Working at Aalto University – From the USA to Mikkeli

Director of the Bachelor’s Program in International Business, Joan Lofgren, enjoys the opportunities Aalto University has offered for developing professionally since she started leading the program at the Mikkeli Campus in fall 2009.
Director of the Bachelor’s Program in International Business Joan Lofgren

- At first, I was sceptical about teaching at and leading a business program, as most of my academic career has been in the social sciences. However, I soon discovered how interdisciplinary international business studies are and how interesting the faculty, staff and students are. And I enjoy learning about learning. So I’ve been very happy to work here.

Recruiting and orienting 60-70 visiting professors a year, developing the program’s curriculum and leading the staff team are only part of Lofgren’s diverse duties. The job itself provides energy and adds to her motivation.

- Working with the students is very rewarding. They are so creative and progressive. And getting to know our visiting faculty from all over the world and hosting them for dinners creates lifelong memories.

Lofgren also appreciates the other BScBA Program staff, who are very talented and good in solving all sorts of problems very quickly.

- The pace of our program is very fast, so it’s important to be able to rely on my colleagues.

Universal language of music

In her free time, Lofgren enjoys dancing, cooking and traveling. She is also active in the Mikkeli wine club. But her favorite hobby is singing.

- I have sung in choirs in various countries, and it’s a great way of getting to know people and cultures. I have sung, for example, in a large church choir in Erlangen, in a smaller singing group in Uppsala, in a student choir at Columbia University in New York, and in Händel Choir in Tampere for about 10 years. Here in Mikkeli, I sing in both the Tuomiokirkon Laulu and the Chamber Choir, which is very rewarding.

From the other side of the world

Lofgren has roots in Sweden, but was born and raised in Spokane, Washington, US. After graduating from university in Tacoma, WA, Lofgren has studied and worked around the world: New York, Geneva, Uppsala, Tartu, Tallinn, Erlangen and New York again. She moved to Finland in 1995 when she got an offer to teach at the University of Tampere. It led to other projects, and once when on a research trip to Russia, she was passing through Mikkeli and visited the Small Business Center.

- I heard about the BScBA program and later discovered that the director was a former professor of mine from the US! I have a PhD in political science, specializing in the economic transition in the Baltics, and was doing research in international business. So he invited me to teach a course on Doing Business in the Baltics in 2005.

A few years later, Lofgren was ready for a leadership role in a university, became interested in the very international job of program director, and she moved to Mikkeli.

- I enjoy living here. I still think of myself as something of a former New Yorker, but on the other hand, Helsinki now seems a bit too hectic to me. I’ve lived in smaller cities before and appreciate how close we live to nature here.

Text: Maarika Raitosola
Photo: Ulla Jurvanen

The article was originally published in Mikkeli University Consortium’s magazine in September 2020.

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