04 March 2013

RMIT supervisor the best in the business

After successfully supervising more than 60 PhD candidates during an academic career spanning nearly four decades, reward came for Professor Brian Corbitt in the 2012 Teaching and Research Awards.

Professor Corbitt received the Vice-Chancellor's Research Supervision Excellence Award.

Professor Corbitt is Professor Mentor in the College of Business at RMIT and specialises in IT policy development, health information systems, analysis and implementation in business modeling and electronic commerce trade relationships and knowledge management.

While accolades such as the 2012 Research Award are personally satisfying, he says he derives most satisfaction from the lightbulb moments he sees in nearly all his students.

"Watching the joy of discovery on a student's face is immensely satisfying," he said.

For Professor Corbitt, developing a relationship with his students through constant, active supervision is the key to successfully supervising their work.

"I meet regularly with my students, daily if I can and in the new environment of the Swanston Academic Building, there is much more scope for interaction.

"I also keep in contact with many of my former students, through email or in person at conferences in Australia and overseas.

"It's great to see how so many of them have progressed and I'm pleased that so many have gone on to academic careers.

"Good supervision is about more than just helping them complete their PhD.

"It's an important step in training them to become academics and I'm proud of the part I have played in developing future academics."

In addition to the academic careers that have resulted from Professor Corbitt's supervision, he is also proud of the impact that research projects have had.

"Many of my students have worked on research projects that reflect what research at RMIT is all about - high-quality, high-impact research that is extensively cited and referenced.

"It's not research for research's sake, that ends up in a PhD on a shelf, collecting dust.

"For me, what I can learn from my students is also important. Over the years, I have been very careful to ensure I don't take the role of a know-it-all who is just imparting wisdom on the student. Rather, I see my students more like colleagues and seek to learn from them.

"In my years of supervision, every student has taught me something about my discipline or research methodology."

While Professor Corbitt has played a significant role in developing academics who will become the supervisors of the future, he sees there is more to be done in this area.

"There is the formal professional development that is important as it underpins supervisor development and we are doing that well.

"But there are other aspects of turning academics into supervisor such as instilling the value of self-reflection, debriefing at the end of supervising a PhD and ensuring that the supervisor and student enjoy the experience.

"Good supervisors are fundamental to students completing their PhDs.

"I've also learnt the importance of some simple assistance supervisors can provide such as helping students develop their English, particularly with the greater numbers of international students we now have.

"And helping them write 'academically', so they use appropriate language, organise the information they are trying to present and give it context.

"These are all important things supervisors need to learn as they will greatly assist students who are under their supervision."

The prize Professor Corbitt received in the 2012 Research Awards will be put to good use later this year when he takes some time away from RMIT to work on a book, profiling the experiences of 26 of his former PhD students.

"The A to Z of my former students will look at 26 different experiences, both from their perspective and mine.

"I hope there will be valuable learnings for both supervisors and students about how best they can work together."

Professor Denise Cuthbert, Dean of RMIT's School of Graduate Research, praised Professor Corbitt for his impressive supervision record.

"Brian was a worthy winner of the 2012 Research Supervision Excellence Award and he reflects what every research supervisor at RMIT should aspire to.

"He continues to attract interest from more potential students than he can take on, a reflection of the impressive reputation he has developed as a researcher and supervisor."

Find out about postgraduate research opportunities at RMIT.

Professor Brian Corbitt with his students

Professor Corbitt with some of the many research students he has supervised.

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Professor Brian Corbitt with RMIT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner

Professor Brian Corbitt is presented with the Vice-Chancellor's Research Supervision Excellence Award by RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO.