Vicky Crittenden never forgets her roots. The Babson College professor of marketing grew up in Bradford, Arkansas, a small town of about 700 people.
“My dad had a sixth-grade education, and my mom had an eighth-grade education,” the youngest of eight children says. “I was the first in the family to attend college.”
Crittenden’s mother recognized her potential at an early age, identified college as a goal, and nurtured her talents. Her mom’s support provided the initial spark and inspiration to pursue academics—a journey that led her from her small-town roots to big-city institutions on the East Coast.
“The difference between Arkansas and Boston is culturally very different,” she says. “There were many things that I adjusted to, including the weather.” While acclimating to new surroundings, her focus remained firmly on academics. Looking back, she recalls that it wasn’t until the second semester of her doctoral program that she finally walked down the street to world-famous Harvard Square to have lunch.
Crittenden arrived at Babson in 2013, and she currently teaches in the Blended Learning program, performs award-winning research, and publishes prolifically. For her work, she recently received the 2021 Higher Ed SIG Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring marketing scholars who have demonstrated dedication to the area of higher education in the marketing discipline, as well as the 2021 Academy of Marketing Science Cutco/Vector Distinguished Marketing Educator Award, acknowledging her contributions to education.
“At the core of these awards,” she says, “is the fact that my determination and conviction come from my upbringing, and that is just part of who I am.”
From a Small Town to Ivy League Campus
With determination and drive, coupled with a competitive edge, Crittenden set out to not imitate the family members who came before her. When Crittenden received a scholarship from Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas, just 30 minutes from her home, she never looked back.
“When you’re the youngest of eight in a small town in Arkansas, those who precede you have already set the precedent,” she said, “so I avoided doing what was expected of me at all cost.”
Crittenden earned her MBA from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, attended a doctoral program at Florida State University, and received her Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree from Harvard Business School.
During her doctoral program at Florida State, Crittenden had focused on marketing strategy as a way to build her academic career, discovering a strong interest in teaching along the way. As her professional career progressed, she began to develop her foundation, build her reputation, and ultimately branch out into other areas of interest.
“When you’re the youngest of eight in a small town in Arkansas, those who precede you have already set the precedent.”
Professor Vicky Crittenden
Equipped with the ability to write and develop classes through her teaching experience, two of Crittenden’s mentors, David W. Cravens and Charles W. Lamb, both marketing professors and researchers at Texas Christian University, offered her the chance to co-author a case book, Strategic Marketing Management, that focuses on the challenges facing marketing managers.
During this experience, Crittenden made contacts at the Cutco Cutlery Corporation, and Mary Kay Inc., which exposed her more closely to the direct selling side of the marketing industry. That sparked an idea, and she began evolving her research around women micro-entrepreneurs, drawing inspiration again from her upbringing.
“My mom had never worked until she separated from my dad,” she says, “and then she began selling Avon, and was successful, which is directly related to my interest in women micro-entrepreneurs and direct selling.”
Babson Professor, Accomplished Writer
Crittenden is the author or co-author of four books. Widely employed for academic research, these books also are used in classrooms by professors who push their students to go deeper into subject matter.
Once established at Babson, Crittenden authored and edited a 2015 book, Evolving Entrepreneurial Education: Innovation in the Babson Classroom, with each of the 29 chapters written by a different Babson professor. “The book was a big hit,” she says, “and was released to capture a lot of the innovative things that go on in the Babson classroom.”
Inspiration struck next in 2016 during a trip to South Africa to interview women micro-entrepreneurs and collect big data resulting in her most recent book, Go-to-Market Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs, which provides a lens into the power of women’s entrepreneurship.
Her current book, due to publish in September, focuses on direct selling in a global and social business model. Like previous books, the chapters are written by numerous co-authors.
“I guess you could call it experience-based,” Crittenden says, “and part of that experience base is life itself.”