Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute Hosts Fulbright Scholar
By: Katy McCall
Photo Credit: Roger Saucedo
Wine is truly an international product, fascinating as it differs in various industries around the world. So, when the birthplace of wine sends their best and brightest to conduct research abroad, where do they go? California's wine-rich Napa Valley region comes to mind, but it is actually Texas Tech University.
The Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute (TWMRI) is proud to host their first Fulbright Scholar. The Fulbright Program is a highly competitive, international scholarship program that provides merit-based grants to those in academia to conduct research abroad. Through international education exchange, the program aims to increase mutual understanding between the United States and other countries.
Dr. Pati Mamardashvili (left) and Dr. Natalia Velikova (right)
It all started when Dr. Natalia Velikova, Associate Professor in the Department of Hospitality and Retail Management and Associate Director of the TWMRI, traveled to the Republic of Georgia last year on Fulbright Scholarship. She conducted consumer research on the advantages and disadvantages of wine cooperatives in Georgia at Tbilisi State University.
While she was there she had the opportunity to work with Dr. Pati Mamardashvili, head of the Agricultural Policy Research Center in the International School of Economics.
"I truly enjoyed working with Pati," Natalia said. "Her expertise as an agricultural economist complemented mine in consumer behavior."
The two developed a bond and Natalia encouraged Pati to apply for the Visiting Scholar Program so they could continue to develop their work. The TWMRI was also appealed to Pati for its solid experience in consumer research and connections within the Texas Wine Industry.
"I began exploring what the scholarship was and I became very excited," Pati said. "Applying was a lot of work, but completely worth it. Of course, Natalia was very helpful along the way."
After crafting a research proposal and going through the application process, Pati received one of the 800 grants annually awarded to visiting scholars.
"I'm very happy to be here and to be among the group of winners of this amazing opportunity," Pati said.
Since her arrival, Pati has worked with the TWMRI on projects that benefit both the United States and the Republic of Georgia.
"We have been collecting data in effort to create a calculator for wineries that estimates how much money they bring to their communities," Pati said. "Also, we have been studying the economic impact of landscapes - how vineyard landscapes impact how much consumers are willing to pay for a bottle of wine."
Over the next few months, Pati hopes to grow in her research and leadership skills while developing a better sense of the cultural competence that it takes to work in her field. She encourages others to take advantage of the Fulbright program and the opportunities that it presents.
Director of the TWMRI, Dr. Tim Dodd describes how the institute has benefited from the program.
"The Texas industry itself is very young and is using many of the techniques in grape growing, wine making and marketing that are used around the world. Thus, we believe that hosting Fulbright scholars and encouraging our own faculty and students will bring new ideas and knowledge together."