What if every student had a well-being coach?
Rapid improvements have been seen in well-being for Aalto students of industrial engineering and management. This is thanks to degree program reforms, the commitment of the community and diversity in professional identity.
When Professor Mikko Jääskeläinen welcomes new students of industrial engineering and management, he has just one word of guidance for them.
‘I tell them to forget about mutual competition. Those that come to study with us have been the best in their classes and have excelled in their matriculation exams and entrance exams. Here, however, it doesn’t make sense trying to be the best any more.’
This message, and the measures which support it, have produced results. A decade ago, psychological symptoms such as stress and depression were more common among the students of industrial engineering and management than among other students in Aalto and Finland in general. In the latest surveys, the risk of burnout had fallen below the average for students at Aalto and elsewhere in Finland. These improvements are partly thanks to an increase in support at the individual level.
‘The students and graduates’ association Prodeko offers students well-being coaching straight away in their first year, with the coaching provided by the likes of Professor Esa Saarinen and Hintsa Performance. The purpose is to teach first year students life management, how to balance studies with the rest of life, and really concrete things such as how to recognise exhaustion’, Jääskeläinen explains.
The changes that have taken place in the environment have also supported well-being of industrial engineering and management students. According to Jääskeläinen, earlier some students competed on who’s first to graduate.
‘Dividing the qualification into bachelor’s and master’s stages has made that more difficult. At the same time, entrepreneurship has become an accepted and desired career path, so success is no longer based on who gets their desired consultant job straight after graduating. Professional identity has therefore become more diverse, which makes the course choices and studies more relaxed.’
The third factor which has been increasing well-being is the strengthening and development of the community. For example, new students and departmental staff gather right at the start of the year for a dinner together, to which alumni are also invited.
‘There is no better way to get to know each other than through eating together’, Jääskeläinen says with a smile.
‘The alumni are also very important as both mentors and role models. When persons like Ilkka Paananen and Risto Siilasmaa communicate the message that attaining success and significance in life is not primarily about the individual’s performance, this message carries a lot of weight.’