University of Vaasa Opening of the Academic Year: The importance of education and research is emphasized during this exceptional period

Vaasan yliopiston lukuvuoden avajaiset etäyhteyksin
Rector Jari Kuusisto and board professional Anne Berner emphasized the importance of education and research during the pandemic period when speaking at the opening of the academic year of the University of Vaasa. Member of Parliament Eeva Kalli was chosen as the Alumni of the year. The Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce Award was given to Associate Professor Maciej Mikulski, who researches internal combustion engines. The opening was held virtually through remote connections and video greetings.

Jari Kuusisto, Rector of the University of Vaasa, brought up the changes sweeping society and universities, such as the economic turbulence, polarization and alternative facts.

− The social function of universities as producers of researched information is, if possible, more important than ever. We also need to be able to communicate more effectively about the importance of universities, Kuusisto said.

According to Kuusisto, the pandemic affects health and the economy, but it also fuels inequalities.

− Increasing inequality is one of the most devastating effects of the epidemic. Universities need to respond to it through research and education as well as better accessibility.

This autumn, the University of Vaasa increased its number of students by a historic amount. More than a thousand new bachelor's and master's students are now starting. Kuusisto thanked the students and the student union for their excellent responsibility and the entire university community for their flexibility and excellent cooperation.

− The major change into teleworking has been remarkably successful. The spring showed that the university has found new ways of working that we will continue to use in the future.

In the future, the University of Vaasa will focus on the quality, quantity and impact of research and on increasing external funding.

− We are also renewing degree programmes to make them more attractive internationally. We will make extensive use of digital in all operations, Kuusisto hinted about the strategy for the future.

The university will also map the founding of a School of Science on the campus with secondary schools in Vaasa and the vicinity. Experiences from this exceptional period are going to be used in the renewal of the campus and the design of new facilities and learning environments.

Difficult decisions require research

Anne Berner, a board professional, stressed the importance of education and research in making difficult decisions in the pandemic period.

− It is important to anticipate the impact of the decisions taken on a large scale and across many sectors. Each decision taken will have a wider impact than we perhaps anticipated in the spring. Education matters, knowledge matters, science and research are used to do good and to try to influence the decisions that we have before us, Berner emphasized.

According to Berner, individuals are also required to make choices and decisions.

− We will have to display courage in these times, we have to step out of the comfort zone. Many of you will find new paths, new choices, and our values will be shaped. Let it also be an opportunity.

Berner stressed the importance of maintaining a sense of community also in teleworking. This semester will be exceptional for students who are starting now.

− Although it is a time of uncertainty and the path to the future does not look as bright as it did a year ago, it also offers opportunities. We make a number of choices each day, and we can reflect on how each choice affects what we become as human beings, Berner encouraged.

Distance learning requires more

Vice-Rector Annukka Jokipii and student Niklas Valtonen also addressed the challenges of the future at the opening.
− We were able to adapt to the situation with agility and by working together. In January through May, the University of Vaasa had the third highest increase in credit accumulation in Finland. We were able to reform our operating model in a very short timeframe, Vice-Rector Annukka Jokipii reminded.

Niklas Valtonen, a student of the Master’s programme in accounting and auditing, said that distance learning had required more than the normal amount of initiative.

− It certainly was an odd situation in the spring, but the university was able to move tuition online quite quickly and we pulled through. Distance learning obviously requires more than classroom learning, Valtonen said in a video interview.

Vice-Rector Minna Martikainen and Professor Liisa Mäkelä discussed a current research study conducted on telework.

− We have collected material from education professionals and businesses. We are looking at how telework is managed and how well-being can lead to sustainable results, says Liisa Mäkelä.

The results of the research project can be read from the Leadis blog at the University of Vaasa and a Telework Compass information packet will be published in the future.

Eeva Kalli is the Alumni of the year

Vaasan yliopistoseura (the Vaasa University Society) has chosen Member of Parliament Eeva Kalli as the University of Vaasa Alumni of the year. Kalli has utilized her two degrees, a Master's degree in Administrative Sciences and in Economics and Business Administration in a wide range of positions of social influence in Finland and abroad.

– Eeva Kalli is an excellent example of what the University of Vaasa represents: strong expertise, courage and innovation, said the chairman of the Vaasa University Society Juha Silander at the opening of the academic year.

Read the news article about the Alumni of the year

Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce Award to Maciej Mikulski

The Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce has given Associate Professor Maciej Mikulski an award of EUR 5000 for scientific articles related to low emission HCCI and RCCI engines.

Mikulski is a Professor of internal combustion engines at the University of Vaasa. He conducts research at the engine laboratory of Palosaaris VEBIC research platform of the University of Vaasa.

Read the news article about the Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce Award

Further information:

Jari Kuusisto, Rector of the University of Vaasa
tel. 029 449 8291

Recording from the opening ceremony

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