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Our relationship with business life is lively and rich, says Pekka Mattila, Associate Professor in Marketing

‘We boldly experiment with a variety of co-operation patterns, some of which function better and some of which have a shorter life cycle.’
Aalto BIZ Homecoming Day 2023, Pekka Mattila vetää keskustelua
Pekka Mattila led the discussion about market disruption in the Homecoming Day of 27 January 2023. Jussi Aho (left), Flow Technologies Oy, Noora Fagerström, Jungle Juice Bar, Timo Metsola, Vuokraturva and Daniela Yrjö-Koskinen, Novita, as guests.

Pekka Mattila, who started as an Associate Professor of Marketing at the School of Business at the beginning of February, already has long, versatile experience at Aalto University. He started to work at Aalto in summer 2010. ‘At that time, I was the first Professor of Practice. I worked as CEO of Aalto University Executive Education (Aalto EE) in 2011–2021. My profile in this assignment was slightly different from that of CEOs in general, but I was a doctoral school graduate, and I came from university, even though my background is mainly business. In the coming years, for the first time in my Aalto career, I can also properly focus on research.’

At the beginning of the five-year professorship, we asked Pekka Mattila about the internationalisation and teaching and what kind of a place of study he thinks the School of Business is.

According to him, the years of building Aalto University have been important for creating a unified university. ‘However, the identities of the schools have become a little blurred. The School of Business has gotten assistance from the large Aalto University, but its own features may not be as distinct as they could be. The School of Business is strongly research-driven, a European top school, and I’d like to enrich it with a strength of the School of Business and of Finland as a whole: since we come from a small country, we must, as a rule, be quite open to the world. I've seen higher education institutions close-by in Asia and the US, which are a bit self-sufficient and closed. We don't have that, and that's a good thing.’

The School of Business boldly seeks various partnerships, both institutions and individuals, both in research and teaching.

‘You don't always have to play with the same people. Different partnerships have increased at the same time as our own faculty and staff have become more international. We’ve got established quality schools as partners, but we’re also open-minded and have co-operation in rapidly growing developing countries. They may not even be found on any of our lists, which we like to find our partners on, but which may still be useful for the operation of Aalto and the School of Business.’

‘We also have exceptionally good relationships with business life, and these are not just based on donations. Our relationship with companies is lively, which is also reflected in teaching. The business network can also provide access to completely unique research data. As a rule, Nordic business life is fairly research-friendly. I’ve come to this conclusion when I work with large global companies.’

The standard of our teaching has kept improving

According to Pekka Mattila, the standard of teaching at the School of Business has increased over the last ten years. The teaching has become competitive; we are interested in comparing and learning. There is also more ambition and creativity. Mattila co-operates a lot with Swedish colleagues, for example, and explains how often they wonder how student-centred our teaching is. Their teaching is still quite teacher-centred.

‘We’ve been very effective in selling to our students what they’re entitled to and what they can expect. But the customer is quite bold in their wishes, and it’s sometimes impossible to be as flexible as desired in teaching. On the one hand, the lecture should be a conversational, on the other hand a tightly-knit information package; on the one hand online, on the other hand, in a classroom; on the other hand, should be available early morning, sometimes late in the evening. Sometimes, students are promised a variety of things to make their daily lives easier without considering the practice of implementation. Of course, being student-centred is a good thing, but in some situations, we could be a bit more robust. Not everything needs to be made possible so that the form does not take all attention from the content.’

Aalto wants to support joint methods and share best practices, but do the teachers have room for personalities?

‘Non-mainstream teachers don’t necessarily receive the best grades in pedagogical evaluations, but their voices and methods often leave the learner with a positive impression. Of course, arbitrary or politically inaccurate teaching shouldn’t be allowed, but the teacher's personality, voice and handwriting should be visible and heard. They create memorable experiences. Standards shouldn’t eat teachers' artistic freedom. We talk a lot about divergence and inclusion, and this would also be a way of demonstrating it in the work community,’ says Pekka Mattila.

There is nothing in our toolbox to be ashamed of

Pekka Mattila is proud of the School of Business in a healthy way. According to him, the School of Business's contents combined with the lessons learned from life and work experience make the students’ future look very bright and impressive.

‘The toolbox we provide can advance to roles where you can influence and make meaningful decisions that are sustainable and ethically correct. The place of influence may be one's own or another's own company, a global group, the public sector, an organisation or anything else. When we market and present the School of Business as a place of study, that is the promise we can and must make. And of course, make a reality.’

‘I'm sure future students who are interested in us will be able to think for themselves. Even though the School of Business sometimes highlights that the school is male-dominated and that the so-called hard subjects, such as finance, are very competitive, the school offers a wide range of programmes and areas of specialisation. I'm not going to underestimate our audience at all, but I believe that, in addition to a wide range of teaching offerings, they also know that the School of Business has a wide variety of people and that there’s a place for all those who got a place of study. Sometimes the old stereotype gets reflected for no reason,’ Pekka Mattila says.  

Text: Terhi Ollikainen
Photo: Mika Levälampi

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