Interaction and internationalisation UEF's sources of strength

Professor Jaakko Puhakka started as the new Academic Rector of the University of Eastern Finland in January. He wants to see more interaction and international cooperation at the university.

Puhakka feels that in a multidisciplinary university, internal cooperation is worth further strengthening.

"We are expected to find practical solutions to challenges relating to the well-being of individuals and society, our environment, and the sufficiency of natural resources. This cannot be achieved by any individual discipline alone; instead, we need to build new teams across any existing boundaries."

Internationalisation is also boosted by new recruitments.

"The increasing diversity of the background expertise of our teaching and research staff makes us a stronger academic player."

As Academic Rector, Puhakka is responsible for the development of teaching and research, and he works side by side with the university's new Rector, Professor Jukka Mönkkönen. Their term of office spans five years.

One of the strategic goals of UEF is to offer its students the best academic learning environments by 2020. How is this goal visible in teaching at the university?

"Most importantly, education must provide up-to-date tools and expertise for the builders of our future. In addition to the content, the learning environment must be inspiring and encouraging for our students. This is definitely expected of Finland's number one academic learning environment."

Digitisation is changing our working environments so that in ten years' time, Finland will look very different from what it does today, Puhakka reminds us.

"The use of information and communication technology in teaching will grow, especially when it comes to teacher-student interaction. Furthermore, the availability and quality of massive online open courses, MOOCs, continues to improve. They are a viable alternative in basic level courses in natural sciences, for example. This releases resources for the university's teachers to serve as students' personal trainers in classrooms, cafeterias and laboratories."

Interaction within the learning community increases, and this must be kept in mind when developing teaching and learning. Online courses would work against themselves if they promoted alienation.

"Online games accessible to everyone have given plenty of indications about what it's like to get sucked into the world of bytes. Furthermore, it's also good to remember that in social interaction, we Finns have unused potential. As researchers, we need to have patience and introduce new means for learning in an analytical manner."

Puhakka assumed the role of UEF Academic Rector after serving as Vice President of Tampere University of Technology, where he worked since the 1980s. He has also spent seven years abroad in various research and teaching positions. For Puhakka, working at the University of Eastern Finland also means a return home after decades working elsewhere.

"I'm very fond of eastern Finland, and glad to work for it."

According to Puhakka, the merger of the universities of Joensuu and Kuopio to constitute the University of Eastern Finland in 2010 is a demonstration of a strong future vision and readiness for constant development. "We are the forerunners in research and the educational profiling of Finnish universities". 

What did Puhakka bring with him from Tampere University of Technology?

"A somewhat straightforward approach, by setting clear sub-goals and timetables, is familiar from the field of technology. In the engineering field, links to business and industry are natural and I'm looking forward to promoting this cooperation and interaction here at UEF."

In his leisure time, Academic Rector Puhakka likes to be on the move. He enjoys walking in the woods with his wife and dachshund, and also loves to ride his Harley.

Text: Virpi Komulainen  Photo: Varpu Heiskanen

Jaakko Puhakka

  • Born in Eno, Eastern Finland
  • PhD (microbiology) 1990 and Docent 1991, University of Helsinki 
  • Several positions at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) from 1983, Professor of Environmental Technology at TUT 1998-
  • Visiting Scientist (1984-1985) and Visiting Assistant Professor (1991-1994) at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA
  • Visiting Scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Perth, Australia 2001–2002
  • Head of TUT Institute of Environmental Engineering and Biotechnology 1998-2007, Head of TUT Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering 2008-2013
  • Vice Dean of TUT Faculty of Science and Environmental Engineering 2011-2013
  • TUT Vice President for Research 2014
  • Publishing activities (WOS Researcher ID: G-4220-2014): 209 publications, 3,180 citations, H index 30 Supervisor of more than 130 MSc and 24 PhD theses
  • Family: wife Kaisa and dachshund, grown-up children
  • Hobbies: Sports, reading and motorbike 
  • Favourite place: forest