research Initiatives with 20-Year Anniversary of Honors Program and Approaching 10-Year Anniversary of Stern Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR)

Stern Undergraduate College Celebrates Legacy in Research Initiatives with 20-Year Anniversary of Honors Program and Approaching 10-Year Anniversary of Stern Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR)

When students become part of the NYU Stern Undergraduate College’s vibrant community, a world of possibility opens. Attending classes in a global city, learning from world-renowned faculty, a well-rounded education, and unparalleled career prospects are just a few of the reasons students choose Stern. One way the Stern Undergraduate College delivers on these commitments is through its legacy in student research initiatives that empowers undergraduates to develop analytical problem-solving skills that are transferable to any career path, including pathways in academia. 

This year, Stern UC is marking the 20-year anniversary of its Honors Program and the 10-year anniversary of the Stern Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) is right around the corner. 

According to Undergraduate College Vice Dean Robert Whitelaw, “Stern’s undergraduate research initiatives, including our Honors Program and SPUR, not only provide an opportunity for students to engage meaningfully with research faculty, but they also provide students with hands-on, top-tier academic research project experience. The critical thinking skills students develop will serve them well in any career path, and for some, these initiatives are the spark that inspires them to pursue a career in academia.” 

Stern UC’s Honors Program Celebrates 20-Year Anniversary 

Stern UC’s Honors Program invites a select group of seniors to participate in an Honors Seminar featuring graduate-level research, pairing them with research-oriented faculty, including Nobel Laureates, who partner with and advise undergrads throughout their year-long development of a thesis. More than 360 theses have been written to date. Topics range from the role of influencer evaluations on the New York restaurant industry to reimagining the future of aviation with blockchain and more. 

The Honors program was launched in 2001 and co-founded by Professor Marti Subrahmanyam and the late Stern Undergraduate College Dean Emeritus Frederick D.S. Choi. 

According to Professor Subrahmanyam, "NYU Stern was a true pioneer in the undergraduate research landscape when the School launched the Honors Program two decades ago and continues to lead in this effort. The program has grown into a School-wide effort, leveraging a large portion of Stern's expert faculty in the selection process, seminars and thesis mentoring. It has been wonderful to see the impact of the program on students whether they choose to continue their studies through a graduate program, pursue a career in academia or take their learnings into the industry of their choice." 

Program alumni have gone on to top graduate programs in finance, economics, marketing, mathematics, organizational behavior and public policy, with more than 30 pursuing doctoral and academic careers thereafter. Additionally, over a third of graduates have gone on to graduate professional schools including business, law, and medicine.

Professor Mary Billings has joined Professor Subrahmanyam as co-director of the program for the 2020-21 academic year, and will succeed Professor Subrahmanyam as director next year. 

A Decade of the Stern Program for Undergraduate Research 

The Stern Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) was launched in Spring 2012 under Professor of Marketing and Dean Emeritus of the Undergraduate College Geeta Menon. The program connects undergraduate students with Stern’s faculty experts to collaborate on cutting-edge research projects. 

According to Professor and Dean Emeritus of the Undergraduate College Menon, "Research is an important cornerstone of business schools and business education. When I started as Dean of the NYU Stern Undergraduate College in 2011, it became apparent to me that some of our very bright, talented students were hungry to have deeper intellectual interactions with our faculty. Having been part of this amazing faculty for decades, I knew that they are top-notch and pushing the boundaries of knowledge in our various business domains. It seemed like a no-brainer to bring together these students and faculty to converse on research. And thus, SPUR was born. I myself have worked with several undergraduate students through SPUR, and the experience has really helped me as well. I look at research topics through different lenses, and it broadens the scope of my research."   

Since launching, 770 students have worked with upwards of 130 Stern faculty, which amounts to more than half of the School’s full-time professors, on more than 1,000 research opportunities.

One Alumnus’ Journey from Stern to a Career in Academia

For NYU Stern alumnus Fangzhou Lu (BS ‘14), the long-term impact of the Undergraduate College’s research initiatives is real and tangible. 

During his junior year, Fangzhou was one of the early participants in SPUR, where he was mentored by Vice Dean Whitelaw and Professor Jennifer Carpenter on research related to China’s stock market. During his senior year, Fangzhou was selected for the Honors Program and wrote a related thesis supervised by Vice Dean Whitelaw. After graduating from Stern, Lu went on to earn his Ph.D. from MIT in 2020 and just started as an Assistant Professor at HKU this academic year.  

Dean Whitelaw, Professor Carpenter and Fangzhou have continued working together on the research they started through SPUR. In March 2021, the Journal of Financial Economics, one of the top finance journals in the world, published their paper, “The Real Value of China’s Stock Market,” and selected it as the lead article for the issue. 

According to Fangzhou, “Taking part in SPUR and Stern’s Honors Program kickstarted my life in finance research. Although I was interested in research before I did SPUR and the Honors Program, they further inspired me and helped me make up my mind to pursue a career in academia.  I also formed a long-term bond with my mentors Jennifer Carpenter and Robert Whitelaw. My Honors Program thesis evolved into A-level research and was recently published in the Journal of Financial Economics, which helped me land offers for an assistant professor position from many universities, one of which I accepted with the HKU Business School. Therefore, the SPUR and the Honors Program set the foundation for my career in academia, and I was genuinely thankful that Stern has such programs.”