Raising the Research Bar
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Media Contact: Terry Tush | Director of Marketing & Communications | 405-744-2703 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Few programs on the Oklahoma State University campus can match the rich tradition and international acclaim of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the Spears School of Business.
As one of the nation’s oldest programs, OSU’s HTM school is ranked 13th in the United States and 19th globally under Carl and Marilynn Thoma Distinguished Chair Dr. Brij Thapa. The program has evolved since its founding in 1937 into a school that prepares the next generation’s hospitality and tourism leaders with a business-focused curriculum.
A faculty member who embodies the school’s mission is Dr. Kevin So. The William S. Spears Chair in Business and the program’s Ph.D. coordinator, So has been named to Clarivate’s worldwide list of Highly Cited Researchers in each of the last two years.
“Dr. So is an accomplished researcher who has made notable contributions in quality that have had a significant impact in our discipline,” Thapa said. “He is a sought-after speaker, collaborator and mentor, and as a program we are very proud of his achievements. We appreciate his contributions to the scholarly field and enhancing our reputation nationally and globally.”
The Highly Cited Researchers list identifies scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple highly cited papers. To make the list, a researcher must produce numerous papers ranking in the top 1% of citations for their chosen field over the previous decade.
According to Google Scholar, So has 8,228 citations since entering academia nine years ago, including 7,374 since 2018. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed articles in the ABDC A and A* journals, and he is one of just 266 social scientists in the world to earn a spot on Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers list in each of the last two years. In addition, he is among the top cited researchers in each of the following research areas: hospitality marketing, tourism marketing, customer engagement and sharing economy.
“If you look at Oklahoma State University, as a Research 1 institution and a land-grant university, a very important part of our mission is to conduct cutting-edge research and disseminate the knowledge to the industry and to the discipline,” So said. “That knowledge can be utilized to enhance business practices and the quality of life for the people in the state of Oklahoma, in the United States and all over the world.”
Born in China and raised in Hong Kong, So pursued his undergraduate degree in business management, majoring in hotel management from Griffith University in Australia, graduating in 2009. Of the approximately 5,000 graduates, So was one of two students to receive the prestigious University Medal. In 2010, he continued his graduate education in mathematical sciences, majoring in statistics and statistical modeling at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. He was then awarded a Ph.D. in hospitality and tourism management from Griffith University in 2013.
Before entering academia, So gained industry experience with international hotel chains throughout Australia. He then relocated to the U.S. where he earned early tenure and early promotion at the University of South Carolina. While there, he served as associate professor in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management and as a research associate in the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development.
In 2019, So was named a Breakthrough Star of the University of South Carolina, the university’s most prestigious annual research award that recognizes early and mid-career faculty members who “exceed expectations in their fields, demonstrate exceptional potential, and have made outstanding contributions to research and scholarship during a short time at the university.” In 2020, he began his career at OSU as an associate professor and has now been promoted to full professor.
“Kevin So is one of the most prolific colleagues in Spears Business,” said Dr. Ramesh Sharda, vice dean for graduate programs and research at Spears Business. “Besides his excellent research output, he has always been the most thorough and diligent in any committee deliberations where I have sought faculty help. We are fortunate to have him here.”
So’s research focus lies at the intersection of hospitality and tourism marketing and service management. Focusing on these industries as the contextual domain of his research, he has concentrated on researching global consumer trends and consumer behavior, with a special emphasis on customer engagement, service management, the sharing economy, access-based services, artificial intelligence and service robots.
“I think it’s very important for us to realize that when we talk about tourism, people generally think about traveling and having fun,” So said. “Yes, that’s important, but for destinations and local residents, tourism is economic development. It’s about creating jobs. It’s about generating income for companies and local business owners, entrepreneurs. It also means tax revenues to the county, state and federal government, which fundamentally contributes to enhancing people’s quality of life.
“In Oklahoma, tourism is our third largest industry. So, tourism is about economic development, it’s about creating employment opportunities and generating income and tax revenue.”
Story by: Stephen Howard I Discover@Spears Magazine
Photo by: Adam Luther