A New Professor Pursues 'Green' and Multicultural Branding

Cindy Karp for The Chronicle

Sigal Segev, an assistant professor of advertising and public relations at Florida International U., studies the effects of "green" branding on particular populations.
July 04, 2010

Now that environmentally friendly products have gone mainstream, Sigal Segev is focused on what everyday consumers—particularly Hispanic ones—consider "green."

The Israeli scholar will bring her insights and passion for research to the classroom at Florida International University, where she begins working as a tenure-track assistant professor of advertising and public relations in August.

Ms. Segev's research, says Fernando Figueredo, chairman of the university's department of public relations and advertising, blends in well with the department's new focus on three areas: "green" branding, health communications, and multicultural branding.

Ms. Segev has held a non-tenure-track position at Florida International since 2007. Allan Richards, associate dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, says her positive attitude and energy make her great to work with. "She is one of those people that is uplifting to the program and to the students," he says.

Ms. Segev had originally thought of becoming a journalist and working as a Middle East correspondent. She earned her bachelor's degree in political science and Arabic from Tel Aviv University in 1994 and moved to the United States that year.

The move didn't mean she had to give up her ambitions. Practicality, which she says has driven many of her decisions, led her to enroll in the university's master's program in advertising and public relations, given that Florida International did not have a master's program in journalism at the time.

She discovered her passion for consumer studies and communications while working on that degree and knew immediately she had not made a mistake.

"I fell in love with the topic, with the dynamic of the topic," she says. "It's journalism, it's public relations, it's consumer psychology, ... basically, it's creativity."

She decided she wanted a career in academe and enrolled in the doctoral program in communications at the University of Leicester, in England. The program there allowed her the flexibility to fly back and forth between England and Florida. She finished in 2004.

And although her goal was to find a position in academe, she took work in other fields. She says she knew that those positions would help inform her students later on about how to apply what they learned to real-world situations.

In between earning her degrees at Florida International and at Leicester, she worked as a public-relations officer for the Consulate General of Israel in Miami. She also worked as marketing-communications director for Surf Communication Solutions, a telecommunications company headquartered in Israel, with offices in several countries. Those experiences, she says, gave her "everything to be able to be credible in the classroom."

For instance, she taught a course at Florida International called "Publication, Editing, and Design" and was able to give real-world examples to students on how to work with designers to execute a company's advertising strategy because she had done that while working for Surf.

She started to focus on "green" consumption among Hispanics after she noticed, while shopping at Whole Foods, the large number of Hispanic consumers there.

She has found that their level of acculturation influences their shopping decisions. First-generation Hispanics, she says, tend to conserve more not necessarily because they are concerned about the environment, but because of the lack of resources in their home countries.

And with statisticians projecting that Hispanics will make up 25 percent of the population of the United States by 2050, the topic will remain timely for a while, which works well for Ms. Segev. "What I see is what I research," she says. "It's more down to earth."