School of Business donor stories: Tiina and Ari Mäkelä

'It is wonderful that both Aalto University and the School of Business are both so exceptionally forward-looking.'
Tiina ja Ari Mäkelä Ekonominaukiolla. Kuva: Roope Kiviranta
Tiina and Ari Mäkelä in Ekonominaukio. Photo: Roope Kiviranta

The current couple Kristiina (hereafter Tiina, as she is called) and Ari Mäkelä began their studies at the School of Business in 1989. They both majored in international marketing. Immediately after the first year, Tiina and Ari joined the activities of the Student Union KY, and active participation in KY was one of the most memorable things for both during their studies. Ari first worked at KY as Sports Secretary for a year and then as Chairman of the Board. After that, he was the chairman of the Finnish Student Union (SYL).

Both Tiina and Ari have wonderful memories from their student days, during which they made great friendships that have continued to this day. 'Student life and KY have been close to our hearts. We made a lot of good friends and we still have a crab party every year with our KY friends' says Tiina.

Tiina ja Ari Mäkelä Kauppakorkeakoulun portaissa
Tiina and Ari Mäkelä in the lobby of the new main building of the School of Business. Photo: Roope Kiviranta

From beloved Töölö to the magnificent Otaniemi

The former main building of the School of Business in Töölö has remained strongly in the minds of Ari and Tiina. 'When I went to the building after the renovation, tears came to my eyes. The building is so magnificent and there was that old spirit,' recalls Tiina. Tiina also has a special memory of the lobby of the former main building. 'Every time I go to the Töölö lobby, I remember the first day as a Kauppis student, when we, along with 400 other students, waited excitedly in the lobby. It has stuck in my mind as a flash,' she recalls. For Ari, Töölö's building has also been particularly memorable. 'The nostalgia associated with Kauppis former main building is strong,' he describes.

Both Tiina and Ari consider the move of the School of Business to Otaniemi to be an excellent thing. "As a current employee of Aalto University, I must say that Otaniemi is an awesome place and the new Kauppis building is wonderful,' says Tiina. 'I find it really great that Kauppis is located in the middle of Otaniemi, and is part of our multidisciplinary community,' she continues.

For Tiina, the best time on campus is the time before Vappu, i.e. Labor Day. 'Before Vappu the campus is bursting with the energy and zest for life of our wonderful students. There is a lot going on and anything can happen.'

Ari has followed the development of Aalto and the School of Business both from his own interest in his alma mater and through his wife Tiina. 'It has been such a pleasure to follow the development that has taken place in Aalto and the School of Business over the years and to see what Aalto has already become. The integration of Kauppis into the adjacent ARTS (School of Arts, Design and Architecture) reflects the core of Aalto,' says Ari.

Ari's road leads to the banking world

Ari graduated with a master’s degree in 1994. His first job after graduation was McKinsey, where he worked for a year and a half. From McKinsey, Ari moved into the banking world, where he has worked for over 20 years and enjoyed himself very much.

Ari began his banking career at Citibank, followed by working at other banks such as Deutche Bank and Lehman Brothers in London. Ari describes working at Lehman Brothers as a really interesting and educational time - even though 2008 was quite a roller coaster ride. A little over 10 years ago, Ari returned to Citibank, where he currently leads the operations of the Nordic Investment Bank.

Ari says that there is a certain trinity that has helped him in his career, namely studies in business, student union activities and the soul of a competitive athlete. 'From the business studies, I gained a good knowledge base for my career and a structured way of working. Student union activities, in turn, taught me to work with people, and the background of a competitive athlete has brought a certain perseverance in doing.'

When Ari was studying at the School of Business, finance could not yet be studied as a major, and he had to work hard to master the concepts of the financial world. 'Investment banking can’t be learned from books, it’s more of a craft profession. The profession is the application of different theories and concepts,' says Ari.

Tiina's road takes her from the business world to university management positions

Tiina’s first job after graduation was Procter & Gamble, where she worked for about 10 years. During that time, Ari and Tiina lived in both Sweden and England, and had more children. They have altogether four children.

'When I graduated with a master’s degree in 1993, it didn’t even cross my mind to have an academic career,' says Tiina. 'However, writing my thesis felt very natural, so the idea of postgraduate studies stayed somewhere in the back of my mind. Then, when we first moved back to Finland in 2002, I wanted to try doing a dissertation, and I was swept away. When writing my dissertation, I found my calling and became a full-blooded academic,' she says.

Tiina received her PhD from the School of Business in 2006, after which she worked at Hanken and as a research visitor in England. Tiina returned to Aalto and the School of Business at the end of 2012. She is currently working as a provost at Aalto University, and feels that her work has a true meaning. At Aalto University, provost's task is to lead the processes related to research, teaching, innovations, and societal impact.

Tiina says that studies gave her a good foundation for her career. 'From the School of Business, you get good knowledge and skills for anything that you want to do as a business school graduate. If you want to become a judge, priest, or doctor, you shouldn't come to Kauppis, but you can do almost anything else with the Kauppis degree,' says Tiina.

During her studies, she also became interested in leadership, and was able to practice her leadership skills on the board of KY. Overall, leadership has been a key theme in Tiina’s career. While working in an international company, she was very interested in the dynamics between people in an international environment, and her dissertation is also related to issues around leadership. As a professor, Tiina specializes in international business and human resource management, and her professorship is at the department of management studies.

“When donating became possible, I thought why not. I felt that it was right to give back a little."

Ari Mäkelä, School of Business alumnus and donor.

As alumni, you can still belong to the Kauppis community

Being an alumnus and alumna of the School of Business is important to Tiina and Ari. 'When we lived abroad, we disconnected from all networks for 10 years. Now that we have moved back to Finland, it has been great to reconnect with the alumni community. I am grateful for everything the school and the community represent, and it’s nice to be involved again,' says Ari. He sends greetings to all of Kauppis alumni: “Do return to the great Kauppis community! It's worth it, especially as a spiritual home!.”

As a provost, professor, and researcher at Aalto University, Tiina has many different roles at both the School of Business and Aalto University. She therefore feels that she is a representative for both Aalto and Kauppis. “Representing Aalto, Kauppis and the whole community inspires me and means a lot to me. Otaniemi is such a great place. It is great precisely because we have our three areas there,' she says. As a provost, Tiina also wants to highlight all the researchers at Aalto University who do a great job. 'We change the world in many ways, as we intended to do,' she says.

Ari Mäkelän nimikkotuoli. Kuva Roope Kiviranta
Ari Mäkelä's named seat. Photo: Roope Kiviranta

By donating, you can support the development of Kauppis and Aalto

Tiina and Ari are also donors of Aalto University and the School of Business. Ari was inspired to donate after following the developments at Aalto University and the School of Business over the years. 'When donating became possible, I thought why not. I felt that it was right to give back a little,' says Ari.

For Tiina, it is important to take Aalto University and the School of Business to world class. 'However, it doesn’t happen without investments,' she says. 'As a university, we are poor in a world class. We, nevertheless, have a huge potential and I wanted to help the university reach its potential with my own small investment,' describes Tiina her donation philosophy.

Giving back is all in all very important and meaningful to Tiina and Ari. They send greetings to all their fellow students and KY friends: 'Now would be a really good time to give back!'

Congratulations to ever progressive Kauppis!

Ari says that when recruiting Kauppis students, he has noticed that the students who graduated from Kauppis are fantastic and extremely smart young people. 'Keep up the good work and educate young people who will save the future!' says Ari in his greetings to the 110-year-old Kauppis.

According to Tiina, universities have always been pioneers. 'It is great that Aalto University and the School of Business are both so exceptionally forward-looking. I hope that Kauppis will be at least as forward-looking for the next 110 years as it has been so far.'

Finally, Tiina and Ari send greetings to the Kauppis students: 'Look outside Kauppis as well. The world is multidisciplinary. Don't just stay inside Kauppis' walls, but use the opportunities that studying at Aalto offers, both in terms of studies and social life', they urge.

Thank you so much, Tiina and Ari, for your donations and for sharing your story!

Text Helena Salminen ja Terhi Ollikainen

The text is based on the interview done in June, 2021.

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