Roland T. Rust is one of the world's leading experts on service. He is Distinguished University Professor and David Bruce Smith Chair in Marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, where he is Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Service and the Center for Complexity in Business. He is Visiting Chair in Marketing Research at Erasmus University and International Research Fellow of Oxford University’s Center for Corporate Reputation. Lifetime achievement honors include the AMA Irwin McGraw-Hill Distinguished Marketing Educator Award, AMA Fellow, INFORMS ISMS Fellow, EMAC Fellow, Fellow of the American Statistical Association, the Converse Award, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Neuchatel, as well as the top career contributions awards in services, marketing research, marketing strategy and advertising. He has won numerous article and book awards, including four best article awards from the Journal of Marketing.
He was Editor of the Journal of Marketing, founded the Frontiers in Service Conference, and was founding Editor of the Journal of Service Research. He is VP of External Relations for EMAC, and Editor of IJRM. He has consulted with many leading companies worldwide. A former national class college distance runner, he has been inducted into the DePauw University Athletic Hall of Fame.
What do you do best?
I am a deep thinker about business issues, especially issues related to service. I can bring perspectives from many different fields into my thinking. That breadth has resulted not only in business publications, but also an honorary doctorate in economics, and publications in sociology, psychology, computer science and information systems.
What makes you the best?
I am very broad, and widely read, not just in business, but also in science and the liberal arts. At the same time, I have a background in mathematics, so I am able to express my thoughts rigorously. My creativity and originality are what set my work apart.
How will you stay the best?
I will maintain my interest by working mostly on "wild and crazy" research projects. I like controversial work that makes people question the conventional wisdom. For example a recent journal article argued, using both mathematics and data analysis, that service firms should not maximize their productivity. Some of my current work focuses on the origins of racism in service. I have to do work that I myself think is interesting.
What are your aspirations: business & personal?
Business: I want to be the intellectual leader in my field, and I want service to be taken more seriously. Currently most businesses (and governments) pay lip service toward service, but their thinking is still in the 1950s world of automobiles and laundry detergents.
Personal: I want to be a good husband to my wife. I also want to win an age-group national championship in track or road running (currently I have a 2nd and several thirds, but have never gotten gold).
What fascinates you?
The "singularity," when computers become smarter and more capable than people, is the most important issue of our time, and should be a great concern. There's a reason that Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and others are worried. It's remarkable that the general idea for this was proposed in the book, "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelly, about 200 years ago. We need to get serious about this. It may be too late already. On a more positive note, I'm fascinated by electronic music, which I used to do, and intend to resume.
"I'm a man, not a machine." The machineries of the work world tend to make all of us work machines. We are essentially working for a large system that people already don't really control. That is why the system is so cruel to individuals, and why even CEOs or the President of the United States can't redirect the ship, without themselves being replaced. I say this motto to myself to justify my human weakness and acknowledge the limitations imposed by my humanity.
(both live and dead) Joni Mitchell, Arthur Lydiard, Howard Frank, Andy Warhol, Stanley Kubrick, Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Georgia O'Keefe, Kurt Vonnegut, Emily Dickinson, Jose Andres, Naomi Watts, Richard Linklater, Philip Glass, George Gershwin, Billie Holliday, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and of course my wife, Ming-Hui Huang
The South Island of New Zealand, Amsterdam, Paris, San Francisco, Austin, Cancun, Honolulu, Oxford (can you believe I mentioned Cancun and Oxford on the same list?)
Goods: Wine from New Zealand or Spain, Turley Zinfandel from California, Services: Netflix, online information services (completely transformed the way people live)
1. My wife 2. (distant second) My work 3. Running and coaching 4. Music 5. Poetry
Most challenging moment?
I completed my PhD degree in 2 years (record speed in that program), which was a scary thing to attempt, and almost didn't work, when I ran into serious difficulties on my dissertation. Fortunately, everything worked out.
Biggest disappointment - how did you/will you overcome it?
I got a lot of enjoyment out of composing and arranging multi-track electronic music recordings. I very much want to get back to that, but I decided I needed to make a living. I will get back to my music increasingly over the next few years, because I can't stand to let it go forever.
I founded the world's leading service journal (the Journal of Service Research) and the world's leading annual service conference (the Frontiers in Service Conference). On a more personal side, I am very proud of setting 12 school records in track and cross-country at my university, and eventually being named to the school's Athletic Hall of Fame, in spite of having not had a stellar athletic career in high school.