La Trobe brings industry to classroom

La Trobe is championing a shift in business schools toward better recognised industry professionals by awarding them academic titles.

The Professor of Practice titles seek to highlight what industry can contribute to academia and represent a largely new concept for business schools and faculties across Australia.

Head of La Trobe Business School, Professor Paul Mather, believes while many Australian business schools offer industry experts positions as casual or adjunct staff, La Trobe is the first university in Australia to formally employ them and integrate them into the day to day operations of the school.

Professor Mather says the practice of elevating industry leaders to formal academic positions such as Professors of Practice within academia is something more common in overseas business schools- especially in the US - it is still to gain traction within Australian business schools and faculties.

He said the closest example in an Australian context is in medical schools, with adjunct titles such as ‘Associate Professor’ granted to specialists and top consultants.

The concept rolled out within the La Trobe Business School is similar, Prof. Mather says, with the big difference being that the PoPs are paid staff, recognised with a title for their significant industry expertise.

Prof. Mather says the business school was better for the introduction of the Professors of Practice concept, which began in 2015.

“The rich business experience these Professors of Practice bring into the classroom and curriculum design is significantly changing the value proposition we provide our students,” Prof. Mather says.

The Professor of Practice concept was born out of the school’s strategic decision to adopt an approach focused on bringing industry into the classroom.

To do this, the school sought to find an appropriate mix of teaching and research focused staff, as well as a mix of staff with significant business experience and more traditional scholarly academics.

The school then began the process of employing 12 fixed-term Professors of Practice.

The 11 PoPs currently employed on two-year contracts, and many of them teach La Trobe’s MBA, which is one of the highly ranked MBA courses in Australia.

Case study:

Dr Janet Russell was La Trobe’s first appointed Professor of Practice, beginning her first semester in the role at the start of 2015.

Dr Russell’s role as Professor of Practice (Management) within the La Trobe Business School is based in Bendigo, yet has already seen her travel to Hanoi in November last year to teach 20 La Trobe MBA students as part of their intensive “blockmode” units.

Her transition to academia came off the back of extensive experience in the business world, including a stint as CEO for Continuing Education Bendigo from 2006 to 2011 and general manager of people and culture at Rural Finance’s Bendigo branch.

Dr Russell is also an executive coach who runs her own consultancy business, which sees her teaching executives the value of conscious, responsible leadership.

With this background in strategic human resources and coaching, Dr Russell says her past experiences have also helped her to understand more about how to get the best value of having Professors of Practice at La Trobe.

Media; Catherine Garrett 9479 6565