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Memories of a dear friend and colleague: Prof. Brigitte Smit

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

I was devastated by the news from the African Doctoral College in October 2022 that Prof. Brigitte Smit had very sadly died after a long illness. She hardly ever used her titles, and I knew her as Brig. She was a friend as well as a colleague, and she contributed to the field of qualitative research and the use of Computer Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS (CAQDAS) with passion, integrity, professionalism and generosity.

I know she touched many other lives, so wanted to do something to recognise that and to honour her. So I’m collating memories of Brig from colleagues in the qualitative and CAQDAS world. If you’d like to contribute to this page, just let me know.

Almost exactly a year before Brig left us, she delivered a webinar for us at the CAQDAS Networking Project on using ATLAS.ti for scoping reviews. You can view it here.

I can’t remember exactly when I first met Brig, but it was many years ago, probably at a conference – or maybe at one of our workshops – she came to a lot of events, always contributing thoughtfully and enthusiastically, and always keen to continue learning. We talked a lot about how much we enjoy learning from those we teach. She is a great inspiration to me in that respect.

I have particularly fond memories of spending time with Brig in Berlin in 2013, when we enjoyed along with dozens of colleagues, a boat trip around the city laid on by the conference organisers. This pic is from then.

The last time I saw her in person was just before the pandemic, in January 2020, when we spent a lovely time together, just the two of us, discussing methods, tools and life in general on campus in Guildford, UK. I learnt many things from Brig, not just about qualitative data analysis, but also about how to be a good person, and how to keep going with a smile in your heart despite adversity. I will miss her dearly and she is a very big loss to our community. I attended the celebration of her life thanks to the powers of technology, where it was a privilege to have a window in to how much and how many others she touched.

My deepest condolences go out to Brig's family, friends, colleagues and students.

Christina Silver


I was so sorry to hear about Brigitte's untimely passing. Brigitte travelled twice all the way to Santa Barbara to attend my ATLAS.ti workshops, and she was so supportive and helpful to all the young and much less experienced qualitative researchers also attending. She stood out as such a decent, kind, and humble person, and we quickly became friends, sharing ideas and teaching experiences across the ocean from time to time. It was always a bright moment to see her warm friendly face unexpectedly at conference. I shall miss her very much.

Nick Woolf, Emeritus Advisor & Author, QDA Services


I met Brigitte Smit nearly 30 years ago. Continents came together in December 1994 at an event organized to bring teachers of computer assisted qualitative data analysis together from around the world. Brigitte led the way from South Africa. She remained at the forefront of qualitative research and the advancement of methodological support in a distinguished career in South Africa and Canada. She made many friends who will miss her greatly.

Ann Lewins, Co-Founder, QDA Services


I have fond memories of Brigitte, of us talking about teaching ATLAS.ti at the African Doctoral Academy at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

Among other things, she told me about her research in the educational area in regions that were struck by HIV/AIDS. In this context, she recommended that book "Troubling the Angels: Women Living with HIV/AIDS" by Patti Lather and Chris Smithies (1997) as a good and interesting example of qualitative research. I read the book and I did integrate this into my qualitative method teaching and had students read sections of the book.

Brigitte and I also met in Berlin at the ATLAS.ti conferences. A treasured memory is the boat ride on the river Spree through Berlin discussing all the new insights we gained at the conference. Here we see Brigitte with friends on that boat trip

Susanne Friese, Director, Qeludra B.V.


Brigitte Smit was an absolute inspiration – always funny and warm balancing a brilliant bluntness and ability to cut through verbiage and fluff. Her experience of the challenges, and satisfactions, of working within the radical changes of the South African higher educational system made concerns over equity and equality a key focus and a welcome set of reality checks. A real expert with a thirst for learning new things and seeing and applying new innovations I was really saddened to hear of her passing. Thanks for everything Brigitte – you’ll be sadly missed. Dr Steve Wright. Lancaster University


I met Brigitte in 2008 on the PhD Proposal Programme where she was the CAQDAS ATLAS.ti facilitator. She was a wonderful teacher and she also mentored countless number of students and academics into qualitative methodologies. It is thanks to her ground-breaking work that the programme of ATLAS.ti has become so successful in South Africa. She was the first-ever doctoral student to use the programme, and from there, she taught 1000s of others to use the programme, thus being one of the most recognised and acknowledged leaders of the highest quality of research work in the qualitative sciences world wide.

One of her greatest testaments is that she selflessly advanced others and was herself always humble and modest in her own academic work. It was only when you went to international conferences with her and witnessed the awe and respect that she inspired in other leading academics that you realised how truly gifted she was as an academic, teacher and intellect. Brigitte's reflective ways of being, her promoting of others before herself, and her incredibly insightful scholarship were recognised internationally when she was appointed as a Professor at UNISA and then also as a Professor at the University of Alberta in Canada. She also received her NRF rating which was a testament to her publications, her supervision of students and her wide-ranging community work. There are many school principles whom she supported and inspired and who were part of her work who must feel her loss so greatly here today. Yet, also she never lost the ability to devote time and attention to the next generation of academics and selflessly helped all of us to find our feet in qualitative roles and to become scholars. There are so many moments of her work that I recall: from working with 100's of Ethiopian students who were very resistant to qualitative work, to her brilliant presentations at conferences, to her gentle ways with struggling students, to her commanding a lecture hall where you could hear a pin drop when she spoke narratively of academic conventions: I know I could never find another friend or mentor who will teach me as she has done and I am at a loss to know how to go on without her. Charmaine Williamson: South African colleague and friend


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