Currently a fourth year PhD student at University of Illinois Chicago, Matsumoto says the Harris MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods gave him the research skills to best study the intersection of business and public policy.
Headshot of Kohei Matsumoto
Kohei Matsumoto

“As products and supply chains become more complex, and consumer needs become more diverse, product recalls are quite common,” said Kohei Matsumoto, MACRM’16 and currently a fourth year PhD at the University of Illinois Chicago. “And these recalls can damage a firm’s reputation and brand image.”

Matsumoto suspected there were aspects of recalls that were not being analyzed, and saw a connection to public policy when looking at the rise in product recalls. “Although firms should keep responding to consumers' evolving needs to gain competitive advantage, excessive competition may produce unsafe products,” he said. “The government wants to prevent product recalls, but they happen with more frequency than many would expect.”

While originally pursuing a PhD at Kobe University in Japan, Matsumoto realized the traditional business school case study method—although it served him well for his MA at Kobe University—would not meet the needs of the research he was interested in as a PhD candidate. “Case studies can provide a deep understanding of company behavior, but in order to conduct the level of research I was interested in and analyze firm competition most effectively, I needed to have a stronger knowledge of quantitative research methods.”

Matsumoto began exploring options for gaining those quantitative research skills. Fortuitously, the MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) program at Harris had just launched, and Matsumoto joined the inaugural class. “It seemed a perfect fit. I took advanced classes in research methods, microeconomics, political economy, and econometrics. I gained the research skills to best study the intersection of business and public policy.”

Matsumoto also recalled the solid camaraderie in the MACRM program. “All of us [in the inaugural program] were really encouraging and supportive of one another, and we’ve all stayed in contact since graduation. Plus, each of us who applied to PhD programs were admitted, and each of us who applied for company jobs secured really good positions.”

As for academic memories, Matsumoto said, “One of my favorite classes was a research apprenticeship I did with professors Damon Jones and Ioana Marinescu to study the Alaska Permanent Fund, which gives money to Alaska citizens every year using oil revenue. One of the findings was that the number of part-time workers increased after the fund was created. Subsequently, Nobel Prize–winning economist Abhijit Banerjee shared the figure I had created on one of his slides during a presentation at the University of Chicago. That was a really cool experience.”

Now as a fourth-year PhD student in marketing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Matsumoto is digging deeper into the major marketing challenge of product recalls. “Competitors have two options when there is a recall: they can take advantage of the failure or learn from their competitor’s mistakes. I’m trying to figure out which of these happens more, and why.”

His current research combines Food and Drug Administration recall data with a database from GlobalData on the introduction of new products. Using this resulting dataset, he can better see what companies do when their competitors have recalls.

Once he completes his PhD program Matsumoto hopes to become a business school professor, teaching and researching topics that lie at the intersection of public policy and business.

Matsumoto offered this advice for those considering the MACRM: “Policy implications are important in many fields. If you already have a strong background in one field and are interested in public policy, the MACRM could be a good option for you.”