Dr Al Marshall is a senior lecturer and postgraduate advisor at Le Cordon Bleu Australia's School of Business. We caught up with the Zimbabwean-born marketing guru who discussed what it's like working in higher education and the things that keep him motivated.
How long have you been a lecturer at Le Cordon Bleu Australia and what drew you to the institution?
Approximately two years. This will be my third year with Le Cordon Bleu. I love the smaller class sizes, the power to have an impact in the design and delivery of course content, having a lot of personal autonomy and the ability to work from home. And, of course, the fame and reputation of Le Cordon Bleu.
Why did you choose to work in higher education?
It was a combination of push and pull. My previous career was in consumer market research. It was interesting, but I think it got to a point where I had run one too many focus groups on cat food and designed one too many questionnaires on laundry detergent. In higher education I like the world of ideas, presenting theories and concepts to students and interacting with them, too.
What do you enjoy most about your work at Le Cordon Bleu?
I like the collegiate nature of working in the School of Business at Le Cordon Bleu. My colleagues are respectful and, while we are not all located in the same city, there is good communication between us, as well as a ‘can do’ attitude. I also have wonderful students, both international and domestic. They’re all passionate individuals with a hunger to learn about the industry.
What is your proudest personal achievement when it comes to working in academia?
Finally finishing my doctorate after eight years of part-time study, with lots of interruptions in that period (namely full-time work, raising children and overseas travel for work). Also seeing marketing books which I have authored or co-authored finally coming out in print. I like to think my parents would be proud of me with such achievements.
When students mention they have learned something significant from me or have had a breakthrough in their understanding based on my explanation, this gives me a warm feeling that I am making a difference.
What about in your life outside academia – what would you say your proudest non-academic achievement is?
I guess raising two children by myself since they were babies (their mother lives in the United States). That, and creating a good life for myself in Australia since arriving here with $200 and only knowing two people – the latter might also explain why I empathise with international students who come to study in Australia.
If you were to sum up who you are in 25 words or less, what would you say?
Oh this is a hard one. I’d better choose my words very carefully. I’d say: I’m a motivated and focused guy with clear goals. I try to tread lightly on the planet, and to be compassionate to other people.
Do you have a funny or embarrassing story you could share with us about your interactions with your students?
Many! But I guess one that stands out is having to give a lecture on pricing when I knew that my daughter was about to be born in the US. I let students know that I had to take the call, and the call came in the middle of the lecture. I told the hundred people in the lecture theatre that the baby had been born, and everyone clapped. It was pretty hard to continue the lecture on pricing, but I did.
What makes you go home at night and think “I love my job as an academic”?
When students mention they have learned something significant from me or have had a breakthrough in their understanding based on my explanation, this gives me a warm feeling that I am making a difference, however small it may be.
What is the best thing one of your students have ever said to you?
That’s a hard question. I guess it is contained in one of the emails that students sometimes send me when they are close to graduating (or have just graduated), along the lines of “I learned so much from you” or “you have really helped me set directions for my future”. I find this very heart-warming and treasure such emails. I always keep these emails and look back on them to remind myself that there is a great deal of satisfaction to be derived from working in higher education.
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