Seated among 500 peers in the Mahar Auditorium during his first year of college, Alec N. Slepchuk listened as the substitute lecturer of his marketing class shared research on generational cohort theory. While the topic may have been tiring for some, it wasn’t for Slepchuk.
He found himself enthralled by the lesson, taught that day by Charles E. Schewe, professor emeritus of marketing at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. In fact, the lecture captivated Slepchuk so much, it sparked a serious interest in marketing and academia—one that’s driven him ever since.
“I’ve had a really great experiences studying at UMass, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do my doctoral studies here,” said Slepchuk, who followed up his bachelor’s degree at Isenberg with a PhD in marketing, which he completed in May.
UMass has always been a presence in Slepchuk’s life, as his brother, aunt, and other family members attended the school. A Holyoke native, Slepchuk cited that familiarity, along with proximity to home and financial value, as factors that made UMass a natural choice as he considered his own college plans.
Slepchuk enrolled as a general business major his freshman year, having received a scholarship from MassMutual that required him to study at Isenberg. Soon after he attended that lecture in Mahar and recognized his marketing interest, he connected with Schewe and conducted an honors project with him.
“We had many talks,” Slepchuk said about Schewe. “I remember he said, ‘I think you’re a smart guy—I think you should consider a career in academia.’”
Slepchuk graduated with a BBA in marketing in 2013, but before returning to school, he completed a two-year stint with the United States Peace Corps in Cameroon, serving as a youth development coordinator.
With more life experience under his belt, Slepchuk returned to the U.S. and enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received a master’s degree in marketing research in 2018.
But western Massachusetts, Slepchuk’s home, was calling to him. After spending time in Africa and Texas, he wanted to be back with family and friends. In addition, Slepchuk had built a close relationship with George Milne, associate dean of research and the Carney family endowed professor of marketing at Isenberg. So, Slepchuk packed up and returned to UMass to earn his PhD.
“Dr. Milne and I started working together on research in 2016 when I was studying in Texas,” Slepchuk said. “I was already halfway through a project, so I thought I’d be better set up to get my PhD at UMass instead of somewhere else.”
Slepchuk’s dissertation, which he recently defended, focused on privacy in the marketplace. Specifically, he had researched many different aspects of privacy, such as its role in the healthcare industry, how activists are changing the marketplace culture around privacy and international privacy expectations.
For example, Slepchuk’s healthcare privacy research centered around people’s reluctance to integrate their personal medical information with new technologies.
“We found that consumers who are more knowledgeable about HIPAA and technology can offset any privacy concerns they have with using health technology,” Slepchuk said. “People may still be concerned about the privacy of their information, but if they understand how their data is protected, they are more willing to share their information using today’s modern systems.”
Outside of his dissertation, Slepchuk researches how robotics and artificial intelligence create privacy issues. He also studies illegal markets and how legality affects products and promotion, as well as human trafficking and how criminals use social media to conduct unlawful activities.
“With these three research streams—privacy, technology, and illegal markets—there’s a lot of overlap,” Slepchuk said. “If you think about something like the dark web, that’s a fairly new technology that gives people assurances of privacy, but at the same time it’s often used for illegal transactions.”
Come the fall, Slepchuk will teach and continue his research at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he’s accepted a position as an assistant professor of marketing. But it won’t be Slepchuk’s first time in front of a classroom—because he taught undergraduate marketing classes at Isenberg.
“Coming back to UMass was very much nostalgic,” he said. “I remember when I started my PhD I felt somewhat like an undergrad again—I wanted to go to the dining commons and participate in student activities. As the years advanced and I started to teach classes instead of attending them, I realized I was at a different stage in my life. The rules changed now that I was an instructor.”
Blayne Nichols ‘23, one of Slepchuk’s students, looks back fondly on the early 9 a.m. classes he had with Slepchuk. Nichols said that Slepchuk “really made a mark on me as an individual who cares about helping others grow and succeed.”
“His joyous approach to delivering such informational content, coupled with his sense of humor and uplifting tone, brought a smile to my face during some of the more stressful times of my educational journey,” said Nichols, a marketing and sports management major. “When it came to how he got his course content across, he was able to relentlessly spark interest in any given topic through his positive demeanor and his careful consideration of the true theories behind market research.”
Slepchuk said he “would be nothing without Isenberg,” and credits Schewe and Milne for kick-starting his passion for academia and training him to become the scholar he is today.
“The faculty at Isenberg really shaped me into who I am,” Slepchuk said.
Milne said Slepchuk’s immersion and dedication to his research on privacy “is refreshing and will provide him the background and experience to make significant scholarly contributions to the discipline in the future.”
“I really enjoyed my time working with Alec, discussing both research and life issues,” Milne said. “It is easy to work with someone who has so much passion and enthusiasm for academic work and life outside of work. While he is very driven, he also has the ability to relax and seek balance in his life. This should serve him well in the future.”
Ultimately, Slepchuk looks back on his time at UMass with fondness and thankfulness for all the support he’s received.
“I’m so glad my education worked out this way,” Slepchuk said. “This was the place I was meant to be.”