René Arvola: I don’t believe in teaching, I want to be there for students to help them to study
Lecturer at School of Business and Governance, in the Department of Business Administration René Arvola is in charge of around ten different business courses at TalTech yearly, most of them in English. He is also a member and active participant of various projects, among which a supervision of marketing at the Mektory Space Center. His schedule is tight, his days are busy, but motivation is the key. Learn more about René’s projects, academic life, and multifaceted personality.
Actually I had a marketing course already in high school. I remember representing my school in a business game simulation arranged by Junior Achievement (organization dedicated to development of entrepreneurship, among other things reflected in their study programs for general education and vocational schools — edit.). But eventually, I came across marketing unintentionally. When I started my studies at university, I was targeting accounting and I went along with this goal for two years. Then I became interested in organization management and I switched to that. Finally, during my last year of Bachelor’s studies I changed my mind for marketing. So, my bachelor’s thesis was in marketing and it was pretty logical that after graduation I started to work for an advertising agency. Nevertheless, I have to admit that my other marketing classes during my first years weren’t very exciting.
‘Ülo Tartu, who changed my mind…’
Indeed, there was a legendary marketing professor Ülo Tartu, who changed my mind. He managed to make not only marketing, but anything related to academic life exciting. He was also my mentor at the university after I became a university staff member. And later on, when I was the head of the Marketing Department we were colleagues for about ten years and we definitely had a common approach to everything concerning teaching.
Research, teaching and more
I have a lot of courses and I have a lot of different areas that excite me. During recent years the majority of the courses that I teach are in English, e.g. Marketing Communication, Marketing Management, and Basic Marketing. The course that I enjoy the most is Brand Management.
All in all, I have about ten different courses every year that I am responsible for. For many years, I was involved in a research on Telework and Age Management. At the same time, I was the Estonian partner for European Consumer Behavior Research Network COBEREN, which is now reformed to a knowledge alliance but the research focus has remained.
In addition to the research and teaching courses, I also contribute to the Mektory Space Center as a supervisor of marketing area. Nevertheless, it is not all about marketing, sometimes I also have to get my hands dirty, which means that I have to pull on the gloves and do something for real. But these activities have never not been too demanding from the engineering point of view. I don’t have an engineering background, but I find it so fascinating and I love to build different things with my own hands. For instance, our satellites are now on their orbit and it is a great feeling to see the results of the process, although a lot of work is still ahead of us. And after all, I am pretty sure that I forgot to mention some areas of interest regarding my academic work.
Telework for seniors and in the times of pandemic
I had been active in the research on Telework and Age Management until 2018. It was considered an innovative area and only few researchers worked on it. The research was actually in focus in my PhD studies and I was happy to have two good colleagues who supervised me with this research — prof. Piia Tint and assoc. prof. Ülo Kristjuhan. We conducted many surveys and published a lot of research papers. We were focusing on telework-related work arrangements that would make senior employees to postpone their retirement. Of, course, now all this knowledge has been extremely useful for us despite it was more than 10 years ago.
Unfortunately, the research was not integrated to the study courses in our university. I remember that I gave not more than five lectures about telework, but at the same time I presented my research several times every year in scientific conferences, seminars and workshops. In spring 2020, during the pandemic, I discovered, that everything that was happening with us regarding telework was so familiar to me. It was very natural for me to switch to the telework mode.
Favourite marketing projects
In addition to the satellite project, I value my cooperation with Consumer Behavior knowledge alliance a lot. Not just from the professional point of view, but also from the multicultural experience perspective. It has been an extraordinary experience to work with researchers from about 30 countries and to conduct a survey to measure consumer culture based on the data from all these countries. I remember clearly our very first meeting, when we had a very long and intensive discussion about what the consumption is after all.
The best part of being a professor
I like this question very much, because I am excited to share how much I enjoy working with students. Especially during supervising their theses. It feels like you are acquiring the same working experience from this company, organization or field that the students is writing their theses. And, of course, all these discussions that I have had with my students, have taught me so much. Especially with students who are experienced in marketing practice. This is definitely the part of an academic work that I would miss. But I also enjoy conducting research. Sometimes I lose the sense of time during data analysis, because I start to imagine those respondents with their understanding and what drives their behavior. It is a wonderful world that I can learn with this research.
When it comes to my teaching style, well, I think that it should be asked from my students. Some of them are afraid of me and some of them have said that there is no reason for being afraid. There are some things, that I consider to be important and the first thing is equal treatment. That is why I don’t tolerate cheating nor ease of conditions for students who just have not acquired the learning outcomes. I don’t believe in teaching, I want to be there for students to help them to study.
In order to prepare for my classes one should find the topic at least somehow necessary or interesting. It is impossible to study without a motivation. And this motivation comes from within. From my part I can just explain to students how marketing is necessary for anybody.
Finishing touches in five questions
- Best type of marketing campaigns: I like the campaigns where it is obvious that marketer is responsible and concerned the most about sustainability But it is difficult to find these kind of campaigns that are creative at the same time.
2. Favourite music/reeds/films: I listen to all good music. I have not read anything but work-related books in recent years. I am a true fan of Estonian films and I know all the quotes from them. But I enjoy the films that are made abroad as well, especially when they are about history.
3. Favourite place at TalTech: Forest around the campus. Definitely the forest. Our university has an extraordinary location.
4. Passions, hobbies, free-time activities: There are many passions from really different areas, but I think in general I can call sports my hobby. I love skiing, especially cross-country skiing in a classical style. This is definitely one of my passions and I can consider myself a great fan of it. But also downhill skiing and riding mountain bike, racing bike, swimming, running and hiking. And a couple of times a year I go diving. My favorite diving destinations are Red Sea and, of course, the Rummu quarry, which is only about 20 km from my home.
5. Source of inspiration: My students and my colleagues. But also others. It is very refreshing to have conversations with so-called ordinary people. I enjoy listening to them and how they see the world around them.