Ilitch School student Nina Goodwin presents research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research

Two women standing in a convention hall
Nina Goodwin (Right) at the National Convention of Undergraduate Research

When Nina Goodwin first came to the Mike Ilitch School of Business to study marketing, management and accounting, she already knew there would be research in her future.

“I initially came to Wayne State for the Honors College because I heard about how undergraduate students are able to get involved in research,” said Goodwin.

This drive for research experience took Goodwin to Long Beach, California, where she presented her paper, “Is There a Threshold to Loyalty? How Cost at Checkout Can Affect the Acquisition of a Loyalty Account” at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR).

Goodwin has been fascinated with marketing since she was young.

“My mom always worked in marketing in marketing, and I liked hearing about customer perspectives and how we view things when we’re at a store,” explained Goodwin. “Then working in retail in 2020, I was very used to pitching the loyalty programs and credit cards. I ended up taking on a sales training role, and I could see how the phrases I was using were perceived by the people at the register.”

Woman standing in front of a poster
Goodwin presenting her research

It’s these types of loyalty programs and rewards on which Goodwin’s research focuses. For her study, Goodwin created a simulated storefront, where participants could shop for goods ranging from baseball caps and t-shirts to electronics like tablets and Kindles. Participants were sorted into the lower-cost perceiving group, and given up to $200 to spend, or the higher-cost perceiving group, and given up to $1000 to spend. At check-out, participants are asked if they want to join the loyalty program, to determine to what degree amount of spending influences someone’s willingness to join.

“My survey simulation looked at the relationships between those two variables [cost and acquisition of a loyalty account], and on any moderating factors like micro-transactions, how people perceive themselves as frugal or not, their shopping preferences, if they tend to save, if they shop out of necessity or leisure, credit card usage, and how likely someone is to join the loyalty account based on the price or cost of their purchase,” explained Goodwin.

“Higher-cost perception groups find that there are more general benefits to joining the rewards program. This can increase their likeliness to join. Lower-cost perception groups find reward programs to be more complex which can deter them from signing up to be a rewards member.”

Goodwin worked with several faculty members at the Ilitch School while putting together her research. Assistant   Professor of Marketing Cassandra Davis worked closely with Goodwin throughout this process, as did Assistant Professor of Marketing Catherine Cuckovich. Goodwin says faculty members encouraged her to pursue her research every step of the way and encouraged her to apply for a grant to conduct her research.

Several people walking on a sidewalk under palm trees
Long Beach, California

“I ended up seeing an email about undergraduate research opportunities, it was so last minute, a week before the due date,” said Goodwin. “Professor Cuckovich recommended me to Dr. Davis, and we’ve been working together ever since.”

Davis greatly valued the process of mentoring and working with Goodwin to achieve her award, commenting that “Nina is an intelligent, self-motivated student who has worked hard and really driven her project forward. I’m proud that Nina had the opportunity to represent the Ilitch School at NCUR and hope that her project and conference presentation are the start of more opportunities for us to showcase the many talented students graduating from the Ilitch School.”

After receiving funding for her research, Goodwin worked through the summer and fall to complete her study, before applying to the National Conference of Undergraduate Research.

“Since then, it’s been an ongoing process of collecting results, working at the data to see if there is anything else that we can find and getting ready to present,” explained Goodwin.

At the conference, Goodwin completed a poster presentation, during which she had an hour to discuss her research with experts across many disciplines. She also had the chance to meet with other young researchers and build her network.

“I think it will allow for a lot of different connections to a lot of different universities,” said Goodwin. “It’s great in terms of exposure and knowledge in other areas of interest, especially at different universities that may have strong programs in other areas.”

Dean Virginia Kleist was also pleased that Goodwin received such an opportunity commenting that “our students are driven, and work hard to shape their own futures. Nina is a superb student, who will undoubtedly take her success at the Ilitch School and turn it into a bright future for herself, one that will have a positive impact on the world at large. These are the qualities that make the students at the Ilitch School second to none.”

After her senior year is complete, Goodwin will be back at the Ilitch School in the fall to work toward her MBA and will be pursuing her CPA certification. She also has a standing offer to work at Plante Moran beginning in August of 2025. She plans to earn her Ph.D. and build a research career.

Her experiences showcase WSU’s College to Career Initiative , which seeks to provide every student with experiential learning opportunities that allow them to encounter the world, gain deeper insights and new perspectives, and prepare for prosperous careers.

As Goodwin’s prosperous career kicks off, she is glad to see younger Ilitch Business students stepping up and getting involved.

“It feels great, seeing students at the Ilitch school get connected with a student organization that they really like, or find someone to talk to about their career with, and being able to give a student perspective to them and how they can shape their Ilitch School experience.”

-Patrick Bernas, Information Officer III

The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business prepares students for challenging and rewarding careers, advances the boundaries of scholarly and practitioner knowledge, and enhances the economic vitality of the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and beyond through its programs, research and community engagement. Established in 1946, the business school was renamed in 2015 in recognition of a $40 million gift from Mike and Marian Ilitch. Thanks to this lead investment, the school moved to a new state-of-the-art building in the heart of the District Detroit in 2018, and academic programming and collaboration with city businesses are expanding. For more information, visit

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