UHD is now home to four Fulbright Scholars.
Dr. Rahul Verma rounds out this historic moment for the University. He is the second Fulbrighter in the Marilyn Davies College of Business, and the first UHD Finance faculty member to earn a Fulbright.
“It’s an incredible honor to be a Fulbrighter,” said Verma. He credits Marilyn Davies College of Business (MDCOB) Fulbrighter Dr. Candance TenBrink and Dr. Charles Gengler, Dean of MDCOB, who encouraged him to apply and guided him through the process.
For Verma, the award is meaningful for two reasons: “Professionally, I am honored since it is one of the highest accolades that a faculty member can achieve in higher education. It feels great to join a diverse global community of accomplished individuals,” the Professor of Finance noted. “Personally, I wanted to come out of my comfort zone to enhance my professional and career development, to gain international academic experience, and to embrace being immersed in a new culture.”
In August, Verma is traveling to Ajman University (close to Dubai) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For this Fulbright cycle, more than 60 disciplines were available for study in the UAE, from anthropology to sciences and technology, but only Scholar slots were available. Verma is the first Fulbright Scholar in the Business discipline to visit UAE since the 2007-08 award cycle.
His research area is behavioral finance (how people make financial decisions via biases and irrationalities). He began to delve into ESG (environmental, social, governance) investments, which is one of the hottest topics in finance – one-third of U.S. assets under professional management is invested in this area.
Through his research, he noticed that the UAE, a traditionally oil- and gas-based economy, began diversifying in other areas such as banking, tourism, and sustainability. This trend is remarkably similar to Houston’s economy (energy capital of the world), which is diversifying into banking and healthcare.
Verma’s project, “Behavioral Finance and ESG Investing: Pre and Post COVID-19 Analysis,” will take a deep dive into ESG investing to determine if it’s rational, irrational, or a fad. “The primary driver is risk mitigation since the onset of the pandemic, which has pushed environmental and societal issues higher up the risk spectrum,” he said. “The study will provide empirical tests on the rationality of ESG investing in the U.S. and UAE during the pandemic and analyze the impact of culture, and will ask questions such as: What motivates investors to hold ESG investments? Are arguments promoting bigger profits and better social returns irrational? Is there hype surrounding ESG investing?”
In addition to his research, he will teach two graduate courses, “Investments” and “Fundamentals of Finance.” “The key thing in the world of finance is to take the topics and apply them in life,” Verma said. “You must bridge the gap between theory and the real world, which can be a challenge. It is important for me to stay on top of world events to create a relatable link for my students to understand.”
Verma hopes that his work will be impactful for the host institution and its students.
“Business education is more effective beyond textbook concepts. I want to share how the concepts are related and show how the implications and interpretations are more important than memorizing a formula and calculating numbers. I hope the way I instruct my students at UHD can be just as effective on the other side of the world.” He also plans to share what he has learned during his Fulbright experience with his students and fellow colleagues back home.
Verma’s arrival to the states, by way of India, in 2000 was followed by a Ph.D. in 2004 from The University of Texas – Pan American (now The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley).
All it took was a visit to the University of Houston-Downtown to settle on his academic home and his first job.
“After a campus visit, I never looked back,” said Verma. “I’m impressed by my students’ level of curiosity and how motivated they are.” In addition to teaching for the College’s MBA program, he also has developed a few courses. “A substantial number of my students are career changers wanting to learn how business will enhance their career. It feels good to add value to their lives.”