Not everyone knows that a long time ago there was a tar-burning pit where the Lappeenranta campus of the LUT University is currently located. In the 1950s, even a ski jump could be found next to the campus. Antero Tervonen, university lecturer in accounting at the LUT School of Business and Management (LBM), knows these things because he studies history through maps.
Tervonen's interest in maps and history in general stems from his childhood. For Tervonen, it is easy to study historical maps of the Lappeenranta region, where he has lived for long, as he knows Russian – the oldest markings on the maps tend to be in Cyrillic script.
Tervonen is also a kind of historical attraction himself since he was one of the first employees at LBM. Tervonen began his working career as a summer employee at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management in 1984, and advanced from assistant to lecturer, then to a doctoral student and all the way to doing fixed-term professorships. The names of the units and the university have changes over his working years.
“Already back in the 1990s, people around here were wondering why students got lower grades from accounting courses than from other courses. We do not let the students take the easy way out, but we try to invest in building up their competence. My courses are still among the most nerve-racking available", Tervonen says with a laugh.
Tervonen says that he got his current job “because no one else applied for this position”.
“When I was younger, I dreamed of working as an architect, but didn't bother to do the preliminary tasks of the entrance exams. So, I ended up here as a lecturer, partly by chance.”
A perfectionist has had to choose his field carefully
Tervonen says that he was selected to the position by the narrowest of margins, as the selection team was lenient about the Master of Science in Engineering degree he held back then. Tervonen graduated as a Licentiate of Science in Technology in September 1992, a year after he was admitted, and he got his doctoral degree in technology in 2001.
Tervonen's dry humour shines through throughout the discussion. The thing is that he is way too modest – after all, he has been awarded for his teaching work several times. Tervonen has been awarded the prize for achievements in teaching by the Finnish Business School Graduates twice – for personal achievements in 1998 and again 10 years later, from a course ran together with the current Rector of LUT Juha-Matti Saksa and Markku Ikävalko, associate professor at LBM.
“The prize is based on the promotion work done by student guilds, i.e., a student guild member markets the course as prize recipient. In my case, in 1998 my promoter was Mr Saksa. Anyone who knows him can imagine how good he was in that job", says Tervonen with a grin.
Tervonen has also been awarded the title of The Adult Education Provider of the Year in the arena of continuing education. Continuing education organised for business operators has also increased the teacher's own competence, which he has been able to utilise in the form of practical examples when teaching basic degree students. Tervonen has also been involved in the “KATI” programmes (training for advancing from the Bachelor of Business Administration degree to the Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration degree) from the very beginning, that is, since 1992.
Tervonen belongs to those university employees who enjoy teaching, even though he did not like performing at all when he was younger.
“I'm a perfectionist. That is why I’ve had to learn to save myself and choose carefully where I focus my full energy. My choice was teaching.”
When Tervonen started at LUT in 1991, at the then Department of Economics, he was a member of a team of seven. Nowadays, there are already more than 100 people working at LBM.
“In the early days, we spent a lot of time together with the colleagues also during our leisure time. Now there are so many people that I don't even know all of them. But the recruitments have clearly been successful.”
He says that LBM has always had a uniquely relaxed atmosphere. According to Tervonen, this was already the case before Juha-Matti Saksa's term as rector. Nice people, no stiff hierarchies, and the opportunity to work freely have made Tervonen stay, even though he sometimes finds himself missing the landscapes and bright summer nights of Rovaniemi, his home region.
The pace has quickened for both students and researchers
If Tervonen could decide, he would spend much more time studying maps and books than he is doing now. For the time being, the time available for reading is largely spent marking papers done by students – up to 1,500 pages per month. The number of students has increased enormously since LBM began its operation in 1991. On the first year, 37 students were admitted, one half to accounting and the other to international marketing. Nowadays, all admission pathways put together, every autumn more than 300 new students start their studies in the Master's Programmes in Business Administration.
In the early years, all applicants to the international marketing programme were interviewed personally. The practice had to be abandoned when the number of students began to grow.
“After all, in the past, students were given an unlimited right to study and they could remain registered as students for decades without ever graduating. Nowadays, graduation is accelerated by student financial aid that is tied to the progress in studies and by the fact that the state pays back part of the student loan if the student graduates rapidly.”
Not only have the pressures on both the students and researchers increased over the years, but many other things have changed as well. Tervonen remembers that still in the 1980s, students participated much more actively in different leisure activities than they do today. During his studies, he himself attended different general education events that were not directly related to his studies. Since then, clear political groupings have also disappeared, and student activities have become subject oriented.
But even today, studies do not mean cramming all day either. For the students, it may be interesting to know that Tervonen was involved in the creation of the popular Academic Adventure event arranged for freshmen during the first week of studies, together with Saksa and other partners.
The idea was born when Tervonen and the Enklaavi (association of economics students) board were celebrating his first achievement in teaching award granted by the Finnish Business School Graduates at the Lappee Night Club. Someone had heard that the teacher education programme at the University of Turku took its freshmen to team up in nature. This example inspired a group of School of Economics employees to create an event of their own in Lappeenranta in autumn 1999. The purpose of the event was to build up the spirit of Skinnarila and to bring new students closer together and, on the other hand, to make them more familiar with the staff.
The first Academic Adventures were organised as two-day events in Sarviniemi of Taipalsaari. The students and staff spent the night in military tents, and the freshman groups gave their traditional performances at dusk with the campfire burning and Lake Saimaa splashing. The freshmen were taken to the first event on board a ship sailing on Saimaa. Their heads covered with paper bags, they sought the other members of their group by making the animal sounds they had in advance been told to make.
In recent years, the event has shrunk into a day-long get-together held on Asinsaari of Taipalsaari, during which people perform different outdoor activities in specific spots. Tervonen has served as the leader of the “trust fall-cable canyon” activity spot.
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LUT's Green Strategy a great inspiration to Tervonen
In the 1980s, researchers also had the freedom to focus on what they were working on. Today, goal-orientation, working in research groups and research work priorities determine what to do. Tervonen himself does less research today, but he has a few interesting projects underway every now and then.
He is currently involved in a LUT research project conducting a feasibility study on synthetic fuels. It concerns an industrial scale pilot plant based on power-to-x technology (P2X) that would produce carbon-neutral transport fuels.
Tervonen is part of the business team tasked with preparing profitability calculations and determining whether there is demand for the product.
And there sure is. The project involves a number of companies, such as ST1, Wärtsilä, Neste, Shell and Finnair. However, it may take a moment or two before ordinary consumers get to fill up the tanks of their combustion-engine vehicles with synthetic petrol.
Tervonen says that participating in the project is particularly rewarding because it allows him to utilise his own competence and learn new things at the same time.
“In Finland, the LUT University was in the vanguard of understanding the importance of a green strategy. Green values also fit into my way of thinking.”
Before shifting to the remote working mode during the corona period, Tervonen used to cycle to work at the Lappeenranta campus. He is, therefore, slightly concerned about the accumulation of spare energy in his body now that, in the course of the day, he takes about 1,500 steps rather than the 5,000 he used to take.
To remedy the situation, he has taken up skiing. Tervonen made his first ski trip of the season immediately after the turn of the year on the ice of Lake Jängynjärvi, close to his home. His wife also enjoys skiing on the ice of the lake in particular. If Tervonen wants a hilly terrain to ski in, the lighted ski trails around the slopes of Salpausselkä in his home village offer him exactly that.
After skiing, Antero Tervonen may take a look at a few maps on his computer – they, as so many other things today, are largely in a digital format. And maybe he will need to review a few papers written by student as well. Tervonen still has six years of his working career left before the official retirement age.
“The most rewarding part of this work is when you see that a student has realised the matter at hand and taken a step forward. Once, in course feedback, a course of mine was described as the best course ever. Apparently, I had done something right that time.”
- Was born in Kontiolahti, moved to Rovaniemi when he was two months old, and to Lappeenranta at the age of 18
- Has Doctor of Engineering degree in Industrial Engineering and Management (LUT)
- Married, with three adult children, two grandchildren
- Special note: The whole family works in the educational sector
LUT School of Business and Management celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021. In honour of the anniversary year, we publish special interviews with former and current staff members and the alumni of the School.