August 2016

The Collins College Welcomed a Visiting Scholar From Finland


Dr. Vesa Heikkinen, principle lecturer of service innovations at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, co-instructed an advanced seminar course, Innovations and Trends in Society, with The Collins College’s Fulbright Scholar, Dr. John Self.


Students were introduced to “cool” hunting and worked together to spot and document local and global trends relative to the hospitality industry. These “cool” trends were measured by how attractive, innovative, interesting and inspiring they were and if they had future growth potential.


“Customers are searching for trendy and attractive services and products. The professionals should understand their customer´s trend-searching mood, taste and choices,” says Heikkinen, who has 25 years of experience in the tourism, hospitality and service industry.


At Haaga-Helia and throughout his professional career, Heikkinen has dedicated himself to food and restaurant research. The Collins College was fortunate to have him share his expertise and international perspective.


Heikkinen holds a doctorate in pedagogy, the theory and practice of education. As a lecturer, he uses his own examples and research as teaching tools. The visiting scholar introduced the college to the Box, which is a research project developing sensory-stimulating service spaces for hospitality and tourism industries. The Box is essentially a room or space that can be transformed so guests can get the ultimate experience. Panoramic images from any location around the world can be projected on the walls and everything in the environmental ambiance can be programmed.


Imagine living in California and being able to have a truly authentic seafood fine-dining experience at a fish harbor in England and being able to smell the salt of the calm sea water in the air and hear the gentle creaking decks of anchored boats.


“[Heikkinen’s] very broad, European background in innovation brought our students a different way of thinking about problems and a different way to visualize the guest experience by breaking down what is really important, rather than what a textbook says is important,” says Self. “I think the students who took this class will be well prepared to problem solve and to ‘think outside of the box’ in the future by being able to apply what [he] taught.”


Last year, Self served as a visiting scholar at Haaga-Helia. Thanks to the partnerships he made with the Finnish university, The Collins College was able to host Heikkinen and offer such a unique opportunity for its students.


Collins College NRA
Collins graduates
©Jani Osmo/The Box