WPI's Visiting Professors are International Ambassadors of Goodwill

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass.-- Anyone who thinks that distinguished academics tend to be dull and totally devoid of appeal and humor has never met Professor Juha M. Näsi and his wife, Professor Salme E. Näsi, of Finland, who are spending a year as visiting professors of management at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

A handsome, energetic 40ish couple--he is blond and ruddy complexioned and she is brunette and fair-skinned--they let you know that at this moment WPI is exactly the place they want to be. "One reason we chose WPI is that we are friends of McRae Banks, th e head of the Management Department," says Juha, a professor of business administration and head of the Department of Economics and Management at the University of Jyväskylä. "He was a professor at Mississippi State University where we cooperated on resea rch, when Salme and I were there as visiting professors in the 1980s. Another reason we chose WPI is that after stints at Mississippi State and McGill University in Montreal, we wanted to do research and teach on a smaller campus. WPI seemed ideal."

Juha came to WPI after winning a senior professor's research grant competition sponsored by the Academy of Finland. He is currently a special scholar concentrating on strategy and entrepreneurship research. While her husband pursues his interests, Salme, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Jyväskylä, has been teaching a class in accounting at the Institute. She is also scheduled to teach some classes in Finland during the academic year. "I expect to go back a couple of times," she sa ys.

The Näsis bring to WPI rich academic backgrounds and impeccable reputations as scholars. A member of several international scientific organizations and an active participant in management education and executive programs in Finland, Juha received his Ph.D . from the University of Tampere. He is the author of The Wisdom of Management Art (1987) and is the editor of Arenas of Strategic Thinking (1991). He edited and he and Salme contributed chapters to Understanding Stakeholder Thinking (1995).

Prior to joining the staff at the University of Jyväskylä in January 1995, Salme was an associate professor of business administration and accounting at the University of Oulu. The first woman to receive a Ph.D. in accounting in Finland, she graduated fro m the University of Tampere. Among her areas of research are Finnish history of accounting, financial and cost accounting, and public sector accounting. She has also conducted research on business, society and environmental issues. In 1995, she contribute d a chapter on the history of financial reporting and auditing in Finland to European Financial Reporting and a similar chapter to the European Accounting Guide published in the U.S. by Harcourt Brace.

Settled in Holden, Mass., since last summer, Juha and Salme and their daughters, Ella, 19, and Anni, 12, and their son, Altti, 16, have been adjusting to New England life. Ella is a student at Clark University. Anni attends Mountview School in Hold en and Altti goes to Wachusett Regional High School. "It has been a rather easy transition for the children because they speak English quite well," Juha explains. "They couldn't wait to come back to America. They were with us at Mississippi State in the 1 980s, as well as at McGill just five years ago.

The family is multilingual. Juha and Salme started studying English as their fourth language after learning Finnish, Swedish and German. When asked what she misses the most since coming to America, Salme immediately replies, "Dark, sour, rye bread. We hav e many varieties of dark bread at home. It's impossible to find such bread in Worcester. Also, I miss our sauna. We use it at least three times a week."

"As a matter of fact, we have two saunas, one at home and one at our lakeside log cottage," Juha adds. "Very often, even in winter, we spend our weekends at the lake. While the sauna is heating up, I tinker around about a hour chopping a hole in the ice. After we use the sauna, we go swimming!"

The Näsis report that Finland is partially Americanized with large shopping malls and similar TV fare. "I personally prefer documentary films and discussion programs," says Salme, "but if anyone wants to watch The Simpsons, they can!" One thing that is va stly different in Finland is the health care system which, like the educational system, is run by the public sector and financed by taxpayer money. Taxes, of course, are high.

"On the other hand, health care is almost free," says Juha, "and university and professional and vocational school education is completely free." The downside is that only about 5 to 20 percent of qualified applicants (those who maintained good high schoo l records and who are able to pass various entrance exams) are accepted at the schools of their choice.

The Näsis have high hopes for Finland. Since it joined the European Common Market in 1994, the economy has been gradually improving. They are also optimistic about the everchanging world of business management. "We love seeing theory turn into practice an d are especially enthusiastic about the exchange of ideas now going on in academic circles around the globe," says Juha. "Networking is definitely the wave of the future!"