From Jyväskylä, with pride


Sami Itani graduated from JYU in 2011 with an MSc in economics and business administration. In November 2018, Itani was elected president of the Finnish Athletics Federation for a three-year term. In addition, he works at Adecco Finland as regional director for the Helsinki area.

After upper secondary school, the University of Jyväskylä was Sami Itani’s only choice for his studies. He has also had a successful career as a decathlete, representing the Jyväskylä-based athletics sports club JKU. The Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences would have been an obvious choice, but he was attracted by the diversity of business studies. He saw various prospective job opportunities ahead because there is demand for the expertise of university graduates in this field in companies and organisations of all sizes.

Sami adds: “I was also aware of the high standard of JSBE education.”

One of Sami’s fondest memories from the time of his studies at JSBE relates to the community spirit prevailing in the faculty. His group was really diverse: men and women of different age groups and nationalities. He also warmly reminisces the many occasions in the Agora cafeteria, discussing current events with fellow students.

Sami also valued the opportunity to complete his master’s thesis as a commission from Metso Paper. His thesis in 2011 was chosen as the best in its field in Finland. His efforts have yielded increasing returns. After graduation, Sami got a job in HR management. He also had a supervisor from the University and the company:

“The mentoring relationships created then are still active today!”

In regards to working life, one of the most valuable skills Sami acquired at JYU was critical thinking. Questioning old models and presenting different alternatives is an important skill, Sami emphasises. When one questions the current practices, it is easier to foresee upcoming changes and prepare for those. Continuous learning of new things is an inevitable part of working life and life in general. Self-development is crucial, he feels, and it cannot be overemphasised.

Sami also points out that the subject knowledge he gained through his studies is another significant benefit. The better basic knowledge you have the more capable you are of exploring new things. People often say that there is a wide gap between theoretical knowledge you learn at university and the practice prevailing at the workplace. Itani does not agree with this view, however. He sees it as a matter of applying your knowledge, something each student is responsible for on their own:

“It’s a universal skill that should be taught to every student!”

Itani pursued doctoral studies in Helsinki at Aalto University School of Business and Economics, and completed part of his degree at Stanford University in the USA. His doctoral dissertation was approved in 2016. He could have just as easily pursued his postgraduate studies in Jyväskylä, but moving to Helsinki and his sports career influenced his choice of university. Sami describes his student years in Jyväskylä in sport terms, calling it “a season for building basic fitness”, which laid the foundation for later academic success.

Although Sami’s path has taken him elsewhere, his heart will always be in Jyväskylä, which has been his hometown since his early teens. He looks on with pride at the city’s ambitious plans for becoming Finland’s capital of physical activity. He gives credit to the city’s and University’s bold investments in the future, which are taking a concrete shape in the Hippos 2020 project:

“Though I’ve lived elsewhere for some years already, I proudly represent Jyväskylä!”

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