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News & Media
May 1, 2020

Two Graduating Students Honored with Kenan Institute Awards

The Kenan Scholars program congratulates two graduating students for their receipt of the Kenan Institute’s two highest honors.  Kenan Scholar Chris Dean Karras received the John Kasarda Research Excellence Award and Sarah Muneton, Kenan Scholars program assistant, was awarded the Kenan Institute Impact Award.

The John Kasarda Research Excellence Award honors a senior Kenan scholar’s outstanding research accomplishments, while the Kenan Institute Impact Award recognizes a student who has made a significant impact on the Kenan Institute and its mission.  The awards will be presented at the Kenan Scholars Senior Sendoff celebration virtual event on May 7.

Karras’s honors thesis examines how sustainability claims in brand messages influence consumers’ brand evaluations.  Although there is a growing consensus that industry and brands should embrace sustainable practices, consumers fear that an emphasis on sustainability will lead to price increases, while product quality may be sacrificed. To investigate the extent to which these fears are justified, Karras thoroughly analyzed and synthesized the extant literature and formulated a set of propositions. Utilizing a large-scale consumer experiment administered through Qualtrics, Karras tested and found that using sustainability claims in brand messages rather than claims about the functionality of the product does lead to lower quality perceptions.  This effect is even more pronounced when the message uses strong assertive claims.

Working closely with Karras throughout the process and serving as his honors thesis advisor, Dr. Katrijn Gielens has been very impressed by Karras.  “Chris went well above and beyond expectations. Not only was his literature study almost at the Ph.D. level, for his empirical study Chris mastered several advanced statistical techniques, thereby demonstrating his autodidactic skills.” Dr. Gielens said. “Moreover, I also explicitly want to commend Chris for working on a topic that not only has strong managerial implications but also makes a societal contribution.”

Over the past two years, Sarah Muneton has served as a Kenan Scholars program assistant.  Her contributions and dedication have both enhanced the Kenan Scholars program impact and enriched the Kenan Scholars’ experiences.  Muneton went above and beyond her assigned tasks, becoming an integral part of the Kenan Scholars program team.

Muneton chaired the Kenan Scholars Leadership Council, which she co-developed last fall. Under her direction, the leadership council has become a vital component of the Kenan Scholars program. In addition, Muneton spearheaded the program’s social media and recruiting efforts.  With her creative social media skills and hard work, the Kenan Scholars program’s presence has grown significantly.

Muneton has had a tremendous impact, especially in the uncertain COVID-19 environment.  She stepped up to play a significant role in event administration and facilitation, initiating numerous Kenan Scholars online events. This series of virtual events helped program participants maintain a sense of community and support.

Congratulations to Chris Karras and Sarah Muneton on their contributions and accomplishments, and, of course, their upcoming graduation!  We wish them the best of luck on all their future endeavors.


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