Olena Maslyukivska standing outisde during a sunny spring day

The dynamics of academia – co-creation at its finest

Harri Huusko
Interdisciplinarity and cooperation between different academic disciplines are some of the strengths of the University of Vaasa says Olena Maslyukivska, who came to Finland as a refugee from Ukraine in the spring of 2022. She feels that the interdisciplinarity and the cluster of energy businesses around the university create a unique dynamic compared to other regions.

Olena used to travel a lot with different international projects, and she loves to interact with people. Before the war, everything was scheduled, with a research plan and travel plans. There was a sense of competition when applying to work with different institutions and organizations. 

When she was selected to work at the University of Vaasa, the feeling was quite opposite to what she had been used to. The feeling of competition was not there. As if she did not deserve to be here since she was a refugee. These feelings soon faded, thanks to the staff of the university.

– Rector Jari Kuusisto made me feel that I was needed here. I could help the University of Vaasa with my skills and my networks, Olena says.

A part of Olena’s job description is to map the research institutions in Ukraine so that the University of Vaasa could apply for projects with them in the future. But she feels that there is something she will be bringing back to Ukraine as well.

– How the University of Vaasa works with the businesses is very interesting and dynamic. In our weekly meetings, for example, we talk about what kind of innovations we can offer to the businesses in the area, Olena says.

The two-way street – Learning from one another

Olena’s main area of work is at the Digital Economy research platform. She is researching how policy instruments accelerate energy transition and circular economy in Finland at national, regional, and municipal levels. She is also working on collaboration possibilities for the University of Vaasa with Ukrainian universities.

– The University of Vaasa is good at bringing researchers from different technical backgrounds together. I think that I can bring people who are working on innovative public policies together, Olena says.

Olena says that all her ideas are welcomed and that she feels like a stone that is thrown into a lake. She is making waves, in a good sense, and bridging gaps between different units. In addition to her innovative ideas, she feels that she can take something back to her own country as well.

– I am learning how effective research platforms are, and how I could create something similar in Ukraine, Olena says.

Olena feels that since many Ukrainian researchers are now abroad, it is an excellent opportunity for all of them to learn how other countries and researchers do things. Taking this knowledge back to Ukraine is something that Olena feels can help them in the future.

– We must use this opportunity now, even though the war is still ongoing, Olena says.

Olena acknowledges that some Ukrainians will stay in the countries they are currently living in, but she feels that most of them will return. The people returning will have valuable knowledge that will help in rebuilding the country. 

– There are already plans about rebuilding the country but there are also a lot of unknowns, Olena says.

On a personal level, Olena wishes to learn Finnish during her visit here. Language is an important aspect of culture, she feels that through the language she can learn more about Finland.

– Through language you learn more about the culture, people and how they think, Olena says.

Olena finds it amusing how Finnish people do not adapt to the world but instead stray true to who they are. She feels Finnish people are preserving their culture and that it is comes naturally from them. 

– I do not know why, but I have time to learn, Olena says with a smile.

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