Growing up in a Sufi family on the border of Mexico in South Texas, Sunaina Chugani saw her parents start a jewelry business in her home town. She saw all sorts of customers flow through the shop, but a particular type of customer frequently caught her attention: those who didn't seem to have sufficient material wealth to meet basic expenses and yet still stretched themselves financially in order to buy a piece of jewelry. Like those customers would return after some time to sell back the jewelry because they could not make rent that month. That led to her interest the issues of consumer psychology, happiness -- and ultimately led to a PhD and becoming a professor.
What is it about our products that draws us? Sure, we derive a short-lived pleasure, but can we empower consumers to make decisions towards a more sustainable happiness?
Her motivation to understand the answers to these questions led her to pursue a PhD in Consumer Behavior at the University of Texas at Austin. During her time there, she explored the process by which happiness from material purchases fades over time and what sorts of forces speed up or slow down that process. Now, as an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Baruch CUNY in Manhattan, she is teaching a course on Consumer Behavior and is continuing her research on why individuals engage in materialistic behavior and on the relationship between happiness and materialism.
In her spare time, Sunaina helps her family run Infinite Love, a non-profit organization in South Texas that is dedicated to building community, facilitating service projects, and fostering inner growth. She sees that those who participate in the Infinite Love community and others who are touched by the community in some way often experience profound growth. Through her continued scholarship, Sunaina hopes to find ways to redirect the emphasis on consumerism toward these deeper practices which result in more sustainable happiness.
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