RSU "Lecturer of the Year 2018" – Kristīne Blumfelde-Rutka
This year the Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) annual award in the category "Lecturer of the Year" in social sciences was awarded to lecturer of the Faculty of European Studies, Department of International Business and Economics Kristīne Blumfelde-Rutka, who is known for her outstanding organisational skills. She knows how to explain complicated things in simple words, finds practical everyday illustrations of the study content, brings students closer to entrepreneurs and employers and treats the study process with passion.
Kristīne Blumfelde-Rutka (third from right) on 24 March 2018 at the Latvian Society House after receiving the RSU Annual Award
Candidates for the annual award in this category are nominated and the award-winner is chosen by the RSU Student Union, based on the results of an electronic student survey. This year the number of candidates was unexpectedly high – 64 RSU academics (in comparison with 45 in 2017).
Kristīne Blumfelde-Rutka works at RSU since 2011. She gives lectures and holds workshops for 1st and 3rd year students of the Faculty of European Studies and supervises Bachelor's and Master’s theses. This semester she taught four study courses: International Marketing, Consumer Behaviour, International Brand Creation and Management and Economic Research Methodology (together with lecturer Romāns Putāns).
She truly enjoys the opportunity to supervise students’ research, "I am taken over by a certain excitement of learning what the student is truly interested in and would like to research. If the student is passionate about the chosen topic, it is much easier to develop the thesis and the student, as a rule, achieves a much better result.”
Kristīne Blumfelde-Rutka always encourages her students to research and explore. “After a lecture on consumer behaviour, the students, encouraged by myself, invited people entering the lobby of the RSU central building to taste three different brands of water, asking to choose the tastiest one. When people could see the brands, they preferred the most expensive water, whereas if the manufacturer was not visible, the majority picked the cheapest water as the tastiest. This helped the students to better understand how a brand name affects consumer behaviour.”
How did you arrive at RSU?
At some point I was approached by head of the Department of International Business and Economics of the Faculty of European Studies, Professor Inna Dovladbekova. Initially I lectured only on consumer behaviour, thus, after affirmative student feedback, I was offered to teach other subjects as well.
What makes a good lecturer?
They must pique the interest of students. Each academic year comes with something new – the students and groups are different each year. It depends on how open and ready to work they are – both individually and as part of a team. There are students who focus on practical application; others, however, are interested in theoretical aspects. A lecturer must feel the needs of each student. I see this from the summaries that must be handed in after each completed topic, by answering the questions I have posted on e-studies and reading the literature sources I have recommended.
Should a lecturer know everything? Are you afraid of not having an answer?
No, most certainly I am not afraid! In the first class, I usually tell my students that they can earn a mark of 10 only if their summary will surprise me with something I did not know previously! This is only normal! If I see that the student has worked hard and, e.g. when drafting the summary, has read scientific articles and has discovered and shared something new with me, I appreciate that. For example, from a recent student presentation I learned that the tea consumption in England has drastically declined due to recent population changes and the diverse cultures that have come to England who do not have tea-drinking traditions.
Graduation ceremony 2017, Kristīne Blumfelde-Rutka – lecturer and thesis supervisor of graduates Kristiāna Vasiļjeva and Paula Pērkone. Photo from personal archive.
Describe an RSU student!
I can only judge from the students I teach. The majority of them are open-minded, have a thirst for knowledge, are smart, cooperative and goal-oriented. We have good and positive communication and I am indeed glad of that.
Are you demanding?
Yes, I set requirements that must be fulfilled. When assessing works, I can praise good work and can criticise for poorly-completed tasks, that they are not building on their knowledge.
I am certainly not a lecturer whose study course can be crammed in the last evening. At the beginning of each study course I inform the students of the requirements that need to be met!
What gives you professional satisfaction?
Seeing students grow and develop! When I teach them in the 1st year and then meet them in the 3rd year, I see how much they have changed and developed! Students grow, change, acquire new knowledge, skills, competences, the development is continuous and for me, this is something that illustrates RSU students extremely well.
What do you expect from a student?
I expect information exchange, as studies are not only one-way traffic; it is a process of exchanging information, opinions and experiences. We search together. I frequently interrupt a lecture and ask the students to give examples of the particular subject matter. During the study process, we keep track of changes, analyse and study topical issues and developments. You have to keep your finger on the pulse and be well-informed of the latest national and global events. I want to teach my students the understanding and the skills to find interconnections, to think and analyse. I highly appreciate cooperation with business professionals. To achieve this, I organise guest lectures and tours to local businesses. I have established successful cooperation with Spilva and students always welcome the opportunity of getting experience outside the university.
A tour of Aldaris brewery 2016. Photo from personal archive.
What is the hardest part of a lecturer's job?
It is hard to see tired students with empty, apathetic eyes, when it is clear that it will be hard to stir their interest with something, particularly in spring.
It is hard when you see that the student has copied the summary from a previous year’s student when the questions were different. He has even been too lazy to look up the questions in e-studies and thinks that I will not notice. I am skilled in noticing plagiarism without using any special software.
What is your attitude towards cheating?
I can perfectly well see from the student’s eyes or his behaviour that he is cheating. I have introduced some approaches to the study process for the students to have no need to even think of cheating. For example, if they listen carefully to the presentations given by their fellow students and make notes during the entire study course, the notes can be used at the exam. It makes the student listen and be an active participant of the study process throughout the year, without having to learn everything by heart when preparing for the exam.
What would you list among the most important events of your life!
If I have to look back, the most important are my daughters Ance and Kate. I spend a lot of time with them – we walk, travel, and attend various events. At this stage of my life, they are my priority.
Who are your life teachers?
Certainly my former colleagues from the University of Latvia, Professor Baiba Šavriņa and Professor Ērika Šumilo. They encouraged me to work with students and truly supported me in the first steps in becoming a lecturer.
They, certainly, are also my colleagues from the Faculty of European Studies, Department of International Business and Communications. Head of Department Professor Inna Dovladbekova and office manager Liene Štoka who always provide brilliant assistance in different matters, and every other colleague. We have a friendly, open and collaborative team.
I would certainly also mention my parents who have taught me and my brother a high sense of responsibility. My students also appreciate this quality, as I approach every task in a highly responsible manner. I have inherited a lot from my grandmother; she was very active, never walked with her head down and always moved forward.
What do you think of this recognition - Lecturer of the Year 2018?
It came as a huge surprise! I have never received any professional awards of any kind. I highly appreciate it! It is a very high assessment!
Please complete the sentence!
Rīga Stradiņš University is "professional academics, knowledge-thirsty, focused students and modern, international and a top quality study environment".
Education "is a substantial framework for future development, goal setting and achievement, provides information processing skills and allows you to understand the interconnection of various events.".
To live well, "you have to stay in constant movement, find balance between work, family, recreation, know how to treat opportunities and use them successfully".
I would like to "finally choose the topic of my dissertation - I have so many ideas, but it is hard to pick one for detailed study – and to enter the doctoral study programme.".
I am inspired to move forward by "my daughters, meeting new people, new ideas and emotions, exchange of thoughts, family. I read a lot, I choose books based on my mood and feeling. I spend a lot of time working in the garden and improving the surrounding environment. I am inspired by this as well.".
From the electronic student survey
Students particularly emphasise the ability of the lecturer to make complex matters easy, her passion and contribution to the improvement of the study process. The students underline the interesting and captivating lectures that turn into productive discussions on topical events. Each of her lectures makes the students willing to acquire more knowledge. Quoting a student, “This is how a future RSU lecturer should be! Kristīne Blumfelde-Rutka deserves to be Lecturer of the Year!"