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Business analytics student’s research take her around the world

Published: December 6, 2023 / Author: Katie Rose Quandt

Julia Warden standing

Julia Warden

On a warm day last May, Julia Warden (BBA ’24) stood outside Lotte World, a Disneyland-inspired theme park in Seoul, South Korea. She flagged down park goers as they approached, many of whom seemed happy to chat with the over 6-foot tall American. Warden interviewed the visitors about their interest in various American and Korean intellectual properties, a process she repeated at two other theme parks in the city.

Warden, a double major in business analytics and film at the University of Notre Dame, was conducting research with funding from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, which also sent her to Hong Kong Disneyland. The research will build toward her senior thesis, in which Warden examines the interaction of business with culture and politics in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, using theme parks as one of her case studies.

Warden’s thesis is three-pronged: She studies theme parks and the perception of American companies in East Asia; how American companies appropriate Asian culture, repackage it and sell it back; and how East Asian intellectual property moves to other countries.

She plans to study properties owned by Nintendo, which is based in Japan, and Baby Shark, which was created by the Korean company Pinkfong. On the American side, “I’m trying to see how Disney in particular frames itself in these different cultures,” she explained. “And then, what I can take away about their cultures and their business practices.”

The research has deepened her understanding of how businesses adapt to meet the needs of their audiences, Warden said. But that’s not all she has gained.

“Not only has it made me a more independent person, it’s enhanced my critical thinking,” she said. “Talking to somebody on their own turf is not really the same as learning from reading a book or in a lecture. And having that global experience really puts your education in perspective.”

Global experience is particularly important to Warden. In fall 2022, she studied abroad in Sydney, Australia. In January 2023, she began her theme park research by visiting Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan. She presented her findings in a poster at the University of Oxford in March.

During fall break, Warden traveled to Uganda with the Innovation for Impact student club, a trip that took her to her fifth continent in the past year. For 2024, she already has plans for a January research trip to Montenegro and a May trip to Poland with the International Business Scholars Colloquium course.

Warden encourages other students to take advantage of research and international travel opportunities at Notre Dame.

“When I was a freshman and sophomore, I was really interested in going abroad,” she said. “I really wanted to take advantage of funding opportunities, but it seemed so out of reach. I didn’t even know where to look. I thought the funding wouldn’t be enough to be able to cover everything. I just didn’t even know where to start.”

With the help of Notre Dame professors, Warden began to identify opportunities and found the grantors to be “incredibly supportive.”

“It really took a lot of work, but once I knew what I was doing, it wasn’t overwhelming,” Warden said. “The biggest thing is asking for help when you need it. At Notre Dame, people are so willing to help, and willing to talk to you, and want to get to know you. If you ask, you’re more than likely to find somebody who can help, or at least point you in the right direction.”

Undergraduate research allows students to apply their classroom knowledge and explore other academic disciplines. Studies show undergrads who conduct research earn higher grades and are more likely to graduate. Warden said her research experiences have enriched her Mendoza coursework, especially in courses like Business Problem Solving, where students work in groups to solve cases created by companies like Accenture and Deloitte. She currently serves as a teaching assistant for the course, which she took last year.

Julia Warden with mouse sunglasses on in front of Cinderella's palace in Hong Kong Disneyland park.

Julia Warden at Hong Kong’s Disneyland.

Warden said she learned a lot traveling solo. “The thing about traveling internationally as a business student or as a Notre Dame student — as opposed to just going on vacation — is that when you go alone, you are forced to talk to people and figure problems out on your own.”

“I love to talk to people and ask questions about their lives,” she said. She delivered a TEDx Talk about her solo travel experiences in November near her hometown in the Philadelphia suburbs.

She believes her research is also helping prepare her for the business world and hopefully a leadership role at a multinational organization. “I’m really interested in the decisions that these leaders make in integrating to different countries,” she said, “I want to work abroad at some point, especially in Asia.”

It has taught her how to write proposals and plan out and complete major independent projects.

“It’s made me more confident,” she said. “I feel much more capable of making decisions, or making assumptions, someday as a business leader.”