Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Marja-Liisa Kuronen. I am a researcher and teacher of organisational communication, a Senior University Lecturer at the Unit of Organizational Communication of the School of Business Department of Management Studies. I was awarded my doctoral thesis in Economics in 2004. I conduct research on the subjects and phenomena in organisational communication that I discuss in my teaching on courses such as Investor Relations. My latest research is related to business ethics, transparency and the building of trust in financial markets, and the research material consists of communication policies and their equivalents in listed companies. My teaching schedule consists of courses in change communication, strategic stakeholder relationships and investor relationships. My professional background includes a long career as a communications consultant and writer of books and articles on that subject. I actively continue to carry out the university’s third task, the societal impact. I have written one of the chapters in ProComma Academic 2016 Eettinen viestintä, a book on ethical communications. The book was published in September and is targeted at both researchers and professionals of communication.
What does good teaching entail in your opinion?
Good teaching leads to good learning: students feel that we care about them, they get interested, take responsibility for their learning and through their actions advance the learning of others and contribute to the atmosphere at the lecture or small groups. In other words, I emphasise the importance of interaction, encountering the people in the teaching situation. But good learning also entails independent information search and study of source material with help of versatile assignments.
The teacher’s duty is to familiarise students with interesting phenomena from a chosen point of view so that the teaching keeps up with the times, recognises the importance of history, and also reflects on the future. Our smart students are interested not only in the future and current phenomena but also in the history of economy, the development that has led to the current situation.
I strive to inspire students to learn. That is why I underline the importance of studying by linking all my courses to the world of business, and I actively use my contacts for inviting visitors. For example, Teemu Moisala, the Managing Director of Futurice, will visit my Strategic stakeholder relations course – I deliberately invited a representative of a fairly small company as a counterbalance to the visibility of large businesses at the School of Business.
How have you developed the teaching at Aalto?
I have developed my own teaching – and hopefully also that of others’ – by participating actively in working groups, governing boards, boards and committees. The work in all of them has also involved development of teaching. At the moment, I am a member of the quality committee of the School of Business. I am also a keen participant whenever suitable continuing education in the field of pedagogy is available, such as Susan Wolcott’s workshops on programme development. I still use the material from those workshops for ideas. I have to admit that my teaching today is very different from what is was at the beginning of my career. Now, I activate the learners more and take advantage of different forms of work.
According to our vision, we are building a sustainable society driven by innovation and entrepreneurship. How is this visible in your teaching work?
The definitions of sustainable development emphasise consideration for the environment, people and the economy in decision-making and all activities. These themes now have a more prominent role in my course Investor Relations, and I also touch the subject in my other courses. As a result of pressure from society, activism among investors and responsible investing alongside ethical investing have increased, and sustainable development is a theme that no company can ignore. My background as an entrepreneur helps me to encourage people to entrepreneurship, and many people with a master’s degree in communications are entrepreneurs. In the Change Communication course, we work on project assignments in which we imitate communications consultation on a small scale with the help of genuine business cases.
Where do you get strength and inspiration for your work as a teacher/development of teaching?
I am always inspired and pleased to see the results of my work, such as good feedback for a course or a message from a student about how my course has contributed decisively to his or her career choices or willingness to continue to doctoral studies.
Also, different requests for comments and request for interviews from the media tell me that the research and teaching work I do is meaningful. Discussions with the Financial Supervisory Authority and the Helsinki Stock Exchange, for example, reveal to me the relevance of my research. One way or another, this interaction is transferred to the teaching, and I also get topics for my own research and the students for their master’s theses from these discussions.
The development of individual students also inspires me, not to mention being able to help a student who has been at a mentally difficult stage of life return to his or her studies. This is a totally new area in my long career. Teachers did not use to have this kind of additional role at universities in the 1980s.
Things that give me energy and inspire me in my work are my family, friends and different kinds of physical activity, and ‘the animals of my life’: my daughters have five dogs and a horse, so there is no lack of therapeutic animals – of course, recent studies have shown that doing different activities together with a dog is relaxing for both the dog and the human and that a dog in the office relieves stress and improves the team spirit, and even productivity.