Lane Finds Future Exciting

    HOLLAND — The principles haven’t changed.

    The world has.

    It is amid that change where Paul Lane finds the most excitement in his work. As a marketing professor and chairman of the marketing department at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman School of Business, Lane has to keep up on the ever-changing world of business where technology and the Internet are opening new horizons in the promotion of products and services to consumers and businesses.

    Marketing, Lane said, is about “trying to understand what people want and need and how are we going to go about accommodating that” in a world where technology is constantly shifting.

    “It’s really exciting stuff because we don’t know the answers,” said Lane, a Holland resident who became a college professor in his late 30s and ventured into the marketing field 13 years ago.

    “We’re just beginning. We have a host of products and wants and needs to match in ways we never thought of,” Lane said. “The future to me is so exciting. The opportunity for us as marketers is finding new ways of doing things and understanding people.”

    Lane joined the Grand Valley State faculty in 1998 from Western Michigan University’s Grand Rapids campus, where he taught marketing for several years. He became chairman of the marketing department in the fall of 2000.

    Luring him to Grand Valley State is the growing involvement in the business community by the Seidman School of Business through ventures such as hosting the Michigan Small Business Development Center, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Family-Owned Business Institute. He said he liked the university’s “entrepreneurial spirit,” as well as Grand Valley’s comparatively smaller size that allows him “to feel like you’re really doing something.”

    “I looked at my point in life and said ‘That’s where I want to spend the next decade or so,’ contributing and, hopefully, learning,” Lane said.

    Lane’s decision to become a professor, he says, “was accidental.”

    In the mid-1980s, and at the age of 37, he decided to return to college to earn a doctorate degree. As he worked on his doctorate at Michigan State University, he came to realize he enjoyed teaching and research.

    Already familiar with the academic world after working as director of admissions and financial aid at Kalamazoo College from 1976 to 1980, Lane decided to make teaching at the university level his career.

    “I became more and more intrigued with how do you help the mind learn and being part of the faculty and contributing,” he said. “We all would like our lives to be valuable in some way.”

    Lane chose marketing because “it fits best with people who like people.”

    As he completed his doctorate in marketing and finance from MSU, which he earned in 1986, Lane joined West Michigan University in Kalamazoo. He came to Grand Rapids in 1987 to teach at Western’s local campus, where he stayed until being recruited to join Grand Valley State.

    Prior to becoming a college professor, Lane spent four years at Kalamazoo College, which he joined as associate director of admissions, and before that lived for six years in Florida, where he worked in accounting and administration at Stetson University. During that time he also ran his own businesses — a campus snack bar in Glen Springs, Fla., and a company that worked with colleges to set up 800 telephone numbers for prospective students to call to get information about the school.

    As marketing chairman at Grand Valley State, Lane wants to bring academia and business closer together. He helped to develop the university’s e-commerce program launched in 2001 that has students working directly with businesses on e-commerce strategies.

    One Grand Valley State professor and her students take on about 40 research projects a year for businesses seeking help, Lane said. His goal is to build on the “hands-on” approach to teaching marketing that gives students real-world experiences to apply the principles they learn.

    “We’re going to need to be able to provide leadership for the future, not only for the students but for the businesses that call us,” he said.    

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