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Meet Tongmao Li, Ivey PhD candidate

Dec 6, 2022


Ivey’s PhD Program in Business Administration is a full-time research-based program designed to develop scholars and to place graduates at high-quality research universities around the world. Our PhD candidates are showcased at conferences around the world, and regularly featured in top-tier academic and industry publications.

To help you get to know them, we’ve asked them about their academic and personal interests.

Q&A with Tongmao Li, PhD candidate

What is your background?

I was born in Chaozhou, an ancient city in southern China. With a history of more than 1,000 years, Chaozhou has a large number of traditional Chinese culture and places of interest. I spent my undergraduate and postgraduate years in Shenzhen, the most prosperous city in China, and obtained my bachelor's and master's degrees in Business Administration from Shenzhen University.

What attracted you to Ivey’s program?

Ivey Business School has a strong reputation in China. In particular, Ivey Publishing’s cases are widely adopted by Chinese universities and enterprises. The most attractive thing for me is that Ivey’s scholars in the Marketing area are quite productive and influential. During the admission process, I felt that Ivey's faculty were very friendly, enthusiastic, and attached great importance to me. Specifically, the academic records, manner, and unconditional support of my supervisor, Rod Duclos, associate professor in Marketing, played a decisive role in my final choice of Ivey.

What is your research focus?

My current research focuses on two areas: (1) how to improve the efficiency of cause-related marketing (CRM), so as to promote rational allocation of charitable resources and social equity; (2) consumers’ judgment and decision-making in business context, by this, we can improve consumers’ well-being by satisfying consumer needs more specifically.

Why is that area appealing to you? What big problems/issues need to be addressed?

When I was in China, I went to the poor, mountainous areas many times and did voluntary teaching in several primary schools. I always think about how to use business tools (e.g. CRM) to attenuate social inequality. In addition, I was appointed by a large charitable foundation in China to provide academic consultation on the research topic of how to use educational interventions to improve school education in mountainous areas. It further inspired me to devote myself to improving educational equality and social welfare.

I think the biggest challenge for CRM is how to promote long-term and effective engagement of stakeholders (including governments, donors, charitable organizations, etc.). At present, short-term philanthropic projects have achieved great performance in China, but the negative impacts brought by resource interruption have been revealed. For example, after a short-term voluntary teacher, students resist their original teachers.

How do you see your research making an impact?

I hope my research can provide theoretical implications for the follow-up research on CRM, and at the same time, I will apply my research findings to practical charitable projects, hoping to improve social equity.

How do you see research as an aid to business improvement?

CRM is a marketing tool that attaches a charitable premium to the value of goods. I hope my research can improve the performance of CRM and create value for corporate revenue, corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, and brand image enhancement.

What previous experience prepared you for this?

I worked with some large charitable foundations in China to conduct field experiments and project evaluations. My collaborators and I are also conducting a series of academic research on these issues.

Where did you grow up and what was it like there?

Chaozhou is a Chinese city famous for its long history and countless cuisines. The pace of life here is slow and residents enjoy the beauty of the city. In Chaozhou, high-tech industry is underdeveloped and the main supporting industries are the ceramic and clothing industries. Evening dress and china produced in Chaozhou have a strong reputation in China and even abroad.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

My master's supervisor, Professor Rungting Tu, had the greatest influence on my life. Prof. Tu received his PhD from UNC and returned to work at Peking University and Shenzhen University. I was totally impressed by his profound knowledge and sincere attitude to research. Under his supervision, I gradually grew from a layperson who knew nothing about academics to a relatively mature researcher, which directly inspired me to come to Canada to pursue my doctoral degree at Ivey and further achieve my dream.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

Probably the fact that I only need to sleep for four to five hours a day and then work energetically.

What is the most played song on your playlist as of now?

I like traditional Chinese music and playing traditional Chinese instruments. The songs I usually listen to are some traditional pieces of the Chinese Guzheng, such as Dance of the Yi Tribe, High Mountain and Running River, and Fisherman's Song at Eventide, etc.

What book would you recommend to others? Why?

My most recommended book is the Tao Te Ching (道德经). It is a Chinese classic text written around 400 B.C., traditionally attributed to the sage Laozi. The book is very short, only about 5,000 words, but the philosophy of nature and destiny revealed in it has deeply influenced China's cultural traditions for thousands of years. This book is as influential to the Chinese people as the Bible is in the West. Chinese people's dialectical thinking and open-minded attitude towards life are to a large extent inspired by this book. Whether or not you are from China, you can find the secret of how to understand our world from it.

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