In the fourth teaching period this spring, a course on humanists as entrepreneurs will kick off at the Faculty of Arts.
The course, which is targeted at the Faculty’s master’s and doctoral students, is the first of its kind, inspiring and training students who are considering entrepreneurship. The course teachers are Terhi Ainiala, Laura Kolbe and Pia Olsson, who all have personal experience of business activities in the 2010s. Kolbe is one of the founders of the Helsinki Walks Oy company , while Ainiala and Olsson are contributing to Tositarina.
“Traditionally, humanist graduates have not extensively taken to entrepreneurship,” says Terhi Ainiala, who is a university lecturer in Finnish.
Professor of European History Laura Kolbe adds: “There are business names in, for example, the field of linguistics and history, but limited companies and cooperatives of several individuals are much rarer”.
“In addition, the course emphasises the rewards of networking with students representing a range of disciplines and Faculty alumni.”
During the course, small groups of students will draw up a plan on establishing a business, giving consideration, among other things, to its field, objectives, type and marketing efforts.
In addition to this assignment, humanist entrepreneurship is explored through expert views, which will be provided by not only humanist entrepreneurs giving guest lectures, but also by video and podcast recordings made by the teachers with the help of resources allocated by the Faculty’s future development fund. The course will also provide an overview of future professional skills.
Alumni to contribute to course implementation
In autumn 2020 the course teachers organised a planning and networking session for Faculty of Arts alumni running a business or interested in entrepreneurship, where they were also given the chance to register as mentors for the students taking the course or as guest lecturers. In fact, several alumni have joined in. A related goal is to maintain and expand the network of people interested in humanist entrepreneurship.
“The demand for a course that encourages entrepreneurship among humanists is great,” says Pia Olsson, university lecturer in ethnology.
Humanists have traditionally found employment in the public sector, but as funding for such positions has decreased, new opportunities must be identified. According to the scholars, making entrepreneurship a viable option is one alternative.
“This means growing into a business culture as well as learning certain basic skills related to entrepreneurship,” Ainiala notes.
The researchers point out that knowledge of the humanities and the effect of cultural meanings are not sufficiently prominent in business life. Among other things, this is evidenced as false branding or the dismissal of a company’s past.
“Indeed, entrepreneurship in the humanities is one way to highlight the meanings and effects of cultural, linguistic and historical understanding in different sectors of society,” Olsson says.
Awareness of personal strengths boosts employment
According to a survey conducted in 2017 by the University of Helsinki, entrepreneurial activities constituted the primary source of income for as few as 6% of Faculty of Arts graduates from 2011. At the same time, 50% of the respondents had been unemployed after graduation, while the corresponding figure for the University as a whole was 33%. Of the humanist respondents, 95% found that entrepreneurship as a career option was not presented in their education.
“Student feedback has been very positive and enthusiastic in small-scale trials where studies in the humanities have been linked to the demands of business activities,” Kolbe says.
“This demonstrates that students in the field have the capacity to consider new kinds of career options as well.”
Historian Eeva Kotioja encourages humanists to take the course.
“For me, entrepreneurship has been a relevant career option since my student days. I’ve seen it as an opportunity to conduct a range of research projects in a versatile manner, as well as a tool for managing my everyday life and career.”
Kotioja has been involved in the Helsinki Walks Oy operations from the start. She says that, for humanists, work often equals temporary positions and projects, but a business of your own makes it possible to better control the progress of your career.
“Where I most needed help was the paperwork associated with establishing a company, as well as managing the accounts and other financial matters. It’s great to have such a course finally available.”
On the humanist entrepreneurship course, students have the chance to analyse their diverse skills as well as consider and try out business ideas together with others.
“We may see new humanist businesses as a result,” Ainiala enthuses.
“At the very least, we will be providing learning, knowledge and skills relevant to entrepreneurship and project-based work, as well as multiprofessional cooperation.”
Course registration begins on 16 February.