The Rifon Research Fellowship Supports Research in Ethical Business Practices

Doctoral candidate, Iago Santos Muraro, named 2022 recipient

By: Lexa Becker

The Rifon Family Endowment for Research in Ethical Marketing and Advertising Practice represents Michigan State University advertising professor, Dr. Nora Rifon’s, family history and commitment to consumer protection and ethical business practices. The endowment was established to support research and outreach activities for the responsible practice of marketing and advertising.

Rifon teaches both undergraduate and graduate classes, as well as seminars that focus on aspects of consumer psychology. Since joining MSU in 1986, Rifon has received over $2 million in grants, from agencies including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to fund her own research. She says she is keenly aware of the need for more funds to support students seeking to do advocacy research. Rifon created her endowment in 2011 with a donation of $30,000, and that investment has grown to over $40,000 in the endowment to date.

“You may ask, why did I decide to donate, because I’m not that well-to-do,” said Rifon.

Two people sitting pose for a selfie outside

AD+PR Ph.D. student, Iago Santos Muraro, is the 2022 Rifon Research Fellowship for Research in Ethical Business Practices recipient pictured with Dr. Nora Rifon, who established the endowed fellowship.

In 1996, Rifon was given the news of a possible breast cancer diagnosis just before her daughter was born. By the time she found out she didn’t have cancer, she had already read a 600-page book and became an expert on breast cancer. When Rifon realized that not many women were educated on breast cancer, she decided to work with Dr. Janet Rose Osuch, then director of the MSU Breast Cancer Clinic, to research how to fund, with advertising dollars, a website with easily accessible information about breast cancer. This led to the motivation for her 2004 article in the Journal of Advertising called, “Congruence Effects in Sponsorship: the Mediating Role of Sponsor Credibility and Consumer Attributions of Sponsor Motive,” the publication of which Rifon says she is most proud.

“My family has a history of believing and supporting people in their education, but also in doing good works and helping society,” said Rifon.

About 10 years ago Rifon sat down with her mother and father, Carlos and Joan Rifon, and together they decided to leave a legacy that supports the work of people who are trying to make society a better place. Rifon says her father and mother put themselves through college, pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps without outside help.

The 2022 Rifon Family Endowment Research Fellowship was awarded to Iago Santos Muraro, an AD+PR Ph.D. student originally from Brazil. When deciding where to do his doctoral studies, Muraro took three articles from the colleges of his choice. He removed the names and places on them for fairness. When choosing his favorite, he found it happened to be Rifon’s article from 2004 called, “Congruence Effects in Sponsorship.” Muraro then came to MSU and proceeded to work with Rifon on research at MSU.

Since receiving the endowment, Muraro has been working on his dissertation, working title: “Conceptualizing and measuring consumer activism motivations as an anti-brand, goal-oriented behavior: a psychometric scale development approach,” which he says hopes will eventually be published in a journal. While Rifon is his dissertation chairperson, she was not part of the fellowship candidate selection review process. She says he is a fitting candidate as someone who, like her, believes in seeking to create a better world for all, and being true to oneself.

“It is important that we seek out experiences that we learn from and grow from,” said Rifon. “That continues to guide me in my life choices: to be true to yourself, be true to your heart and sometimes, it means making tough choices. I made decisions to make my heart happy.”

Rifon says one of the biggest compliments she ever received was from a friend and colleague on the MSU Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects, Becky Gore, who told her, “you do things not because they are easy, but because they are right, even when they are hard.” Rifon says she sees Santos as someone who is true to his values, and lives the same way.

Applications for the 2023 Rifon Family Endowment for Research in Ethical Marketing and Advertising Practice Research Fellowship will be shared with student applicants in February 2023.