»The First Nobel

Chapman has achieved a host of milestones in recent years, as reflected by the university’s rise in rankings and in overall stature. So where does the addition of a Nobel laureate rate on the list of resounding moments?

A prominent marketing research firm says nothing resonates more deeply with alumni and others than adding a Nobel winner to a university’s faculty.

“Not the establishment of a world-class medical school, not a MacArthur genius award, nothing,” says Teresa Valerio Parrot, senior project director for the Washington, D.C.-based marketing firm SimpsonScarborough, which has done extensive research on Nobel Prizes.

“It becomes a pride point for an institution—a differentiator. The case for Chapman being a superior institution becomes that much easier to make.”

The addition of Nobel Laureate Dr. Vernon L. Smith and the creation of Chapman's new Economic Science Institute “fits with our plan of growing from a regional institution to one with more of a national and international reputation,” says Michael S. Pelly, director of admission at Chapman.

In his recent travels, including in New York and Texas, Pelly met prospective students and parents who recognize Chapman from coverage of Smith’s hiring in media outlets such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, he adds.

“The timing (of Dr. Smith’s arrival) is great,” Pelly says. “It can only enhance our academic growth and the growth of our reputation.”

For Dr. Smith, the Nobel Prize he won in 2002 was a life-changing event that still exerts its influence.

“The big difference is I’m inundated with invitations,” says Smith, who recently returned from a speaking trip to Singapore and Australia. “Before the Nobel, I did about as much traveling as I do now; it’s just that I wasn’t turning anything down. Now if that were the case, I’d be traveling all the time.”

Dr. Smith says he schedules research and other work time into each day, including writing a memoir titled Discovery, which he recently completed. He seldom lets his travel schedule take him away from the class he teaches with Chapman colleague Dr. David Porter.

In fielding speaking requests, Dr. Smith finds that people tend to exaggerate the prize out of all proportion, “to the point that you are very aware of people looking at you no longer as the human being you are.”

“I’m expected to be an authority on all matters, from God to man.”

He resists getting drawn into speaking on general topics.

“I like to speak on themes related to markets and globalization, and I try to anchor my message to my work in experimental economics,” he says. “I stick to the area in which I can contribute something that might make the most difference.”

This article was originally published in the Spring 2008 issue of Chapman Magazine.

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