By: Paul Hunter, Practicum Writer
Growing up, Abby Schneider didn’t have cable television. She grew up playing in the woods of a small town in New Hampshire. Despite this, her dream was to be like Warren Miller, a well-known filmmaker of ski movies. She wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Schneider graduated from Colgate University in Hamilton Village, N.Y. – a town smaller than her own – and with no clear vision for her future, referred back to her childhood fantasy.
“I’m going to be Warren Miller when I grow up,” she said.
While applying for jobs in Beverly Hills, Calif., a former professor recommended she apply for a position with ABC News in New York City. The job was a long-shot and Schneider didn’t expect a call back, but sure enough, she got the job and not too long after, the small-town girl who grew up running in the woods of New Hampshire picked up everything and moved to the big city.
Her memories of New York City are highlighted with extremes. She remembers using an unopened Crockpot box as a desk and a bucket from the Dollar Store as a chair. At this desk, she would transcribe episodes of ABC’s famous show, “What Would You Do?” She worked on the show doing casting, location scouting, scenario development, waiver signature collecting, and transcribing episodes.
She’d go to bed late, then wake up as early as 3 a.m. to make it to the next shooting location. She commonly worked 90-hour weeks.
“It was a really exploitative system,” Schneider said. “It was a really crazy time.”
Living expenses were high and her salary low, so Schneider worked side jobs tutoring for the SAT and walking dogs.
Her mother, Sandy Schneider recalled this chapter as a developmental one.
“ABC helped her become a professor, too, because she realized she didn’t like working in television as much as she thought she would,” she said.
After some time, Schneider realized that a job in television wasn’t for her.
An email arrived in her inbox from a former academic adviser at Colgate: It was a call for a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder. Remembering her passion for psychology, her college major, Schneider promptly did some research on the position.
A new section of psychology called “Judgment and Decision-making” was being added to marketing departments at universities across the nation. In her sparse spare time, Schneider began applying for research assistant positions. Shortly after starting the search, she found a position at Columbia University with faculty member Gita Johar doing survey development, data collection, and data analysis. She quickly left ABC behind and began working on experiments at Columbia University in New York City.
While she worked as a research assistant, Schneider attended lectures and talks about new research in the field. She slowly recognized that she found every talk enticing. This ultimately inspired her to apply for graduate school.
When application decisions came back, Schneider was left with a tough choice: Attend the University of Colorado Boulder or Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Evaluating these programs represented a dilemma: Would she follow her heart by moving to Colorado, a place she’d always wanted to live, or pursue an education at a top-rated, prestigious university?
Schneider ultimately chose to attend CU to pursue her master’s degree. She recalls this decision as a turning point in her life; prior to this moment, she was concerned with the status of academic institutions and perfecting her academic identity, which she attributes to how she was raised.
Schneider recalled her parents showing her, through emphasis and action, the power
of intrinsic motivation.
“I could have gotten a lot of money, but my parents wanted to maintain that it was something I should be intrinsically interested in,” Schneider said.
She had friends with parents who gave them money for each A on their report card, but
Schneider remembers her parents solely showing pride for her accomplishments.
“This is definitely a decision I think about frequently, still. I wouldn’t do things differently because that decision got me to where I am today and I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” she said.
In Boulder, Schneider studied consumer choice and taught undergraduate courses, such as “Marketing Research.” She soon discovered her “true passion for teaching.”
In an interview, her father, Mike Schneider, observed that Schneider comes from a long line of teachers. Her great-grandmother was a teacher, he himself was a teacher, and Schneider was raised among teachers. Her father also remembered what he thinks was the first time she showed interest in consumer behavior and marketing.
“She was crawling around and there must have been a checkbook laying around somewhere … she crawled around with it and I think that this was her first interest in money and marketing.”
Schneider’s mother recalled her daughter had good teachers, who were good role models, and that Schneider had been interested in psychology from a young age.
For Schneider, teaching in this field almost seemed a destiny.
An aspect of her time at CU that Schneider recalls fondly was the Watson program, which was focused on social responsibility. Schneider first crossed paths with Bead for Life at a Watson seminar, which completely changed her life and the course of her career.
“It was the answer I was looking to in terms of how we can use business for good. It was the first time I felt like the path that I had chosen was aligned with my values and who I was and something deeper than just ‘marketing stuff,” Schneider said. “It was at this moment that I decided that I was going to do something with Bead for Life someday.”
After Schneider graduated with a Ph.D., she applied to 95 universities, seeking a teaching position.
“Out of the 95 schools that I applied to, there was only one that stood out … and it was Regis,” she said.
Schneider always pictured herself at a liberal arts school, but never thought she’d be a business professor. When Regis came along, it opened up that door for her and she appreciated how the Anderson College of Business’ curriculum incorporated Jesuit values and applied a social justice lens.
When application decisions came back this time around, making a decision to follow
her passion was a bit easier. Now a professor of marketing at Regis’ business school, Schneider teaches classes that ask questions not only about marketing, but about the social impact of marketing on the global business environment.
Last semester, Schneider even took a group of students to Uganda, in east-central Africa, to study social entrepreneurship, visiting a Bead for Life program as a part of her Marketing for Social Change course. As she’d promised herself years ago, she was living out another of her dreams.