Bringing the business world into the classroom

Image: CBE
Image: CBE

The first class that Katerina Kormusheva ever taught was as a guest lecturer for her PhD supervisor at The Australian National University (ANU) in 2017. It was a three-hour lecture on her research focus — pricing — that inspired her to share her industry experience with students by teaching.  

We sat down with Katerina as she recounted her journey as a PhD candidate-turned-teacher at the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) and recently winning a national award for teaching.

“It was an intense experience that gave me confidence. I could always speak about pricing with my eyes closed, but that lecture was an eye opener in many ways,” recalls Katerina.

Since then, Katerina transitioned from tutoring to teaching at ANU under a year and later received several awards including the University’s Vice-Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning, and CBE’s Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (Early Career).

When you’re only taught a theory that knowledge is fleeting. If you learn how it happens, then it cements that knowledge

Earlier this week, Katerina was awarded a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning as part of the 2019 Australian Awards for University Teaching program. Receiving a Citation is a recognition of being among Australia's most exceptional university teachers.

“It’s a great honour, which inspires me to give even more to my students,” Katerina shares.

Before pursuing her academic aspirations at the ANU Research School of Management, Katerina had amassed rich experience in the telecommunications sector as a technical director, with a career spanning across 20 years and three continents.

It was during her time in Indonesia a few years ago where her research interests started to take shape. The country’s competitive telecommunication sector coupled with the United Nation’s target of universal broadband access chiefly motivated her to pursue postdoctoral research.

“There are a lot of variables in the telecommunication space and if you don’t have an academic approach, efforts to ensure broadband access will fail. ANU offers excellent postgraduate programs and that’s why I came here to complete my PhD,” Katerina explains.

While weighing her thesis topic and teaching aspirations, Katerina increasingly faced the general disconnect between the industry and university graduates, in both academic literature and everyday-life scenarios.

ANU offers excellent postgraduate programs and that’s why I came here to complete my PhD.

“For a number of years, managers who hire graduates have pointed out the gaps between the lessons that are taught and learnt at university and their applicability in the workforce, in particular, critical and analytical skills of university graduates,” she adds.

It is for these reasons that Katerina has focused on including industry context in her Marketing and Stakeholder Communications, Digital Marketing Communication, CBE Internship Program and CBE Special Industry Project courses.  

“When you’re only taught a theory or a concept, that knowledge is fleeting. If you learn how it happens in the industry, then it cements that knowledge. In other words, apply the theory. Similar to how we learn mathematics, where we constantly apply the various theories,” she emphasises.

For each of her lecture topics, Katerina arranges for an industry guest speaker to engage with her students, as well as an out-of-classroom lecturer to facilitate their learning.

“I try to both bring the classroom outside into the real business world, and bring the business world into the classroom,” Katerina shares.