DSEF Fellows Make the Case for Direct Selling

Jan 25, 2021
By DSJ Staff

How the Foundation’s Work Is Mainstreaming the Channel

Over the last four years, nearly 170,000 undergraduate and graduate students across the US have been introduced to the direct selling channel by university and community college faculty participating in the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) Fellows Program.

DSEF Fellows help to expand the knowledge and understanding of the direct selling business model by creating compelling classroom content focused on practices within the channel. Direct selling research has been published in notable peer-reviewed academic journals and is included in widely used Fellows-authored marketing, ethics, business, and entrepreneurship textbooks.

Case studies are just one of the ways Fellows teach students about direct selling. Developed with DSA member companies, case studies typically focus on issues faced by all businesses but are presented through the lens of direct selling. For the participating member company, a case study can have lasting effects: provide greater insight into the practices of the organization; instill a sense of pride in the salesforce; and promote positive brand awareness among academics, students, publishers, and key civic influencers.

Dr. Larry Chonko, the Thomas McMahon Professor in Business Ethics at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) College of Business, worked with DSEF for more than forty years until recently stepping away from commitments outside of his UTA role. Dr. Chonko used DSEF educational materials in his classes, hosted DSEF Campus Events, served as a panelist at DSA conferences, and was inducted into the Foundation’s Circle of Honor in 2004.

“DSEF’s cases, papers, teaching notes, and other pedagogical materials are always very informative about the industry and its companies,” said Dr. Chonko. “For the student, they provide excellent insight into the world of direct selling. They also provide students with opportunities to develop timeless skills like thinking introspectively, engaging in qualitative and quantitative analytics, and making decisions.”

Dr. Chonko is just one of the hundreds of professors in universities and community colleges across the United States who have benefitted from—and contributed to—a library of materials that serves to highlight and validate the contributions of direct selling companies and the channel.

As a DSEF Fellow, I’ve had the unique opportunity to network with leaders in the direct selling field and with excellent academic researchers."

—Caroline Glackin, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, Fayetteville State University

The DSEF Fellows Program—An Engine of Value Creation

DSEF partners with members of the academic community to support research and education programs that foster an accurate understanding of the channel as a powerful go-to-market strategy, distribution model, and entrepreneurial option.

Fellows are integral in expanding the reach of DSEF’s educational content, and thus, the accurate portrayals of the channel and its people. Their work is not only presented in universities and colleges here in the US but in institutions of higher education globally as well. In addition, through the Foundation’s partnership with the Global Jesuit Case Series (GJCS), which represents 189 Jesuit institutions throughout the world, DSEF case studies and related videos are available for download through GJCS’s online portal.

“As a DSEF Fellow, I’ve had the unique opportunity to network with leaders in the direct selling field and with excellent academic researchers,” said Caroline Glackin, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Fayetteville State University. “I’ve written and published a teaching case about a direct selling executive, and have included multiple direct selling case studies in the fifth edition of a textbook on entrepreneurship. Finally, I was fortunate to have a direct selling executive visit my university and engage with our students.”

Since 2016, when the Fellows program launched, professors have co-created high-quality teaching content in conjunction with DSA member companies and executives and then incorporated it into their university and community college classrooms, including the areas of business, management, marketing, entrepreneurship, ethics, consumer studies, and other disciplines.

“The Foundation’s goal was to recruit 200 Fellows over the first three years,” said Nancy Laichas, Chief of Entrepreneurship Initiatives at DSEF. “We felt certain there was an opportunity to grow our partnership with the academic world and make the next generation aware of the economic impact of the channel, as well as the significant opportunities it provides as a path to market.”

The interest from professors exceeded expectations. As of December 2020, 247 academics from 152 colleges and universities have been named DSEF Fellows.

Plans for 2021

DSEF has a robust program of work planned for 2021, including producing eight new case studies, six academic research projects, and launching a variety of teaching content, including week-long direct selling modules developed in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Additionally, in January 2021, the Foundation will continue its series of DSEF Insights webinars as part of DSA Engage that will feature academic partners sharing their expertise, data, and research through interactive discussions with direct selling company leaders and their teams.

“Increasing Fellows’ engagement and collaboration will deepen their knowledge of direct selling and lead to contributions that will achieve DSEF’s ultimate goal: mainstreaming the channel,” said Gary Huggins, Executive Director at DSEF. “The Foundation’s Fellows truly are its engine of value creation—bringing accurate, data-driven insights to the advancement of scholarship and teaching on the channel. As long as misinformation about the channel continues to persist, we need credible, third-party experts to uncover, analyze, and report the truth.”

Want to Participate in a DSEF Case Study?

Company case studies are important teaching tools that can also promote positive brand and channel awareness. To inquire about participating in a case study, contact Nancy Laichas, Chief of Entrepreneurship Initiatives, at nlaichas@dsef.org, or Kimberly Harris Bliton, Senior Director, Academic Initiatives, at khbliton@dsef.org.

Fellows Participation
Student Outreach
  • Highlights
  • January 2021