Sami Sykkö ja alumnit
Created 29.4.2024
Updated 29.4.2024

“This was in the entrance exams!” whispers an alumnus to another as the legendary Professor Emeritus Kalevi Kyläheiko pulls up a slide, or as Kyläheiko calls it, a 'transparency' featuring derivatives.

“My talk today asks a specific question: Where are you headed, Finnish national economy? It will be a reasonably grim presentation, but I’ll speak only of mathematical truths,” Kyläheiko begins.

The lecture hall is packed to the brim. The hall couldn’t accommodate everyone interested in listening to the former dean of LUT Business School – some are watching a live stream in a nearby lounge. LUT’s first Homecoming Day (HCD) attracted over 2,000 alumni to the Lappeenranta campus, including over 500 business alumni.

One of them, Olli Sirainen, who graduated in 2011, shares that he studied international business and economics partly because he knew Kalevi Kyläheiko would be teaching the subject.

“I majored in international marketing and minored in economics, which was a really good combination for the working world for me. LUT focused a lot on internationality already in the early 2000s, and after my studies, it was very natural and easy to go work for an international corporation,” says Sirainen, head of the regional supply chain at Lidl Finland.

Kalevi Kyläheiko says that lecturing to former students was inspiring and overall fantastic.

"From the audience's reactions and comments heard afterward, it seems that the connection with the LUT community has been well maintained over the years", says Kyläheiko.

During the day, Kyläheiko met dozens, if not hundreds, of former students and colleagues.

"Even the younger generations seemed to recognize me, and I got to be in many selfies. It was also great to meet representatives from VITAKO. Thanks to their efforts and funding, LUT Business School was able to start in Lappeenranta in 1991. When I served as dean at the beginning of the 2000s, VITAKO's funding and support were crucial in making LUT Business School a scientifically reputable business school – not just in Finland but internationally."


Aino Juurikkala, who graduated in 2021, recommends business studies because she believes they prepare students well for the changing world of work. Juurikkala is a communications and marketing specialist at Suomen Ekonomit, which is a central organization for graduates and students in economics and business administration.

“In our world, we need to do business and make money, but we also need to take care of people and contribute to our community. I feel like business studies equip you for any challenge,” says Juurikkala.

“Business studies is a field that’s always in demand. We’re always sought-after, we’re needed everywhere, and there are over 5,000 job titles for us to choose from.”

Aino Juurikkala, HCD
Alumna Aino Juurikkala met people from Enklaavi,
the business student organisation. Photo: Lauri Aapro
Sami Saarenketo, Sami Sykkö, Juha-Matti Saksa
Dean Sami Saarenketo, Professor of Practice Sami Sykkö
and Rector Juha-Matti Saksa. Photo: Lauri Aapro
Sami Sykkö ja alumnit
Sami Sykkö interviewed business school alumni
in the HCD event. Photo: Lauri Aapro
Kalevi Kyläheiko
Former dean of LUT Business School Kalevi Kyläheiko.
Photo: Lauri Aapro
Mika Ruokonen ja Paavo Ritala, HCD
Industry Professor Mika Ruokonen and Professor Paavo Ritala
gave insights into the use of AI strategies. Photo: Teemu Leinonen

”LUT challenges and encourages engagement and dialogue”

“When LUT Business School was established in 1991, it had 28 business students. Today, we have 1,600 students,” says Dean Sami Saarenketo, receiving a loud round of applause from the alumni in the lecture hall.

LUT’s legacy is often passed down from one generation to the next. The university hallways have seen love stories and lifelong friendships, and graduates encourage family members to apply to their alma mater.

Professor of Practice Sami Sykkö interviews the business school's alumni during a special HCD edition of his classic Q&A session. Sykkö’s regular Q&As with top Finnish executives always draw a crowd on the Lappeenranta campus.

The power of word-of-mouth becomes evident in passing conversations during HCD.

“My parents, little sister, and wife studied here, and our child will probably come here eventually,” says alumnus Kuutti Kilpeläinen, head of digital infrastructure and solutions at Finnfund.

Outi-Leena “Iitu” Pesonen also has a story to tell about how she ended up at LUT.

“I originally came here because of a man. That man came and went, but I found a new one at LUT, and now both my children study here. So, I have an LUT family!" says Pesonen, who works at Mars Finland as a key account manager.

“We want your children!” jokes Sami Sykkö, and the hall full of alumni laughs.

When Sykkö asks how LUT differs from other universities, several alumni highlight the community spirit and distinctive culture.

“LUT challenges and encourages engagement and dialogue,” says Päivi Varvemaa, head of initiatives in power-to-x at Neste.

Kuutti Kilpeläinen feels the LUT community is curious, dynamic, and pioneering.

“LUT graduates may be better team players than those from larger universities,” he adds.

Juho Hyvärinen, who has also studied abroad, describes LUT's atmosphere as less distant and standoffish than at international universities. Hyvärinen works as a country manager at Burger Söhne Sweden AB.

“The competition is not as ruthless as it is internationally. At LUT, you also get a wide network and friends to celebrate weddings and christenings with, and we’re godparents to each other's children. This network always provides sparring help for work as well.”


The best possible homecoming for alumni

Head of Development Leila Armila from LUT's University Services was responsible for the business school's HCD arrangements. She says the best part was working together towards a common goal: everyone at LUT wanted to provide the best possible homecoming for the alumni.

“We wanted to offer our alumni the opportunity to meet and reminisce about their student days. At the same time, we were able to tell what LUT and especially LUT Business School is like today. The best moment of the event for the organizer was to see happy, satisfied people and hear wonderful chatter,” says Armila.

Armila is also an LUT alumna, and she encountered many familiar faces in LUT's hallways during the day.

“Judging by the comments and feedback both on-site and on social media, we succeeded in creating the right atmosphere.”

Dean Saarenketo is also impressed by the event. He believes HCD demonstrates the university's sense of community and the power of the Skinnarila spirit.

“I was happy to see over 500 business alumni return home. The encounters were uniformly filled with warmth and inspiration. People have made incredible progress in their lives, and they were genuinely proud and interested in the current state and future of our university.

We had many discussions about what more we could do together. The overriding feeling is gratitude,” summarizes Saarenketo.

Saarenketo shows a less reserved side when he takes the stage at the end of the day with a superb band made up of LUT's deans and professors.

Originally planning to become a rock star, the dean's jacket is easily tossed aside for a moment to sing, among others, Neil Young's Rockin' in the Free World and Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall. The audience dances along, and the band receives resounding applause.

“Thank you for organizing such an event!” shout the alumni heading to the Homecoming Day after-party.

“Thank you for coming!”


Main image: Lauri Aapro

See more photos of the HCD here
Watch the HCD video (Youtube)

Leila Armila ja Hanna Salojärvi
Head of Development Leila Armila and
Head of Degree Programme Hanna Salojärvi.
Photo: Teemu Leinonen
Sami Saarenketo laulaa
Dean Saarenketo as the lead vocalist of the LUT band.
Photo: Teemu Leinonen
HCD, tanssivia ihmisiä
The HCD crowd danced along as the LUT band played.
Photo: Teemu Leinonen

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