Jyrki Wallenius received his PhD from the Helsinki School of Economics in 1975 at the age of 25, although in practice he completed much of his graduate studies in Brussels, at the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM). His first academic job was at the Department of Economics at the University of Jyväskylä, where he worked for some seven years. He also found the time to work at foreign universities, mainly in the United States, for about six years at various stages during his career. He returned to the Helsinki School of Economics in 1988. ‘After that, I did not go abroad again for longer periods of time, because I wanted to work specifically for the Helsinki School of Economics, where I was able to influence things, in my opinion,’ Wallenius said.
At the School of Economics, Jyrki Wallenius managed to serve in almost every possible role from research assistant to professor, head of department to director of the doctoral programme, to Vice Rector and Dean. He also directed the ITP summer programme for ten years, and the MBA-programme for seven.
‘The MBA directorship was different from my other assignments, because the programme was market-based. We had a product that had to be sold! My irreplaceable right arm was Asta Malinen,’ Wallenius gratefully acknowledges.
A career with many highlights
Wallenius’ first career highlight was his graduate studies at the EIASM Institute. ‘My supervisors were Professor Bertil Näslund (Handelshögskolan i Stockholm) for the first year, and after him, Professor Stanley Zionts (State University of New York at Buffalo). My collaboration with Zionts was long-lasting and successful. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the former Rector of the Helsinki School of Economics, Jaakko Honko, for the opportunities I had there.’
Another turning point was getting to know Professor Pekka Korhonen in 1974, when he was working at the Computing Centre at the University of Helsinki. ‘We became friends and started working together in 1978 and have continued to this day. More than half of our publications and citations are joint!’
‘From 1979 to 1980 I was a visiting professor at Purdue University, where I got to know Professor Herbert Moskowitz. He became a close collaborator, mentor and friend. Upon my return to the School of Economics, we set up a joint research group with Professor Pekka Korhonen.’
His year as dean in 2011 gave Wallenius the opportunity to get to know the university leadership better, as well as a number of business leaders and the last two chancellors of the School of Economics. Wallenius would like to extend his thanks to Aatto Prihti and Matti Lehti for helping him in numerous ways. He would also like to acknowledge the great collaboration with Rector Eero Kasanen, who served as the Rector for 14 years.
Wallenius also served as the ‘promotor’ in the Conferment of Degrees Ceremony in 2011.
‘Conferment Ceremonies at the School of Economics are really splendid events with their ancient traditions. I also have wonderful memories of the 2001 conferment ceremony, where our daughter, Johanna, was in the role of Mercurius Maiden. The year as dean also opened doors to leadership positions in foundations. In general it has been fantastic to get to know a large number of highly talented people in different parts of the world. It has been a pleasure to work with them, including colleagues in my own department. A special thanks to our Department Head, Markku Kuula. Indeed many colleagues have also become family friends. Being a professor is one of the best professions in the world, because it allows you to work with such gifted students and colleagues.’
Lessons learned over the years
In Wallenius’ view, working in research teams as is done in the natural sciences has proved effective and successful also in Management Science.
‘With Professor Pekka Korhonen, we created a research group focusing on decision-making problems at the former Helsinki School of Economics as early as 1988. It is important to choose your collaborators so that everyone’s skills complement each other. Moreover, the smarter your colleagues are, the better! International orientation right from the start is also vital, which was not mainstream at the time when I was studying at the School of Economics.
The Graduate schools were a positive innovation some 20 years ago. With Professor Raimo Hämäläinen (Aalto University School of Science), we set up a joint graduate school under his leadership, which focuses on decision-making and risk-management.
Working as director of the MBA-program and the Centre for Innovative Education showed Wallenius how rewarding teaching at its best can be. In his view, young researchers easily make the mistake of wanting to demonstrate their own knowledge in classroom.
‘You should turn the situation around so that the students are the stars! I don’t believe that the online and distance learning in recent years will replace physical presence, at least on a large scale,’ he said.
Wallenius believes that being active and actively influencing matters at the school and university level are extremely important. ‘Universities are not the easiest organisations to lead! I think that it is vital that professors become more involved in influencing things at their own university. The leadership should also truly listen to the professors. As Chancellor Kari Raivio has said, the professors’ role as guardians of academic quality is absolutely central.’
Greetings to the university leadership
Wallenius does not think that becoming an emeritus professor will be dramatic for him. ‘I will continue to be active in my Department of Information and Service Economy. I will also continue in a number of international projects. My work at the Paulo Foundation and the Foundation for Economic Education also continues. With Professor Pekka Korhonen, we also have a publishing contract for a book about decision-making. Wallenius concludes with a few words directed to the Aalto University leaders.
‘It is essential to have a genuine respect and understanding what it means to be a multidisciplinary university. This, in turn, provides a good basis for becoming more interdisciplinary. Our university has become more and more ambitious, which is great. Introducing a tenure track system has also been a very positive thing, as has the increasingly international dimension. I wish the Aalto BIZ and Aalto University every success.’
Vice Dean, Professor Kristiina Mäkelä and Professor Markku Kuula thanked Jyrki Wallenius for his great path at the School of Economics/Business.
Approximately 150 current and former colleagues came to listen to Professor Jyrki Wallenius' Farewell Lecture "Management Science: General Reflections and Personal Contributions". The lecture was held in Chydenia building on Friday 2 November.
Jyrki Wallenius was interviewed by Terhi Ollikainen.
Photos by Outi Puukko