Since the beginning of 2011, Brian Smith has assumed two new areas of responsibilities as a Vice President at The Nielsen Company. Assisting Nielsen’s manufacturing clients on their promotional and pricing strategies, Brian also helps clients optimize their return on investment from their marketing efforts. These roles allow him to practice his passion – applied econometrics – while also supporting Nielsen’s larger effort to become the world’s leading analytical organization.
Earning his degree in economics from Miami in 1993, Brian’s enthusiasm for what he’s up to now actually began in Dr. Dan Jacobs’ (retired) honors political science course. For one assignment, Brian turned in a paper on debt and the national deficit. He still recalls Dr. Jacobs’ feedback vividly: the paper was well-argued, well-written, and wholly deserving of the “A” he earned on it – but Dr. Jacobs thought Brian’s understanding of economics was “way off.” Dr. Jacobs then recommended Brian take an economics course.
It was this suggestion that would dramatically shift Brian’s academic studies. Taking Dr. Jerry Miller’s (retired) honors microeconomics course, he discovered “a field of study that seemed like it was created for people who think like me.” Pursuing this passion, he began studying pricing theory and econometrics – critical knowledge for his career these days.
Like many Miami alumni, Brian was involved in a number of activities beyond his interest in economics. He published an article with the guidance of another honors professor, Mark McBride; he was involved in the student government; and he worked with the Office of Student Affairs. In fact, it was what he did for student affairs that helped him land his first job out of college. As a student, Brian was tasked with developing a process for surveying the Miami student body on different issues to provide the student affairs office with insight and input on the “hot issues” around campus: feelings about the health center, location for the recreational center, and so on. This data helped Miami set policies, and Brian’s efforts caught the attention of Procter & Gamble, who had heard about what he was doing and recruited him to work in their market research department.
Professionally and personally, Miami has weaved its way through Brian’s life. At P&G, he eventually led the recruiting efforts at Miami for his department. Miami, he notes, has some unique lures for employers: “the level of involvement in student organization that Miami offers to its students tends to result in student behaviors that are highly valuable to employers later.” And it was one of his best friends at Miami, former student body president, Michael Cabonargi, who introduced Brian to the woman who would become his wife, Mara Jauntirans. Together, they are now proud parents of two children: their daughter, Annika, and son, Henry.
Between his career and his family, Brian has already accomplished many remarkable achievements (after leaving P&G, he also lived abroad for over four years and established operations in Johannesburg, South Africa when he worked for BASES). With all of these experiences, Brian offers one simple recommendation for any college student: “you shouldn’t choose a major just because there’s demand, choose it because you love it."