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Our Kauppis Memory: Reunions are always happy and often emotional

‘Mikkeli Spirit glues the whole group together.’
Kauppis110, Vahvaselkä ja Väkimies, eng.
Photo: Aalto University / Maarika Raitosola

To celebrate the School of Business 110 years this year we ask former and current members of the School of Business community (especially faculty and staff) to share their memories of the School. These memories will comprise the ‘My Kauppis Memory’ or ‘Our Kauppis Memory’ series of stories. This is the last memory of the series.

Annamari Vahvaselkä and Kaarina Väkimies have worked in Mikkeli campus services during all four heads of programme. Veikko Jääskeläinen founded the programme in 1989. Until 2001, the programme was a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) programme and the first Bachelor's Programme in International Business (BScBA) students started in 2001. This autumn, the 21st course began in Mikkeli.  

Heikki Urmas (dec. 2013) was the first head of the programme. Many people probably remember that every time Heikki held a briefing for students in an auditorium or classroom, and the same applies to party speeches as well, he started by saying: I have good news... and bad news. He was an insurmountable coffee drinker. The coffee thermos was always ready on the office table.

After Heikki, the International Business Programme was led by David Swanson. He was an easy-going superior. Every Friday was Aloha Friday, where David's dress code was a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. After David Swanson, David Atkinson (dec. 2016) was the head of programme. He was calm and composed and had a good sense of humour. At the moment we have female energy in the lead with Joan Lofgren as the head of programme. Joan is really active in several teams at Aalto University and with local stakeholders in Mikkeli.

In our programme, one course lasts only three weeks and the study of this subject is very intensive. Dozens of professors visit Mikkeli every year. Many professors have taught several times in Mikkeli, and some have already become familiar faces in the programme. One of them is Dale Fodness, who has taught marketing in Mikkeli almost throughout the whole history of the programme. He's a very nice and stand-up guy. 

Many memorable professors have taught in the programme, and especially Frank Hoy, who taught Entrepreneurship in the Global Economy, comes to mind. He was a gentleman who was always very considerate of others, and he was also very well liked among students. Ron Collins, who taught Introduction to Management, was a professor with a delightful sense of humour and students enjoyed his lessons, and Fongot Kinni, a Cameroonian professor, really enjoyed the sauna. He even ordered a sauna from Finland and built it in his home in Cameroon!

One funny incident that took place during David Swanson's leadership is particularly memorable. He had hired a slightly older gentleman from the University of Las Vegas to teach in Mikkeli. This gentleman arrived in Helsinki Airport on a winter evening and jumped on a bus waiting at the station. The bus took off, but not in the direction of Mikkeli, but Tampere, and the bus was actually some band's tour bus. Apparently the trip had been very entertaining. After a number of telephone calls and arrangements were made, the professor was brought to Mikkeli and the course started on time.

Memorable events and Mikkeli Spirit

We have many annual traditions on the Mikkeli campus. The legendary Orientation Week is in August before the beginning of the academic year. During the week, new students get to know each other, our programme and Mikkeli, which lays the foundation for "Mikkeli Spirit" and lifelong friendships. The Orientation programme is planned in cooperation between the Student Office and the student organisation Probba. The Grand Annual Ball is held in November, with Probba in charge of the main arrangements. 

Career Day, where our alumni come tell us about their own careers, is held in winter. The event is also organised together with Probba. The fourth established event is Graduation Ceremony, which is held once a year. The ceremony is usually held in the Concert and Event Hall Mikaeli in April, and all the students who have graduated since the previous ceremony are invited. The ceremony is a wonderful reunion between many students and us. 

Mikkeli Spirit ties us all (students, professors and other staff) together, and it continues to affect us even after the students have graduated. Every time you meet a student who graduated from our programme, you're bound to have a little chat or reminiscence. Several old students come by to say hello and take a look around the campus during summer time. 

Our exchange students also remember Mikkeli with fondness. This summer I received a card from two students who had been on exchange with us, in which they told me about the birth of their first child. They said that they met each other during their exchange period in Mikkeli and their story is still going strong, Annamari explains. 

Lastly, we could tell you that this autumn, after the break caused by the coronavirus, we have restarted our Friend Family Programme together with South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, XAMK. The programme is aimed at our first-year international degree students studying on our and XAMK campuses. Students and families meet each other during their free time, and the purpose of the programme is to promote internationality and knowledge of different cultures on both sides. Some of the families involved in the programme have participated in it several times, and they have explained that they are still in contact with the students they have previously met. I hope that this year will also create similar friendships, which will continue even after the students leave Mikkeli.  

Annamari Vahvaselkä
1996–2000 MBA Course Secretary
2001–> The study office of the BBA/BScBA programme, with the main task of managing student exchanges for both students arriving in and leaving Mikkeli. In recent years, her tasks have also included coordinating the graduation process of students and responsibilities related to the well-being of students.

Kaarina Väkimies
1999–> BBA/BScBA Course/Study Affairs Secretary
Before this, Kaarina had worked at Mikkeli Student Housing Ltd, or MOAS, so in some respects she was already familiar with the School of Business. 

#kauppis110

School of Business 110 years

The School of Business (today Aalto University School of Business) was founded in 1911, so in 2021 it celebrates its 110th anniversary.

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Tynellin valaisimet Aalto-yliopisto Töölön pääaulassa. Kuva: Mikko Raskinen
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