Elisa Kannasto

Ph.D., Communication Studies, 2021
Head of Degree Programme, Master School, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
Elisa Kannasto

MA Elisa Kannasto's PhD thesis in communication studies "I am horrified by all kinds of persona worship!" Constructing Personal Brands of Politicians on Facebook was examined on Friday 3 December 2021.

What is your work like?

I manage the master's degree programmes at Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, where I get to explore a multidisciplinary entity. I am responsible for 13 degree programmes, one of which is the international MBA. I belong to the management team and have a real influence on the future of education.

I also try to find time in my job to do some publishing and research work. I really get to do a job where no two days are the same. Sometimes I do a lot of strategic planning and strategy implementation, sometimes I supervise students' theses and sometimes I design branding and marketing of degree programmes. The best part is that I get to work in a multidisciplinary environment with top experts and I am surrounded by many other people who are passionate about education. In addition, the international dimension of my work is particularly important to me.

My work is challenging and requires careful self-management to get everything done on time. You have to prioritise things. Sometimes there is not as much time for research as I would like. I am also concerned about funding models and the future of higher education.

In addition to my full-time job, I also do part-time research projects, communication training, and public speaking. I have also had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer at the University of Vaasa, for example. Through these, I keep up with my core themes of political social media, personal branding, and public speaking.

How have your doctoral studies and research supported you in your current role?

My current job requires a PhD. Research and understanding the publishing world is important both because it is part of the job and because of the amount of research and development work that goes on in our organisation. The subject is therefore very much part of what we do on a day-to-day basis. The networks and other knowledge built up during the doctoral studies provide ongoing support in the work and the way it is done, as well as other opportunities, such as educational visits.

What are the highlights of your career?

During my doctoral studies, I was a lecturer in communication at SeAMK, and even then, I was inspired by my work every day. In this job, I have been able to achieve many of my goals. One of the highlights has been the funding decisions for research projects, when I have been able to explore my own topics and build something new. In addition, the conference trips abroad have been significant. My research topic has received a lot of media coverage, which has been meaningful for me and shows that I am doing important work. Of course, career progression and the continuous development of my job description within the organisation has been particularly meaningful. My promotion to Head of Degree Programme, Master School and a place in the management team were a big vote of confidence.

There have been many high points in my career – but in the end, they are encounters and events that happen in the day-to-day work.

Why a PhD?

Doctoral studies give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in your subject and learn from research. They also support the development of your professional identity and can lead you down paths you hadn't even thought of before. I always thought that I was not cut out to be a researcher, and that I was not the traditional researcher. But now, I have a few subjects that I am happy to immerse myself in and that are an integral part of me and the skills that support new career paths.

How did you decide on the topic for your PhD?

I always knew that I was interested in social media. In addition, I was fascinated by the topic of political communication. The topic first took shape with my unit supervisors right after my master's degree, but evolved when I spent some time in the workplace and found even more direction in what interested me and saw a clear research gap.

How did you finance your doctoral studies?

I was a lecturer in communication at SeAMK throughout my PhD studies. They had a great support system for attending international conferences, and at the end of my PhD studies, I got two months of paid research leave. We have a staff development fund to support these leaves to complete doctoral studies and to attend international conferences. Although studying while working was sometimes challenging, it was also a relief not to have to worry about funding. Work also provided support in challenging moments, as many colleagues had either already completed or were in the process of completing their doctoral studies.

Main insights from the doctoral studies?

In research or studies, you are never finished. Probably the best lesson is that while working independently may be easier in terms of time, often working with others will produce a better result. A collaborative text is often better in the end, and the perspectives of others help develop your own thinking. Networking is always useful, and you never know where the next collaborative projects and projects will come from.

During my doctoral studies, I got involved in an association. It provided me with research colleagues, new insights into research methods, and a cross-university and cross-disciplinary community that has been a huge source of inspiration.

Why did you choose the University of Vaasa?

Of course, my place of residence (Vaasa) influenced this, as well as the familiarity of the university from my previous studies. But the advantages of the University of Vaasa for me were also its approachability, nice community, the most beautiful university campus in Finland, multidisciplinarity, and freedom to choose my topic.

What would you like to say to someone who is still considering doing a PhD?

Don't be afraid of the option of studying while working. The topic can have a big impact on how the project turns out and where it leads. I strongly encourage to apply for doctoral studies if you are interested in self-development, understanding the world, and advancing your career!