Professor Spotlight: Dr. Justin Angle

Two men talking with recording equipment in a studio

In this episode we hear from Dr. Justin Angle, Associate Professor of Marketing and the Poe Family Distinguished Faculty Fellow, about his research regarding the impacts Native American mascots can have on society, training to be a professional triathlete, and how he found his way into academia. Check out his podcast “A New Angle,” now on Montana Public Radio, Thursdays at 7:30pm.

Story Transcript

CHRIS LIDER: 

I think he embodies what Montana is about, just the outdoors. But then also, being in the classroom, working hard, being creative, showing a joy for that and a passion for that. 

ASPEN RUNKLE: 

Be authentic and Justin will treat you with authenticity and honesty. And he really wants to get to know who you are so that he can help best serve you and whatever that might be. 

ANTHONY KROLCZYK: 

Someone pointed out the fact that like Justin, you, you drive a van, right? And he's like, whoa, whoa, whoa, I don't drive a van. I drive a Volkswagen Eurovan, because I'm a cool dad. 

RUNKLE: 

His thing is he interviews cool people doing awesome things. And I'd argue that he is a cool person doing awesome things. 

LIDER: 

I think he does a great job of making everyone feel heard and making everyone feel welcomed. I feel like that is great to have in a professor. 

KROLCZYK: 

I just think Justin is one of the greatest assets to the University of Montana. It's gonna be one of the highlights of your college experience to share a classroom with Justin. 

ASHBY KINCH: 

This is Confluence, where great ideas flow together, a podcast of the Graduate School of the University of Montana. On Confluence, we traveled down the tributaries of wisdom and beauty that enrich the soil of knowledge on our beautiful mountain campus. You've just heard the voices of Chris Lider, Aspen Runkle, and Anthony Krolczyk, graduate students in the University of Montana's Masters of Business Administration Program, talking about our guest on this week's episode, Dr. Justin Angle. 

Justin's heading into his 10th year as a professor in the Department of Management and Marketing in UM's College of Business. I'm your host Ashby Kinch, Associate Dean of the Graduate School. In this episode, we talk with Justin, who listeners may know from his podcast, A New Angle, which recently moved to Montana Public Radio, where you can hear it Thursdays at 7:`30.  

As a professor, he's produced research with a significant impact on public debate about sports mascots, particularly the negative stereotypes, reinforced by Native American mascots. This is an issue with high salience in our state, home to seven reservations and 12 tribes. Justin has focused his energy in the past several years on the practical applied implications of his research as well as developing entrepreneurial capacity in the region.  

We discuss his journey, including the way sports prepares you for life in the university, the importance of finding one's limits, and developing resilience. Every episode, we ask our guests to read a poem or a short passage from literature about rivers. Justin has chosen a key moment from David James Duncan's "The River Why," a modern classic of Western river writing, published in 1983. He'll read the passage replete with the intense and luminous close observation of the river world before we wade into a few streams of thought ourselves.  

Welcome to Confluence, where we swim fearlessly in the currents of thought. 

JUSTIN ANGLE: 

This is an excerpt from David James Duncan's "The River Why."  

The salmon swam fearlessly, though she swam toward her death. In a wide leaf strewn eddy, my fish again drew near me, and I looked for the trailing jacks. I was thinking I watched her shadow, when the dark path suddenly eased ahead. It was another big Chinnok. When they continued to swim in tandem, I realized she'd found her mate. Often they would come close to me, letting me watch them journey together, breathing the wind woven into the water, as I breathe, the ether entwined in the air. And the newly registered love coursing through me as steadily as easily as the light line cut through the water. 

KINCH: 

Thank you for joining us on Confluence Justin. 

ANGLE:   

Yeah, thanks for having me. Yeah, 

KINCH:  

So that passage is beautiful. It's got such resonant imagery, but has a special role for you. Tell us a little bit about why you selected the passage. 

ANGLE: 

I read it in college, and I read it at a time where like I was, not only...I'm not a big fiction reader, right. And I haven't been. I mean, I went straight into a business school college experience, it was grounded in the liberal arts, etc. But like, that's not quite where my head was at as a college student yet. I was into fishing. And my grandfather at the time was starting to fade to Alzheimer's. And he was the guy that taught me how to fly fish. And so a friend gave me "The River Why" and said you probably read this, and it just, it was one of those things that just like the right confluence of factors, so to speak. I just tore through it. And it resonated on so many dimensions, one just the topic, the rivers, finding the source, and then the theme of love at the same time I was getting to know my wife Maggie at the time and like our relationship is really starting to take off and... 

KINCH: 

The book, not that I'm not that I'm comparing Maggie to a mating salmon. But that passage showed up in your vows. And it's such a beautiful moment where he sees, you know, these two fish joining in the stream in this totally coincidental chance of genetic lottery. Right. But then you use it in your vows. It's a beautiful gesture. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah, it kind of become a piece of the book that resonated with with both of us that we were sort of brought together by a river in the sense that I met Maggie through the rowing team at the University of Pennsylvania early on, in fact I had just gotten cut from the soccer team. And she encouraged me to try rowing. And that was sort of the substrate for our relationship, and just spent so many years together on rivers and now, you know, outside and so yeah, it was it was both sort of pragmatically meaningful, but also metaphorically meaningful, too. 

KINCH:  

But on the on the book itself, and on the the notion of the West, I mean, back then, had you already developed a kind of romantic myth of the West, or were you one of those people that kind of saw yourself potentially moving out west? 

ANGLE:  

I don't know if I saw myself moving out here. I knew nothing about the West. I mean, I had been to...the furthest West I've been was San Diego, but I flew there. I had not experienced the in between. And yeah, had some notion of, of loving the mountains from growing up in northern New Hampshire, and spending time all over those mountains. But I had no idea what the mountains of the West were other than some romantic notion. 

KINCH: 

But there's some connection there isn't there? I consider these as sort of, like the northern corners. There's something about kind of know the Pacific Northwest and the north east. There's a common affinity. That's the mountain culture is the river culture. It's the outdoors. 

ANGLE: 

I think there's that, and I think there's kind of just the outdoor ethic in the sense of there are harder places to live. There's a libertarian streak in New Hampshire politics that I find some...  

KINCH: 

Live free or die. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah, exactly, that I find some similar kind of cultural sensibility here in Montana. And it's felt like home in that sense, since I've lived here. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, yeah, that's really interesting. So all of this interest in the book and fishing predates any interest or idea that you come to Montana. Here's this really interesting affinity that Duncan himself is a fourth generation Montanan. And that book was published only seven years after Maclean's novel, they kind of birthed this modern flyfishing writing industry, they're kind of two texts in that world. And they have a lot of shared affinity too with grief, and brothers who die. And you mentioned some of these big themes, you know, seeking after sources seeking after big ideas in the natural world. So even though they kind of have this reputation as fly fishing books, there's something deeper there. It's something about nature and our relationship to it. 

ANGLE:   

Yeah, the whole sort of the piece of the river, or the piece of "The River Why" where he tries to find the source of this stream, this industrial sort of, this stream that's lost his way or sort of disappeared. And him trying to find the source of that was to me, one of the ideas that resonated the most was, you know, what is what is the core idea? What is the core source of wisdom or knowledge or being or existence or whatever it is? To me, that was one of the biggest hooks in the book. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, and so like block streams, a lot of our lives, you know, a stream gets dammed gets moved around, I will just sort of say, as a biographical note for our listeners, Justin and I live about a block away. And we just took a walk down the Rattlesnake Creek, where a dam just got removed. And funny little side note, I've lived there 17 years and walking with you down that path was the first time I'd walked the West Side Creek, which was just nuts that I'd never done it. But it's part of our, you know, lifestyle here in Montana. And it's so great to see these obstacles being removed. And some of these streams where there's, you know, it was an obviously was an economic rationale at the time for building it, but there isn't anymore. And it's good to see that you know, both with the Clark Fork dam and of course, the Blackfeet Dam, Blackfoot Dam and the Rattlesnake Dam now to remove these things that don't have that function anymore. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah, it's funny you say that like that. The book also was an entry point to you know...I wouldn't consider myself an environmental activist or environmentalist in the sense that a lot of people are but they're important value sets to me. And dams are interesting in the sense that growing up my mom used to love to take us to visit dams. I don't know if it was like, just that they were a destination. You could go and entertain couple of kids with they  were interesting pieces of construction.  

KINCH: 

Yeah, there's engineering. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah, the whole thing. And then, you know, shortly after I read the book that I started thinking like, dams are terrible. They're the worst, we got to get rid of dams and sort of getting into the Snake River dams and the whole dam removal movement. And you know, then I started getting affiliated with with Patagonia, like, we can talk about that later on, I'm sure. And it's funny, coming back to Missoula, and getting to know rivers, from a conservation standpoint, a little bit more intimately. I'm on the board of the Clark Fork coalition. And dams are not evil, necessarily. Sometimes they're useful. And so yeah, it's just been interesting to kind of journey through learning that way. 

KINCH: 

Yeah. And the closer you get to those lived experiences around the natural world, the more balance you find in those. I mean, I know that it's changed my attitude toward rivers, fire, these issues that I only saw from the abstract, and now kind of can see a lot more complexity and nuance in them than I once could. 

ANGLE: 

Right. 

KINCH: 

But it requires kind of living and immersing in that world for a while to really get that.  

ANGLE: 

Yeah. 

KINCH: 

Well, so I mean, already we've kind of discovered your, your fingers are in a lot of things. You're, you're an explorer, you like to pursue ideas across a wide range, which, which is really, you know, an attractive part of your work. Tell us a little bit about how you kind of ended up as a professor, what that journey looked like for you? 

ANGLE: 

Sure. It's one of the things I tell students like, this is my third attempt at a career and I'm hoping it sticks. Yeah, so I studied finance in college as an undergrad finance and economics. And I got a job as a bond trader, this is in the late 2000s, or no, sorry, in the late '90s, graduated in '96. And it was working in San Francisco, but New York hours, so trading bonds, mortgage backed securities on New York time. And that allowed me to...that was a fun job, I sort of viewed it as 

KINCH: 

High energy, use every part of your brain all day long.. 

ANGLE: 

All the stereotypes, I don't know if it was every part of the brain. But it was engaging. And, you know, I was in a lot deeper than I probably should have been in terms of having responsibility over, you know, amounts of money that were beyond what I really understood was going on, although it kind of became clear to me that even the people that purportedly understood it really well, maybe didn't, and we've had some, you know, historical, economic catastrophes associated with that. 

But anyway, I understood the kind of interpersonal competitive dynamics of it, like, how do you execute on a trade when the market's moving and information's changing, and people are panicking, and it sort of reminded me a lot of competitive athletics like, you just have to execute under pressure. And so I think that made it appealing, made it interesting, and it allowed me to maybe perform at a level above my knowledge set of the domain.  

But at the same time, I lost a little bit of interest in moving other people's money around. And as I mentioned, I was working New York hours and in the afternoons I was coaching a high school rowing team in San Francisco. And that was where I was drawing most of my fulfillment and satisfaction and connection. And thought that, you know, hey, if I could be a college coach, if I could go back and coach full time like that, that would be the dream shot. Coaches have always been hugely important people in my life. And the idea of maybe trying to play that role for some other folks was very appealing. So I went back to Penn, I was a assistant coach there for a couple years. And then I was an assistant at Yale for a season. And there was a lot of good associated with that, but just wasn't quite the dream shot. I thought it would be for some pragmatic reasons really, like I ended up in New Haven as rowing coaching jobs go like coaching at Yale is a pretty good gig. But you know, New Haven wasn't really the best place to be. And my wife really didn't want to be there. And we wanted to be in Seattle, and that's where her family is. And anyway, we sort of abruptly just pulled the plug on that operation. I look back on that, it's like, wow, like, we just decided one afternoon, like, we're not going to do that anymore. Just completely decided to do something else not knowing at all what it would be. 

KINCH: 

Yeah. But sometimes the values are underneath there, and they just need a moment for them to kind of appear at the surface, right. So even though it appears like an instantaneous decision, you know, whatever drove it is actually kind of been there, probably driving up to the surface. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah, but I think you'd probably agree and looking back on it. You know, now we're at similar stages in our lives, houses, families, kids, obligations, mortgages, it's a little harder to say like, you know what I'm doing I'm just not going to be an English professor tomorrow. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, can't do it.  

ANGLE: 

Don't, not doing it. What's next? I don't know. But I'm not doing it. But that's kind of what we did. And, you know, I found myself in Seattle, getting to know a new town, new community. I was like, well, I sort of know business, I'll go to graduate school and enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Washington, about six months into that I was looking at my professors thinking, those look like pretty good jobs. Maybe I could do that. And at the time, was also taking a course with a fellow that was in consumer psychology and branding. And with Mark Forehand, and Mark eventually became my dissertation advisor, and kind of opened up the notion of a PhD and a professor path. And yeah, did that and here we are. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, and that's interesting, you know, because I know that the MBA program, you know, it's an applied degree,  

ANGLE: 

Absolutely.  

KINCH: 

Right, so most people are taking it here in particular they're, you know, there is no PhD here, right? So your graduate students, you're training them to go out in the world and be professionals.  

ANGLE: 

Yep.  

KINCH: 

But you yourself kind of saw this alternate path as a way to kind of broaden and expand the set of issues you looked at. So you have the MBA, you have the practical skills, but you're also trying to dig into some of these bigger intellectual issues that you think are going to underpin it. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah, I was like, the anomaly student in our MBA program, like I wasn't, I mean, I was interested in the networking events just to meet interesting people, but not to, like, get a fancy job. I was the kid that would stay after class to talk to the professor about, you know, you say, this is the framework you should use for this business situation. Why is that? Where did that framework come from? What are the ideas behind it? And so that kind of proclivity, I think is why I was, I was leaning more toward trying to understand the basis behind the MBA degree and that coursework versus how to then take it and do something at a company to make money or something like that. Not that I'm against those things. It just was less interesting to me. 

KINCH: 

Yeah and that's a pendulum swing, I think we'll get back to like, you know, now, in some ways, in your personal work in the community, you're kind of swinging back toward the applied at that moment in your life, you really wanted the underpinnings, right. And so I mean, your your dissertation work, and eventually the publications around mascot identification, I'm really interested in the social psychology theory that you tapped into. Let's talk a little bit about one of your intellectual heroes, and how you kind of encountered that set of ideas at UW. 

ANGLE: 

So Tony Greenwald, just phenomenal social cognitive psychologist, he was at the Ohio State for years and years and years. He was a student of Gordon Alport's, at Harvard, as a PhD student, spent years at Ohio State, and now and then watched, he's been in Washington, probably over 30 years now. And it's hard to attribute large areas of psychology to any one person, but a lot of the thinking and field of implicit social cognition, started by Tony and his colleagues. And a big piece of that was this measurement tool called the Implicit Association Test, which is a sorting task that measures implicit associations held in memory, that can be used to measure what's called implicit bias, implicit preferences for any kind of differences really. Now, there's great debate as to, you know, what, how that translates into behavior. But anyway, I found that the notion of, you know, as a PhD student, in whatever discipline, well, any discipline that involves measurement, you're sort of learning like, what is a construct? And then how do you measure it? And what is the correspondence between, you know, what you're trying to measure, how you're measuring and what you think you're measuring and what you get and how reliable you get it. And Tony was, like his work was right at the epicenter of that. So I think the fact that he was doing this interesting work in an interesting domain, but also it illustrated to me like all these sort of concepts that I had to understand wanting to be working in social psych, that that's why I was drawn to his work. Beyond that, I was drawn to his work because maybe this is, I don't know if he felt this way his entire career, but he, he was interested...he was not interested in a lot of the formulaic approaches to research that we see a lot in social psych. He just wanted to look at data and learn something, whether that was learning what he expected to learn or learning something new and thinking 'Oh, well, I have to think about this differently or ask the question in a different way or study it in a different way.' He just had this kind of sensibility about, knowledge generation that I found really fascinating and interesting and inspiring.  

KINCH:  

Yeah, and that's such a great phrase there, you know, knowledge generation, of course, that's what universities do, right? You know, at every level, including the undergraduate level, you know, we often don't sort of talk enough about how vertically integrated knowledge generation is. I mean, we, if we're not learning things from our undergraduate students, and if they're not learning things, and applying them in new ways, we're not doing our job, right.  

But what you're pointing to is there's, there's some, there's a kind of arc there, you know, there's the methodological side, where you master a new set of skills, and you replicate studies and that kind of thing. And then there's this more, this, I think you used the word sensitivity, you know, this notion that, you know, based on intuition, experience, background, but also just how you ask questions that make the great researchers. They're the ones who kind of ask the question or see something different than everyone else does. So what role does the science then play there? 

ANGLE: 

Yeah. So what you what you draw out there is at the center of the moment that that research project started. So in 2005, the American Psychological Association, basically issued resolution calling for the termination of the use of any Native American mascots, sports imagery. And they cited some of the relevant research, but also went beyond the extant research to say that the use of those mascots perpetuates stereotypes in the broader population. I don't know if that's an exact quote from the resolution, it's pretty close... 

KINCH: 

It's the tenor of it. Yeah.  

ANGLE: 

And so that bid, that claim had not been demonstrated empirically. It's a claim that I think many people could make on an ethical basis. It's, uh, you know, whether you're, you know, an activist, or just anybody could be...there's reasons you could construct an opinion about that, and, and defend that opinion on plenty grounds, we didn't take issue with any of that. But there had not been any empirical demonstrated quantified work supporting that claim. And so we thought, like, wow, the APA has gone a little far here. And Tony being, you know, having an illustrious career in that world thinking, you know, we need to take them to task for this. That was, he just sort of flagged that for me when we started thinking about the project. And the project didn't necessarily set out to substantiate the claim that the APA raised, but it was great sort of framing for the area of inquiry from the start. And ultimately, like, that's kind of where we ended up with, with an empirical demonstration of how those stereotypes associated with those mascots can be perpetuated in the broader public. So outside of that vignette, I do think that your point to this interesting notion of like, and we see this so much, because our information ecosystem right now is just so blended, I mean, academics are speaking directly to the public, they're not mediated through the media, then there's media taking what academics are doing and distorting it in all sorts of different ways. And then there's people that act outside of academia, activists, whatever, like everybody's got a say, right now. I think what I'm trying to get to Ashby is that, you know, there's plenty of...if you're gonna construct an argument, like against American Indian mascots, for example, there's a lot of things a person can say, to construct value of compelling arguments against the use of those mascots. But you can't go beyond...if you go beyond what science says, you weaken your entire case, if that makes sense. And I think like that was the, the notion that kind of led into this project and I think that sort of, it's not quite staying in your lane. But if you have a strong argument, like focus on that argument, don't try to oversell it. Because you, you can weaken yourself. I think that wisdom applies to so many different domains. I mean, students, lawyers, whatever. 

KINCH: 

Yeah. And you sort of pointed to the modern ecosystem of ideas and information, right. I mean, everyone recognizes this. I mean, you know, in our professional careers, the changes have been profound just in the last decade, right, even just in the last half decade, right that the scales have been geometrically and exponentially increasing. I want to use that sort of framework to sort of pivot to this other set of ideas that underpin your research or one line of your research in your life experience, which is, you know, you've mentioned sort of the Yuval Harari book "Sapiens" as being a big influence on you. And to me and your work that kind of connects to this study you did on ancestral consumption, in the sense that, you know, we do have these bodies that are shaped by millions of years of evolution. And there's a forward momentum with that. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah, the Harari book, I think, was particularly compelling to me, because it took a bunch of disparate areas of thinking where I, you know, have some amount of knowledge or interest at the very least, and kind of unified them not into a grand theory necessarily, but it just took, you know, like, anthropology, what small amount I know about anthropology and some aspects of history and religion, and then all these areas that I sort of dabbled in thinking about, and just kind of put them all together and just helped me see the world in a way. And this notion that you would, you know, court, one of the theories of Ferrari, and probably, I don't know, who he who he attributed to, necessarily, but like, what, what one of the things that makes us human is our ability to communicate ideas on a grand scale, beyond the immediate social network that we're directly connected to.  

And then that myth, and religion and systemic ideas are a way to do that at scale. That really hit me. I'd never thought of, you know, things like capitalism as a religion before, but thinking about it as, as a belief system or human rights as a belief system, this thing we've constructed. And now like, we're in a time where, you know, everything's a social construction. So it's easier to kind of think about it that way. But when I read that book, we were less, you know, this sort of political sensibility was a little different. And that's kind of what what drew me in, and then situate in the background, you know, a competitive runner at that stage and spending a lot of time running trails, and this rise of kind of the 'Born to Run' barefoot running movement, right? And, like, why are all these people running barefoot and minimalism in its various forms, and so you brought up the ancestral consumption research, that was the term we use to define it, I think it's a little clumsy and probably less appropriate now, this was before I kind of had awareness of what appropriation is and the problems with it, particularly like the barefoot running space has plenty of problems that we weren't really aware of, you know, whatever it was 5, 6, 7, 8 years when we started thinking about that research. How, why are people into... 

KINCH:  

Paleo diets... 

ANGLE: 

At home birthing, like all these things, like why are we... 

KINCH: 

Things that like, push us back in time and make us think about something that we're connecting to something primal. 

ANGLE:  

Yeah, exactly. We intentionally make our lives less comfortable, or we, you know, we just sort of eschew the conveniences of the modern world in order to approximate something, and our kind of thinking was that we're trying to approximate something that really maybe never was. You talk to, you know, a runner who, you know, a Tarahumaran runs barefoot, and it's not because they want to run barefoot, it's because they don't have access to shoes. Give me a nice pair of shoes. I'll go run with them. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, yeah. 

ANGLE: 

So it's, it's, um, you know, the white person's, like, romantic notion of some ancestral background that is, is appropriated, but it romanticized and mythologized in some weird way. 

KINCH: 

You can say people are consuming this myth that never existed, right? But what's driving them to consume it is, in fact, the current contemporary capitalist model, right? Which is, they're being pushed to those desires. It's not like they're coming up with those desires out of nowhere, right? Someone's marketing that idea to them. So it's, it's another brand of marketing rather than being a so, you know, so, for your field, it must be interesting to think about, you know, what is the interventive practice there from an ethical or moral or social value standpoint, versus what's just the description. I'm describing for a group of people, because your research would be potentially very useful to a business, but only a business that is selling something else? Right? 

ANGLE: 

Oh, yeah. 100% I mean, I think marketing at its core is about trying to get somebody to buy into an idea, right? It could be a good idea, could be a bad idea. It could be an idea that makes you money, it could be an idea that saves the world in some way. And you know, I like to, you know, I sort of say like, you know, at some level like my research could be used for good, could also be used to sell, you know, kids in the third world more cigarettes. And so, you know, we mentioned before recording about moving into more applied areas of research, like I'd like to work on, using kind of the tools of marketing or what we know about convincing people of ideas to help convince them of good ideas. Yeah, and there's a whole lot that underlies that, whether it's, you know, where those ideas come from, and whatnot, that it's interesting to me, that's maybe outside the scope of like, what I'm trained to study as a social scientist, but that's what you know, makes this phase of my career interesting is because I can now forge relationships with those people that understand those underlying disciplines more and can collaborate with them on interesting projects. 

KINCH: 

I'm so glad you brought that up, because your CV, your recent work, it's all collaboration. 

ANGLE: 

It's all over the place, yeah. 

KINCH: 

And you've done a lot of collaboration in the past, but really, especially now, it seems like you've kind of, you're creating this new professional identity around adding a piece to these broader studies. And I'm really interested in that. Talk about the values that drive that kind of work that you're doing, especially in it's applied practice. 

ANGLE:   

Yeah, so I'll go back to my starting point in academia, you know, I mentioned Mark Forehand, my advisor, and Tony before and Tony Greenwald. And like, I came out of my MBA program and into my PhD program, like fired up about environmental sustainability, like I just sort of started working with Patagonia and being more of an activist and really, I was like, I want to get a PhD so I can, you know, publish in sustainable business practices and really be an evangelist for this and, and Mark, and Tony, to some degree, their advice was, you can do that. But at that time, in the mid 2000s, there weren't many reputable outlets that were publishing stuff in that space. And their advice was, don't necessarily come in and start with an agenda. Come in with a passion for understanding the tools of the trade, become a good methodologist, understand how to do good research and to publish good research and get your feet on the ground, in the domain, and then once you've established yourself, then start to kind of think about areas where you could maybe take some of what you've learned and apply it to your passions. And that's the path I took. 

KINCH: 

That's good professional advice. But actually, you know, for listeners of this show, we all are always talking about even if you just come out of your discipline and talk about that, in general. That's the problem of how do we replicate our methodologies, you know, students need to master those underlying tools, right?  

ANGLE: 

I think so. 

KINCH: 

And then, at those advanced stages, that's when they start to ask their own questions. That's when they sort of follow their curiosities, because they've built up this foundation. They have enough knowledge now to kind of go off and make a new intervention in the field. 

ANGLE: 

I think it can cut both ways, right? Like, I wouldn't want to stifle somebody's passion early on and say, No, you need to, you know, you need to learn the blocking and tackling before you can...I don't want to necessarily be a gatekeeper. But in academia, there are plenty of gates and gatekeepers. So learning, at least for me, like that was the path, like, take environmentalism, for example, like I looked at it, like I have this grounding in business. If the environment is an important value to me, I'm going to be changing within, I'm not going to be the guy that like, climbs up a tree and refuses to come down, if they're threatening to cut it down. That's just not who I was going to be. So sort of being the player from within and trying to create change from within felt better to me. And I think the path I was advised to take based on that kind of preference for me, it was the right one. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, yeah. And that that, I mean, that's a good segue into, you know, your sense of what your mentoring role is in this program. What are you looking for in a graduate student when you're working with one and, and, you know, what are your kind of goals and aspirations for a student in the course of their program? 

ANGLE: 

So a graduate student in our program? Like, our professional degrees?  

KINCH: 

Yeah.  

ANGLE: 

I look for somebody who's like, excited to make an investment in their career. So our programs are not research oriented, these students are learning a set of tools that they can go apply. And so it can be a student who wants to change careers, like go from what you know, go from marketing into finance, or can be a student that's maybe come up against the ceiling in their job and he just needs to make the next step. It can be a student who has this business idea that just hasn't really figured out how to make it come to life. And so what's common about those three examples are that those are three people that that want to make a change in their life and are willing to make an investment in making that change happen. And so that's what I'm looking for. It doesn't, I don't necessarily have to agree with the change they're trying to make. They just have to want it to happen. And if they're wanting it to happen, then I get excited about helping them understand why they want it to happen, and understand how to decide if it's the right things that should happen, and ultimately how to help them get there. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, and so you know, you know, I'm fascinated with sports. And one of the things we share is that we did competitive athletics through college and into our adult lives. It seems like there's a kind of link there with the the coaching background and experience, but also your experience as an athlete about, you know, maybe it's discipline. And I think, you know, for listeners, we're always kind of trying to make that broader connection across universities. But I think that's one of the sort of hidden features of a lot of professional academic life is that a lot of our professors have competitive athletics in their background. That may be surprising, right? But it's true that there are a lot of people...What do you think that connection is? And why, you know, what would be the similarities and the reasons why maybe people with that competitive background thrive in the professor's life? 

ANGLE:  

Yeah, I don't know if it's necessarily I mean, the competition piece, that is what is the unifying theme there. To me, it's that athletics, to succeed in athletics, you have to be able to work over a long period of time toward a goal that is far out in the future and difficult to achieve. And academia is very much the same. Like a piece of research takes a long time. It takes a lot of toiling by yourself behind the scenes, a lot of time where you're not really sure why you're doing stuff, but you're doing it because you feel like you've either been told or you sort of feel like it's what... 

KINCH:   

Getting your reps in.  

ANGLE: 

Yeah! Exactly. 

KINCH: 

Getting your shots up if you're a basketball player. 

ANGLE: 

Totally, when nobody's looking, right? And that's, to me, it's a similar endurance pursuit to, to athletics that the intellectual kind of pursuits are. 

KINCH: 

High deferred gratification. In other words, high high sense that you're not getting those gratifications in and out, and you better I mean, you know, as I tell my students, you got to love that, you know, in the sports analogy is you got to love practice as much as you love the game. And academics, it's the same thing, you got to love the thing you're doing, not the outcome, you got to love it in its details. 

ANGLE: 

I think that what you said about loving practice more than the game is even more true of academia, right? Because and that's why I bumped a little bit when you said competitive athlete, because, yeah, we're competitive about ideas. But I think the best academics are ones that don't feel any, like, ownership or stubbornness about their own ideas. Like you'll defend it, if you think the evidence convinces you that it's the right idea. You'll fight for it, right? But we should all be... 

KINCH: 

We should be collaborating.  

ANGLE: 

Or all be just open to hey, my idea's not the right one. Even if it doesn't win, it's okay. 

KINCH:   

Yeah, and I should gloss that` I mean, when I mean competitive athlete, I just mean that, you know, an athlete that's taking it to another, another level of competition, but I agree with you 100%, that the team sport component is key there as well, right?  

ANGLE: 

Mmhm. 

KINCH: 

Right, those of us especially, you know, you've been an individual sport, you know, pursuer, as well as a team sport. But for me, it's always been team sports. And that means knowing your place, that actually means playing your role. And sometimes in the academic world, that means knowing when you don't have the best idea, where you need to kind of change your thinking and move in a different direction. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah. And I think too, like, athletes know how to take feedback. Harsh, direct feedback, and act on it and correct it. And I find, you know, some of the athletes that I have in class are the best at responding to feedback, making a change, and coming back with better work. And not taking it personally or whatever. They're just you can't be fragile as an athlete, because you got to be coachable. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, there's, you know, parents are, you know, gnashing their teeth all around the country about, you know, changes in the way competitive sports work. But I will say this, that the key thing to me is with what you're talking about there is that athletes lose, you lose more than you win. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah. 

KINCH: 

That is very few of us that have a you know, continuous perfect winning streak. 

ANGLE: 

Only one team wins their last game. 

KINCH: 

Yeah, exactly. And so learning how to lose is a key part of competitive sports, right? It's just recognizing it's not a personal judgment, right? It's just didn't work out for you there. Right? And what are you going to do next? How is that going to impact the next thing you do? So I think that's part of it. And I think for the academic applications, kind of key with graduate students, you know, recognizing failure as an opportunity. It's such a hard thing, because so much of the work we do we do take it personally. In other words, we think of it as an extension of ourselves. But you know, one of the things graduate students in particular need to learn is how to take feedback. That's not it's not personal. It's about making you stronger to do the next thing, whatever that is. 

ANGLE: 

Yeah, I'm chuckling because I just think of like little bits of feedback I got along the way that are so academic they're, they're just entertaining like, you've not yet convinced me that you're going to fail. Like that idea is not uninteresting. It's such an obscure statement. It takes me a while to figure out that, oh, there's a kernel of a compliment. 

KINCH: 

Yeah yeah yeah, left-handed compliment. 

ANGLE: 

Exactly. 

KINCH: 

Yeah. Well, and you had said, you know, that at one point, you kind of entertain becoming a professional triathlete. 

ANGLE: 

For a time. 

KINCH: 

But you kind of backed off of that. Tell us a little bit about why. 

ANGLE:  

Yeah, so when I was in that stint where I was an assistant crew coach back on the east coast, I was training for triathlons, racing triathlons, and getting some success mostly at the Iron Man distance. And I was never going to be like, you know, tip of the spear at the Hawaii Ironman, but you know, I could be, you know, competitive in regional races, and so forth. And you know, at the time, there was a lot of money flowing into that sport, and you could make a decent career as a journeyman professional triathlete. And I was pretty invested in my athletic identity at that point, like being your coach. And just, it was important to me.  

Yet as I got more down that path of trying to pursue the results I wanted to achieve, I was learning that the sort of training I needed to do to get those results. I didn't like what it was doing to my personality, I was just becoming super selfish, super rigid. Not the husband I wanted to be we didn't have kids yet. I didn't like the way I was kind of just person I was becoming. And I thought, you know, this is maybe a fork in the road. Like, if I was going to be, you know, world world class, maybe that trade off would be worth it. But that wasn't an option for me. So the trade off didn't really make sense. 

KINCH: 

Didn't make a lot of sense, yeah. And I think that that similar kind of trade off. I mean, it's, I think there's been such movement in graduate education around this. But, you know, we used to grind our graduate students into the ground as well. And I'm sure there's some out there listening right now say, well, the grind is real, you know, it's not gone entirely but, but that trade off. And I think the analogy is similar except for I think that we're being much more attuned to where we need to, we need to support that student who's facing a block or a roadblock, and help them navigate what the trade off really is, like, where are you headed in your, in your long term goals, and we can get all of our students there, right. But we need to know where they're struggling, you know, we need to know where there may be facing that 'maybe I'm not fit,' we, you know, the imposter syndrome, part of graduate school is a very real, you know, negative, it's a headwind that a lot of our students face, that just don't feel like they fit in. And they need to be told no, you can you can ride this out, right. So yeah, it's all those students, you know, prospective students thinking and thinking that through, you know, all of us have to make those value judgments. And as mentors, we want to be diving in on the side of growth for our students. 

ANGLE: 

100%. Yeah. And I think that spending the time to understand what a student wants out of the experience is really important. I mean, some students maybe don't know, some students really want that immersive academic, they just want to pursue a tenure track professor position at the highest quality institution they can find. But, you know, one, not everybody wants that. And two, not everybody's going to get there. And so how do we, you know, if we're sort of teaching our students a set of tools for inquiry, how do we help them understand where they can best deploy those tools to get what they want out of life? 

KINCH: 

Yeah, yeah. And so much of your recent work is really, I think, attuned to that. Like, we can apply these tools out in the...we don't need the academy to be the sort of generator and end all be all, and I think you've referred to sort of some of the research questions getting too esoteric, too self involved and too self referential. And that, you know, you see a key part of your role is to kind of open up the academy and make sure the ideas are spilling out and applying, and that we're listening too. In other words, we're listening to the community what communities need around us. 

ANGLE:  

Yeah, whether it's the academy or just, you know, my colleagues here at the College of Business or the University of Montana, I think, for a university like ours, like we have some people doing tip of the spear highest level research there is in the world in their domain here. But we also have people that are not doing that kind of work, and that's okay. We all have in common is that, you know, we're in a small state, and we work for a university that has some obligation to provide value for the people that fund us. And so I look at my role here in the College of Business, if I can sort of translate some of the work getting done in business research and economics research in other domains that are relevant to business practice and help translate those ideas into things. People on the ground in the Montana economy or in the regional economy can use to create more value for people. I think that's that's a part of my job. 

KINCH: 

Yeah. So in the business world that would be collaborating with local businesses working on local research projects, but in your podcast you're closing in on 200 episodes of A New Angle. Tell us about how that kind of project got going and, and where you are with it now. 

ANGLE:   

Yeah, so the project started as a way to create more compelling content for my students, I was developing online version of my introduction to marketing class, and had been assigning more and more podcasts in place of readings. And students just seem to be responsive to them. I was having richer class conversations, students were retaining the material, engaging them with the material more deeply, and just getting better outcomes. And a lot of folks at the time, were making videos for their online classes. And that just seemed like not a medium I wanted to play in. Podcast is simpler, it's leaner to produce, I think you can get higher quality with less investment. And it's a format that doesn't tether a student to a screen, a student can consume that content. And as you know, like, so many of our students are working three and four jobs and really just struggling to put themselves through college. And so making things accessible was a big part of the inspiration for the podcast.  

And then as I started doing it, you know, and part of the reason I think you're doing Confluence is like there's a ton of awesome things happening here. And when I started in 2018, we weren't doing a great job of telling those stories. And so it felt good. For my own personal morale, but also to, you know, as a marketing professor, I thought, you know, this institution needs to be telling some positive stories about itself. There are many, and tapping into those felt good. And it felt like, this is good for class, but it's also good for kind of the general audience, people probably want to know what's happening here. And yeah, that was the genesis.  

And yeah, we've been doing it three and a half years now. And at a big step, we're going to be on Montana Public Radio, on a weekly basis. And so now it's sort of morphed into this project where you know, it continues on a lot of the values that we've talked about in this conversation. But beyond that, I feel like we're at a moment in our society where people are digging into their ideological rabbit holes, more and more.  

KINCH: 

Yeah.  

ANGLE: 

And we have media that's specifically constructed to do this.  

KINCH: 

To reinforce that. 

ANGLE: 

100%. And a way through that is through conversation. hard conversations with people you don't necessarily agree with or you don't know where they come from, or just people you can learn from. And so that is now a big motive for the podcast is to create conversations that people can learn from and to help bring us together through conversation. 

KINCH: 

We end every episode, same way. You ready for the quick hitters? 

ANGLE: 

Sure. Let's do it. 

KINCH: 

All right, here they come. The quick hitters: Morning or night person? 

ANGLE: 

Morning.  

KINCH: 

Western or eastern Montana? 

ANGLE: 

Western. 

KINCH: 

Yellowstone or Glacier? 

ANGLE: 

Yellowstone.  

KINCH: 

Winter or summer? 

ANGLE: 

Winter. 

KINCH: 

Sunrise or sunset? 

ANGLE: 

Sunrise.  

KINCH: 

What's your favorite Montana River?  

ANGLE: 

Clark Fork. 

KINCH: 

What's your favorite Montana mountain range? 

ANGLE: 

Missions. 

KINCH: 

What's your favorite charismatic megafauna? 

ANGLE: 

Grizzly bear. 

KINCH: 

What's the one piece of music you would be willing to listen to for eternity? 

ANGLE: 

Avett Brothers, I and Love and You. 

KINCH: 

What's the last voice you hear in your head when you go to sleep at night? 

ANGLE: 

Probably my wife telling me what I got to do the next day. 

KINCH: 

Thank you for joining us on Confluence Justin.  

ANGLE: 

Yeah, thank you. This was fun.  

KINCH: 

If you like what you've heard, you've got Charles Bolte to thank. He's a graduate of UM's program in environmental science and natural resource journalism.  

Confluence is brought to you by the Graduate School of the University of Montana, innovation, imagination and intellect to serve the state, the region and the world. We'd like to thank UM School of Journalism and College of Business for their support.  

If you enjoyed this episode of Confluence, subscribe to our podcast feed at Apple, Google Spotify or Stitcher. Give us a like on SoundCloud, and stop by the University of Montana grad school website at www.umt.edu/grad for more episodes and videos highlighting our amazing graduate students.  

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See on the next float!