Cooperation creates value for students and the City of Mikkeli

Students of the Aalto University Mikkeli Campus worked on seven projects for the City of Mikkeli related to sustainable development. This gave the students an opportunity to combine theory and practice in a meaningful way, and the cooperation provided the City of Mikkeli new insights on how to tackle current challenges.

The Bachelor’s Programme in International Business of the Aalto University School of Business provides students with a comprehensive range of business knowledge in an interesting and motivating learning environment. The various teaching methods of the programme organized at the Mikkeli Campus also include projects carried out in cooperation with local companies and other organizations. In projects done recently for the City of Mikkeli, students identified problems within certain themes, generated potential solutions, and then outlined a specific concept to address a particular challenge.

Associate professor and co-founder of the Nordic Rebels movement, Miikka J. Lehtonen, D.Sc. (Econ.), taught at the Mikkeli Campus for the first time in 2017. The cooperation with the City of Mikkeli was part of his Strategic Design Management, held in January. The course challenges current assumptions of how organizations create positive value for their immediate stakeholders and for the broader societal context.

‘The aim of the course is to help students understand the role design plays in creating value for firms and other organizations. As a strategic resource, design helps in renewing organizations to be more human- and environment-centric as well as orienting them to be more future-oriented’, Lehtonen explains.

Learning is more meaningful and engaging for the students when they are able to work on real-life projects with real-life partners. Lehtonen says it is a driving force of his Strategic Design Management course. He adds: ‘Projects done for the City of Mikkeli made students feel more connected to the city they study in, and they felt that they have a role in increasing the welfare and prosperity of Mikkeli.’

New insights are welcome

It is in the interests of the City of Mikkeli to cooperate with local organizations, and when this resource from students was available, Strategy & Development Manager Aki Kauranen was happy to take the opportunity. Kauranen emphasizes that cooperation with universities is very important, and he is willing to strengthen it in the future.

Student projects focused on multilocality, sustainable tourism, and digitalization’s impact on city centres. These have been identified as important topics in the Mikkeli region for some time now.

‘The effectiveness of this kind of process is undeniable, when briefing is done together, and students look for solutions to actual challenges we have is this region’, Kauranen says.

Kauranen connected the students with mentors, who strongly committed to the projects and encouraged students to propose daring solutions.

‘From the city’s point of view, the briefings were very successful. Instead of one-time activities, the students identified contemporary phenomena, and meeting those challenges will increase the vitality of whole Mikkeli region. I had high hopes for the students, and still the solutions and concepts they came up with surprised me positively’, Kauranen says, thanking the students.

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