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Professor Liisa-Maija Sainio is enthusiastic; she often finds herself excited for various reasons, but right now, she’s eagerly looking forward to introducing LUT's new Bachelor’s Programme in Sustainable International Business to students.
"I’ve previously been responsible for two international master's programmes, and now I’ve had the opportunity to build a new international bachelor's programme in sustainable international business (SIB). Our team of sustainable business researchers will have the chance to teach highly motivated students who have chosen the programme specifically for its international business and sustainability perspective," Sainio says.
The SIB programme will start in the autumn of 2024, and applications can be submitted for the first time in the January joint application period. Sainio points out that students will become part of LUT's community of over 90 nationalities, where multiculturalism is an integral part of daily life. SIB enables focusing on foreign languages and multiculturalism more than average. Sainio also encourages students to take advantage of LUT's extensive exchange university network and to explore the world.
Sainio emphasizes that at LUT, sustainability is taught in a solution-oriented manner.
"Change is made in enterprises, and we are educating professionals who can drive the sustainability transformation in companies and organizations. We need, for example, the courage to invest in new technologies. For students, LUT is a great place to grow, learn, and seek their own values for life."
Mass production of opinions
Sainio's own values could have led her to a career in medicine, but her long-standing dream came to a halt during a work experience period at a health clinic as a teen.
Sainio was asked to observe a mole removal, but when the first drops of blood emerged on the patient's skin, Sainio realized that a career as a doctor wasn't her calling. She had an aversion to blood.
However, there's hardly anything else that Sainio shies away from. She can renovate and build, enjoys getting her hands dirty in her summer cottage garden or goes mushroom picking surrounded by deer flies. Many notice that they get her opinion even before they ask for it; 'it’s mass production', Sainio jokes.
Sainio doesn't offer her opinions randomly, though. She has worked at LUT her entire career – almost a quarter of a century. Sainio joined the university community as a maternity leave substitute immediately after graduating in 1998.
"I never found the exit in the campus labyrinth, and that's a good thing."
Sainio has held various positions at LUT, from assistant to professor, with the early years of her career coinciding with a period of significant growth. She has worked in a range of roles within the faculty and university services.
"When I look back on my years of work, a common thread is my role as a generalist in handling collective matters. I have a short distance from thought to action, and I’m easily lured into tasks that require comprehensive management. If I can be of help, it's rewarding: when a student struggling with their thesis completes it, it's a celebration for the supervisor as well!"
When motivation is lost
Sainio prefers being part of the support team rather than in the spotlight. She doesn't want to be an individual athlete but believes in shared enthusiasm and the power of teams.
"The best part is succeeding in impossible things together. That’s what some of my most meaningful professional experiences have been about – achievements such as education accreditations, preparing strategies or implementing organizational changes."
Sainio believes that the quality of education also stems from enthusiasm and motivation. For students who have lost their motivation for one reason or another, Sainio has a few tricks up her sleeve.
”Don't wait for that perfect study mood – you might have to wait forever. Studying requires commitment, but if you're feeling overwhelmed, it's a good idea to take small steps every day. Tomorrow might go better.”
Overall, Sainio hopes that students are able to realize why they need their degree – preferably for life. She also says students shouldn’t be too hard on themselves.
”I was a very conscientious student back in the day. If I could do it all over again, I would encourage myself to participate more in students' leisure activities. There's so much more to do than just traditional partying.”
Sainio's own daughters are young adults and university students; one is studying economics, and the other business studies. Through them, Sainio stays grounded in the worldview and daily life of students.
”Sustainability thinking means concrete lifestyle choices for the young adult generation, from which middle-aged folks can learn. I recently noticed that my children first check if they can acquire necessary items second-hand."
Sainio strives to make sustainable purchases in her own daily life whenever possible. She lives in multiple locations for practical reasons, and because the family has only one electric car, Sainio uses public transportation frequently.
"At the our summer cottage, solar panels produce almost half of our energy needs. I've significantly increased my consumption of vegetarian food, inspired by my daughters, and I'm interested in a planetary diet."
The ability to communicate reflects a person's thinking
The SIB programme's teaching is predominantly classroom-based, like other bachelor's level programmes at LUT. According to Sainio, there is a place for both physical and virtual universities, but the central question remains: Can we create meaningful networks online?
”You can acquire factual knowledge in various ways, but interaction is still needed. Communication skills are still in demand in live encounters. The ability to communicate reflects a person's thinking."
Online courses are beneficial for certain students and situations in life, but integrating international students solely through remote education is fairly impossible.
"The university is still a community where, with the help of researched knowledge, we strive to make the world a better place. The means of learning have diversified, but in addition to expertise in one's field, it all centres on the ability to learn. When AI can generate mediocre output, those who can think critically and creatively in real-time will succeed in the future job market."
In Sainio's view, hope is at the core of university activities – hope for a better life and a better world. Universities should be at the forefront of societal changes and defend the freedom of thought.
"Courage, curiosity, and the ability to take action are in LUT’s DNA. I trust that in the future, new generations of students and researchers will find their way with the tools they receive at LUT. That's why we're here."
According to Sainio, LUT's culture has been conducive to both learning and working.
"I remember a relaxed atmosphere from my student days, and the staff was approachable. I have tried to continue that same tradition myself. Over the past 25 years, LUT has evolved into an internationally recognized research university, and it's great to work at the 11th best compact-sized university in the world."
- Born in 1973 in Oulu
- Lives in Mikkeli
- Married, two adult daughters
- Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration (1998) and Doctor of Science in Economics and Business Administration (2005)
- Professor of International Marketing (specialization: technology and innovation management)
- Hobbies include a summer cottage, renovation, music, knitting, and participation in a book club