Posts tagged ‘Zeynep Ton’

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 6, 2014

photoZeynep Ton’s revolution: When we featured MIT business prof Zeynep Ton ’96 in our Nov./Dec. issue, when knew she was doing interesting and important work in the field of retail labor issues. Turns out she’s making an even bigger impact than we realized. Ton’s research was the subject of a very cool feature in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, in which the writer calls Ton a “revolutionary force” in the field of operations management, and cites examples of major companies that have been influenced by her work. For companies savvy enough to follow Ton’s lead, it’s a (seemingly) simple equation: pay your employees more, and they’ll do a better job; when your employees do a better job, your profits go up.

You can watch Ton explain her research in a TED talk here, and check out her book, The Good Jobs Strategy, here.

Still searching: There’s been plenty of talk and rumors (with even a little bit of reporting here and there), but as of Monday morning, Penn State has not found a new head football coach. Much of the weekend buzz centered on University of Miami coach Al Golden ’91, with reports that he had been offered the job—and many hinting he was ready to accept it. On Sunday, Miami released a statement in which Golden said he was “not a candidate for another position.” But could that change? Mike Poorman ’82 of says it could. Meanwhile, is reporting that there’s “mutual interest” between Penn State and Mike Munchak ’82, who was fired over the weekend by the Tennessee Titans.

Feel-good football news: Coaching uncertainty aside, there are still plenty of reminders of why you love Penn State football. Here are two: During the first quarter of tonight’s BCS national championship game, John Urschel ’12, ’13g will be honored on the field as the winner of the Campbell Trophy, which Urschel was awarded last month as “the nation’s premier college football scholar-athlete.” And over the weekend, Nittany Lion linebacker Ben Kline posted an “open letter to Nittany Nation” at Onward State, in which he writes passionately of the commitment of Penn State’s players. Great stuff.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

January 6, 2014 at 11:36 am Leave a comment

From the Magazine: Shopping Smarter (Thanks to Zeynep Ton)

I always say that if I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a talk show host. Which is why I love those moments when I’m interviewing someone for a story and learn something so fascinating that I just want to look into the imaginary audience and say something Oprah-esque—“THIS IS BIG, PEOPLE!”

I had a lot of those moments when I talked to Zeynep Ton ’96, an operations management professor at MIT. At first glance, Ton’s research didn’t seem all that…hmm, how can I put this delicately? Accessible. At least not to the average reader, who, like me, isn’t familiar with supply chain management or the logistics behind retail stores. But boy, was I wrong.

Zeynep Ton in the classroom.

Zeynep Ton in the classroom.

Ton’s research is about people. And even more relatable to yours truly, it’s about shopping. “Everyone shops,” she told me. Which means that we all make decisions about which companies we support. Some stores pay meager wages, over-schedule employees, offer little to no health benefits, and expect employees to be machines, with no concern for their happiness or well-being. Because Ton got to know some of these employees personally while researching her book, The Good Jobs Strategy, she got emotional when telling me the stories of men and women who are really struggling. Needless to say, it made an impact. And I hope after reading “Labor Pains,” in our Nov./Dec. issue, you feel a little of that emotion, too.

Through my interviews with Zeynep, I had a few lightbulb moments that didn’t make it into the final story—but still pop into my head every time I shop. Here’s a quick breakdown:

You get what you pay for. And that includes the shopping experience. Say you need toilet paper. Here’s the example Zeynep gave me: Would you rather deal with crowds, less-than-friendly employees, and face a wall of TP options—to save 25 cents? Or pay the extra quarter to breeze in and out of a smaller store with fewer choices but a cheerful, well-informed staff?

Happy begets happy. Ever notice how one small but pleasant exchange with a cashier or barista can shift your mood all day? When employees are treated well, they treat customers well. You leave the store feeling energized, even if you’re not exactly sure why. (And Zeynep didn’t have to convince me that it works the other way, too. Negativity is contagious.)

Be compassionate. Zeynep made me realize how seemingly rude employee behavior can be a consequence of poor operations management. At some stores, if you ask for help finding a certain shampoo, the best an employee can do is point you in the right direction. Timed customer interactions mean employees literally can’t afford to spend time guiding you to the correct aisle, no matter how much they might want to.

What factors do you consider when choosing where to spend money? Does a company’s treatment of employees affect the way you shop? Tell us in the comments below, or email us at

Mary Murphy, associate editor

November 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm 2 comments

On Its Way: The Nov./Dec. Issue

ND_COVERThe Nov./Dec. 2013 issue of The Penn Stater should hit your mailbox any day now, and I think you’ll find that there’s a little something in it for everyone.

The cover story, “Blue Moon,” is about a Penn State team’s quest to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE — and land a spacecraft on the moon. If Penn State’s craft, dubbed Lunar Lion, is successful, Penn State will be the first university to complete a mission to the moon. The team is making major progress, and the details of how it’s all coming together are fascinating.

In “Puzzle Pieces,” you’ll see excerpts from two photo essays by photojournalist Jill Knight ’13. The brand-new alum’s work is generating some buzz online, and one of her essays was featured in The New York Times. She talked to senior editor Lori Shontz ’91 about telling stories through photos — and how, most of the time, she takes thousands of images before the narrative begins to take shape. (You can see more of her work on her website,

“Labor Pains” is a profile of Zeynep Ton ’96, a former Penn State volleyball player who now teaches operations managments at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Her research is all about making the retail world better — how companies can change their practices to not only increase their profits, but to make life more enjoyable and fulfilling for the millions of low-level retail employees in America. Zeynep’s personal story is an interesting one, too. She grew up in Turkey, and was the first international student coach Russ Rose ever recruited.

Some other highlights from this issue: A profile of late women’s sports pioneer Della Durant ’57g, a look at senior guard Tim Frazier’s recovery (read more on that here), details on the NCAA’s decision to reduce Penn State sanctions, and the story behind Mooofins, the student-created breakfast item that nabbed national honors.

Have you received the Nov./Dec. issue yet? What do you think? Tell us in the comments below, or drop us a line at

Mary Murphy, associate editor 

October 24, 2013 at 3:07 pm 4 comments

Follow The Penn Stater on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 493 other followers

%d bloggers like this: