2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Peter Corvi, Warwick Business School

Peter Corvi

Professor of Finance

Warwick Business School, University of Warwick

Peter Corvi is the type of professor whose service to students speaks for itself. In fact, his dedication speaks loud and clear. You could say his service commitments revolve around two themes: new and improved opportunities for students.

When playing a lead role in a review of Warwick’s undergraduate business curriculum, he introduced a financial management model which became the first in WBS to incorporate online group discussions. Just a few short years ago, he launched the WBS Multicultural Scholars’ Programme for students from ethnic backgrounds that are under-represented in UK higher education. He also led a team that designed and developed a new Foundation Year entry route to Warwick’s undergraduate business program for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Since its launch, this program has helped 25 students matriculate their first year, six of which have also earned scholarships from the Multicultural Scholars’ Programme that Corvi founded.

In addition to his service acts, Corvi–a finance professor–has an teaching record that’s equally admirable. He’s received an award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching on the WBS undergrad program every year since the awards were first introduced in 2006.

Age: 61

At current institution since: University of Warwick since 2003.

Education: BSc (First-class Honours) Mathematical Physics, Edinburgh, 1978; MASt (Distinction) Mathematical Physics, Cambridge, 1979; PhD Theoretical Physics, Edinburgh 1981; MSc (by Research) Mathematics, Oxford, 1987; MBA Business Administration, Strathclyde, 1994; MSc Economics and Finance, Warwick, 1996

List of courses currently teaching: Financial Management, Fundamentals of Finance

Fun fact about yourself: I still shoot a mean cue at pool!

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor … When I was an MBA student. I reckoned that I could usefully draw on my previous work experience as a school teacher, an R&D team leader in an oil and gas major and as someone who trained options traders in a global investment bank to teach the business leaders of the future.  That was 25 years ago and I’ve never looked back.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would … Still be working for an investment bank.

“One word that describes my first time teaching … Scary!

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students?

I get a real ‘kick’ out of helping young people acquire new knowledge, develop new skills and grow in self-confidence.  Many of my students are smarter than I am, and ask questions that would never have occurred to me when I was a student.  I learn, too.

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? Managing their expectations.  Not everyone can end up working for a Big 4 accountancy firm or a top-tier investment bank, although many of our students do exactly that.

Persuading them that it is O.K. to struggle at first with new concepts.  Learning is like working out in the gym.  It’s hard work, but it pays off.  Education is a great enabler.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Use a travel scholarship (that I funded out of a University teaching award) to spend the summer in Bucharest, Romania, helping to rescue homeless children from the streets.  

What is the least favorite thing one has done? One of the Students’ Union sabbatical officers told our UG1 students during Induction Week last year that they needn’t bother attending lectures.  Not helpful!

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?

Do … attend lectures, prepare for and actively participate in weekly seminar classes, contribute to the online group discussions about ‘hot topics’ in the financial press, practise answering questions in previous class tests and exams (without first looking at the model answers), and ask questions.

Don’t … leave it until the day before one of the class tests or the exam to ask me questions.  Instead, come and see me during my weekly Office Hours throughout the year!

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as … Rigorous, but scrupulously fair.

“But I would describe myself as … Always looking for reasons to award, not deduct, marks.

What are your hobbies? Visiting National Trust properties and collecting fine art (that I can afford!), especially landscape or seascape paintings by contemporary Scottish artists such as the late John Bellany or Joan Eardley.  

How did you spend your summer? Hosting the annual conference of the Foundation Year Network which saw 100 delegates from 28 different HE institutions in the UK and Ireland come to Warwick for two days for a stimulating programme of talks and small-group discussions about Foundation-level provision.

Recovering from prostate surgery!

Favourite place to vacation: Paris. My wife and I were married in the Scots Kirk, Paris 25 years ago. She speaks French fluently, and I get by.

Favorite book: Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy.  Story of my life.

Favorite movie and/or television show: (Movie) Godfather, Part 2.  (TV) Mad Men

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Classical:  Felix Mendelssohn (e.g. Hebrides Overture). Rock: Dire Straits (e.g. Brothers in Arms).

Bucket list item #1: Visit Machu Pichu in Peru.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Leading the team in Warwick Business School that created the Foundation Year entry route for prospective students from disadvantaged areas who, through no fault of their own, do not meet the requirements for direct entry to our UG Programme.  Our third cohort of 25 students will begin their Foundation Year studies in October 2017.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Receiving an e-mail in November 2016 from the Higher Education Academy, informing me that I had been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship.

Professor you most admire and why: Professor Peter Higgs, who shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2013, and who taught me when I was an undergraduate at Edinburgh.  We can both claim to have ‘discovered’ a sub-atomic particle, but ‘his’ Higgs boson is much more important than ‘my’ Delta D35 baryon!

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Socially constructivist learning. I believe passionately that students learn more from each other than from their teachers, and therefore go out of my way to encourage them to form themselves into communities of collaborative learners. It helps to prepare them for the real world of work.

Assessment literacy. I firmly believe that students learn by doing, and therefore regard assessments as a tool for encouraging deeper learning.

Both areas of pedagogic research are works in progress!

Twitter handle: @petercorvi

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more…” Research, teaching and consultancy in the areas that society needs.  It would be the first-choice repository of expertise for organizations in need of solutions to important problems.  It would have a dynamic network of contacts in diverse areas of business and social enterprise, and would draw on these contacts to bring in practitioners to deliver some of its teaching and to provide work placements for all of its students.  It would be agile in responding to changes in the nature of the expertise that society demands.  It would offer career prospects that are the equal of industry, banking and commerce, and would therefore be able to recruit the best future thinkers.  It would have a social conscience, an established footprint in its local community and would play a lead role in raising awareness of business and social enterprise, and their contribution to society, from school age onwards.”

“And much less … ” Inclined to recruit staff solely on the strength of their record to publish research in academic journals.  Business school research should be impactful, not simply intellectually challenging.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would look like for you: I will be in my early 70s, in good health and in my fifth ‘career’. I will be running a food bank in my home city of Edinburgh for people who can’t afford to feed themselves or their family.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.