Visiting faculty Beryl Pittman: ‘Students make tremendous progress and are proud of their final deliverable.’

Beryl Pittman, Senior Lecturer at the Department of English in North Carolina State University, regards teaching in the BScBA Program as the #1 highlight of her career. In addition to her teaching work at our Mikkeli Campus and her home university, Pittman has been heavily involved with entrepreneurship at NC State, presenting at conferences, and teaching with global initiative programs at NC State.
Visiting professor Beryl Pittman visiting Santa Claus in Finland.
Beryl Pittman's dream came true when she met Santa Claus in Rovaniemi a few years ago.

What subject do you teach in Mikkeli?

I came to teach in the BScBA Program for the first time in October 2012. I teach the course that everybody loves to hate:  Academic Writing.  It’s not one of the exciting classes that includes field trips and project partnerships.  It’s not even a hard class. It just requires a lot of time – and time management.  My colleague, Sophia Butt, and I develop assignments in several non-fiction genres that reflect much of the process that will be required of the following year’s thesis-writing process as well as that of any academic writing.  With pep talks and constructive feedback and breaking down the writing process into baby steps, students make tremendous progress and are proud of their final deliverable.

What makes you want to come back to Mikkeli and what have you learned from your visits to Mikkeli?

Snow! I’m from the South of the US where snow is a rare and wonderful thing. So I love the snow.  I even love the darkness; it gives me a chance to clear my head.   I am in Finland for only six weeks though, so the snow and darkness are an adventure.  I understand that months and months of snow and darkness can be rough. 

Anything about travel enriches our lives.  And to have the opportunity to return to a place every year for a long time has altered the way I see my little corner of the world as well as giving me the chance to make so many new friends, to enjoy new food (who knew Finland would be so vegetarian-friendly?), and to discover cool new ways of doing things, like the dish-drying shelves over the sink. 

There are so many things about Mikkeli experience that I look forward to, from passing the huge wooden pink house on the hill as the train pulls out of Helsinki towards Mikkeli to enjoying the Advent festivities and the President’s Reception on Independence Day to wandering around town on Saturday mornings. I look forward to being around people who are comfortable with silence and space, which is very different from the area that I am from.

Mostly though I love the relationships that I build with students.  It’s great to return to Mikkeli and see the sometimes-overwhelmed first-years as confident second-years.  It’s great to be included in student activities and to learn about their hometowns. 

There are students that I stay in touch with beyond Mikkeli, too; I see them whenever I pass through Helsinki and some I even see when they find themselves in the States. Some even have children of their own now; I hope to teach them, too, in a few years.

I love the relationships that I build with students.

Beryl Pittman, Senior Lecturer, North Carolina State University

How are the students at the BScBA Program?

It always amazes me that, only a few months into the program, students are able to drill so deep with their academic interests as they choose their topics to write about.  They are so well versed in everything from cyber currencies to greenwashing. They are very strategic in the way they view geopolitics, too.  And they all move so nimbly from language to language.  I often forget that English isn’t their first language.

In your opinion, what are the strengths of the BScBA Program and the 3-week module system?

It’s rigorous, no doubt, for both students and instructors in Academic Writing especially.  We have 2-3 assignments/week, some as long as 10 pages, most requiring fast turn-around time and thorough feedback.  But I like the concentrated immersion; everybody’s focus and goals are the same.  There’s a strong esprit de corps that I really enjoy.   

Visiting professor Beryl Pittman

What are your experiences with online teaching and student interactions during the pandemic?

Most of my courses at NC State have been offered online anyway for about 15 years.  So, fortunately, I was accustomed to aligning the pedagogy, assignments, and activities to an online environment as well as to the extra effort required to build community within the class.

It was challenging during Module 4 to be working around a 12-hour time difference, but the students from Asia were especially good sports.  For the team project, the students had to work around time differences of as much as 6 hours, so that was very different from being able to just walk across the hall to a study room. Module 5 was easier since everyone was in Finland except for me.

Joan (Program Director) and the entire staff worked extra hard to make sure that instructors had what they needed with the pivot to online classes. 

What tips could you give the current and future BScBA students?

Don’t listen to the second-years when they try to scare you about Academic Writing!

Your best memories from Mikkeli?

I love a tradition that I started my first year:  on the last Wednesday of the module, I take a class photo and then post it on social media with the caption “Watch out, World – my Aalto Super-Stars!”  I love seeing how the likes and shares go round the world;  I love that we end the module with everybody smiling and relaxed in the photo; I love looking back at the photos and knowing that my students were ready for the Next Big Thing.

Bachelor's Program in International Business, Aalto University

International Business, Bachelor (BScBA, Mikkeli) and Master of Science (Otaniemi) in Economics and Business Administration

The Bachelor’s Programme in International Business provides students with a comprehensive range of skills and knowledge to build, develop and lead companies on a global scale. A bachelor’s degree in business with an international focus opens up a wide variety of career opportunities across all industries and continents.

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