Candidates for the Board and President of SYL 2022

Introducing the candidates for the Board and the President of the National Union of University Students in Finland for the year 2022! The President and the Board of SYL will be elected in the SYL’s General Assembly on 19-20 Nov. 2021.

For the President 2022

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the president?

Hi! My name is Konsta Kouzmitchev, and I am a 24-year-old student from Joensuu with an immigrant background. I am currently studying production economics for 4 years at Aalto University, and in my free time I enjoy a variety of racket sports, reading and spending time with friends.

As chair of SYL, I would highlight the issues of coping and the wellbeing of students.

I would work to make sure that the communal spirit of student life is restored. I would also strive to ensure that our student movement is truly inclusive, with everyone’s voices being heard. This is especially the case for those who are in a weaker position, whose voices are not so easily heard. As someone with an immigrant background, I have had good opportunities and I want to make life easier for everyone struggling with their own path. I believe that my wide-ranging experience and my diverse background make me the force for change that a hundred-year-old student movement needs. The appreciation for students in our society needs to be restored.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

A more accessible SYL. The student movement should offer everyone the opportunity to participate, regardless of gender, age, origin, language skills, religion or other belief, opinion, health, disability, or any other personal reason. By cherishing education and culture, following the principles of trilingual communication and providing a safer space for everyone, we will go a long way.

A unified SYL. As a people-oriented leader, I firmly believe that genuinely interacting with people is the main building block of trust. In this year of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, one priority has been to intensify efforts to unify the student movement. It is only through close collaboration that our movement can be strong.

A bold SYL. We need to take new initiatives and offer our own solutions, ones that are in line with what students need.SYL must not regress into merely being a defender of benefits than have already been gained. The members of SYL’s board must have time for envisioning changes and realising them. One of the initiatives that has been taken this year was the development of the Students at Risk scholarship system.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

As an advocate, I am relentless, active and bold. I have the guts to stand up to politicians, civil servants and other stakeholders. An example of this from the past year is my advocacy on behalf of international students, which paid off in the form of numerous concessions regarding residence permits and with the inclusion of students included in the national D visa system.

In doing this work, I wasn’t afraid to grab the phone at any time and arrange meetings with representatives of members of Parliament and labour market organisations. I have a vision of how to bring about a better future for students, and I have the fire to make it happen. As an influencer, I have the potential to develop into a real “rabble-rouser” in a positive sense. I am a sociable introvert by nature. I can take control of smaller social situations very well, and am able to make an effective impact by being empathetic and people-oriented. However, I will need some practice in larger-scale public speaking in the post-Zoom era.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

The biggest success of the student movement in the 2010s was the introduction of the concept of generational politics. Intergenerational justice between different age groups must be achieved in the social system. SYL and the student movement have rightly highlighted various important issues in public debate, including the shortcomings of the pension system, the transformation in the labour market, the continued incurring of debt by the government, the ability of young people to cope, and combatting climate change and other environmental crises.

In the future, there needs to be more emphasis on political discussions related to generational issues. The student movement must demand ambitious action on climate change, investment in mental health services for young people, and sustainable economic policy decisions by policy-makers. This will ensure that we can maintain a prosperous society for future generations also. It is the responsibility of the student movement to ensure that students’ voices are heard by the powers that be. The decisions made now will affect us all even after our student days are over.

What are the next important steps in SYL’s lobbying activities?

The most important steps in SYL’s lobbying in 2022 are related to the regional elections: supporting student unions, influencing party parliamentary election programmes, and planning the parliamentary election campaign. Advocacy efforts also need to be focused on the government discussions on spending limits and government budget sessions, where the government has the last chance to deliver on its promise of restoring the honour of education.

Permanent investments must be made over the coming years in the wellbeing of students. In addition to individual measures, structural problems related to student livelihoods and pressure to complete a narrowly-focussed degree in an unreasonably short time need to be addressed. In addition, sufficient funding must be made available for higher education so that the new tasks of higher education institutions, such as promoting accessibility and digitalisation, and increasing the number of starting places without compromising on quality. In the longer term, we need to speak out more and more about having fair intergenerational policies.

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the president?

My name is Aleksi Murtojärvi, I’m a 26-year-old student of communications and an active participant in organisation affairs.  I am sociable and goal-oriented, with a wide range of capabilities, and am well able to handle things, even in difficult situations.

In addition to my studies and student union activities, I work as a communications entrepreneur, and in my free time I enjoy music and nature. I want to be the chair of SYL because I think that the interaction between the union and its members needs to be improved, and there needs to be more opportunities for students to participate in the activities of the association.

My wide-ranging organisational career and work experience give me the comprehensive background that is needed to chair SYL. In particular, the leadership experience I have gained since a young age, first in hobbies and then in various work, make me the best choice for chair of the union. In addition, in my time as a student union member and in other organisations I have learned a lot about lobbying, both through organisations and directly with decision-makers.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

To student unions, SYL comes across as a distant body that puts itself above them. Even though SYL operates at national level, it doesn’t have to assume any superiority in the student movement. SYL must be a unifying force – a hub where all the student unions come together.

I want SYL’s activities to be clearly visible to university students, to be brought to the fore more than at present. Alongside individual sector meetings, there would be two or three opportunities, open to all members of student unions, to discuss current advocacy matters, especially in the social and higher education policy sectors. In this way, SYL could put across its national perspective on issues such as the accessibility of student organisations for individual fields of study, and thus inspire more and more students to participate in student union activities. In addition, in the sponsorship activities of the board I want to give the student unions more opportunities for meetings and collaboration.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

I’m an experienced and skillful speaker and presenter. I can put forward my position clearly and back it up effectively – just as a good communicator should be able to do. Advocacy communication overall is an area where I have plenty of expertise, and I believe that I have the necessary vision and capability for leadership of SYL, both for advocacy itself and for the management of the union.

I am well able to identify opportunities for influence and to draw on networks and spontaneous situations to advocate for students.

In particular, I would like to gain expertise in working with international student organisations, in particular ESU, as my own international experience is from others elsewhere in the youth organisation field.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

The long-term goal of bringing students of universities of applied sciences within the scope of the FSHS services was finally realised in 2020. Student health care, which extends on both sides of the dual model, is an important factor in promoting equality, and this is also important from a societal point of view. Although the student movement primarily works for the benefit of university students, it should not be forgotten that we are also part of a diverse society and can also have an impact beyond our own field.

On a more general level, in my opinion the increasing awareness within the student movement of the importance of sustainable development, equality and transparency are great achievements.

What are the next important steps in SYL’s lobbying activities?

The pandemic has done considerable harm to students in terms of wellbeing. Securing adequate resources for student welfare, and for mental health services in particular, is one of SYL’s most important short-term tasks. In addition, SYL must contribute to solving acute problems related to students’ livelihoods, especially in connection student financial aid. It will not be easy to oppose efforts to make students’ livelihoods increasingly dependent on student loans, or to safeguard social benefits for students, but these are SYL’s responsibility.

In addition, the union needs to have an impact at the national level for defending students’ rights, especially now that remote and online learning may well start to seem like an attractive way for universities to cut costs. Student unions are already doing important work to promote high-quality teaching, but SYL, as an umbrella association of student unions, needs to support their work at the national level.

And in the slightly longer term, SYL will be even more important in the near future in improving the position of student unions nationwide.

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the president?

Hi! My name’s Akseli Rouvari, I’m a student, optimist and idealist. I am a 25-year-old political science and communications student from Helsinki, and I want to contribute my tenacity, creativity, know-how and experience to the leadership of the student movement. I believe in constructive collaboration and dialogue, without however compromising on the most important goals.

I believe I have the right qualities to succeed as chair of SYL. Knowledge of the most important areas of advocacy provides not only good conditions for advancing the movement, as well as informing the vision for the direction to take. Examples of my qualifications in this area are this year’s experience at SYL and last year at HYY. In addition, I care about this movement. I have dedicated my efforts to it full-time now for two years. It would be an honour to continue working together for every university student as chairman of SYL.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

For SYL to continue to be a determined, progressive and courageous force for social change, it is essential to have a vision and to develop its activities continuously. Continued improvements in the effectiveness of advocacy and communication must be continued, so that the student movement’s jointly developed visions and policy paper positions are reflected in the political debate. Advocacy needs to be more determined: we need to learn more from the lobbying and media work of parties and other relevant decision-makers. More work needs to be done to develop our vision regarding various issues, such as social security reform, reform of the university funding model, the future of working life, and lifelong learning.

The framework for SYL’s operations comes from the General Assembly and from the field in the form of guiding documents. The union’s activities are always developed together, which requires a listening and dialogical approach to collaboration with the entire movement – including outside of the General Assembly.

So join me in making the student movement more effective!

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

As an influencer, I’m relentless and always keep myself well informed on the issues. Good social and collaborative skills and the creativity needed to find points of agreement between different parties instead of confrontation are my main strengths. I enjoy working with different people, which is important for lobbyists and leaders alike.

At the same time, I have a keen political eye for solving difficult problems and achieving advocacy goals. And once a goal has been set, I see it all the way through to the finish line.

It is important to constantly reflect on one’s own areas for improvement and proactively ask for feedback from others as well. I’m never short of ideas, but I find that there is not always enough time or resources to realise them. For that reason, it’s important to develop further in both prioritising my coping skills and recognising my limitations – including in cases where the work is close to my heart.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

The last 10 years have been sad for students, universities and the Finnish welfare state. In the state’s efforts to deal with its economic woes, the result has been that education and students have been subjected to an unforgivable amount of cuts. At the same time, mental health problems were becoming increasingly common long before the coronavirus crisis caused a further upsurge.

Amidst all this, the greatest success of the student movement has been its unyielding commitment to defending education and keeping it free. We were forced to give up when it comes to tuition fees for students from outside the EU and EEA, but without the long-term advocacy efforts of SYL it may be that free higher education is on an even more precarious footing. So I’m certain that without a strong student movement, even more would have been cut from education, students and the future, and even less invested in mental health services.

A strong student movement can guarantee a fair generation policy, and the interests of the Finnish welfare state for the future.

What are the next important steps in SYL’s lobbying activities?

The three priorities for SYL’s advocacy are:

  1. Influencing the parliamentary election programmes. SYL must lobby for the goals and positions that are set together by the student movement to be taken into account in the election programmes of the various political parties, and must be put at the heart of public debate. SYL’s own election themes and campaign must be developed purposefully.
  2. The wellbeing and mental health crisis. Society needs to find ways to solve the student mental health crisis. This is above all else a human tragedy, but also a major financial concern. Let’s say no to a struggling society!
  3. The whole last full administrative year. The year will put pressure on the board to make reforms and solve tough problems. This is a golden opportunity for SYL to tackle key themes: student livelihoods and preparations for social security reform, basic funding for universities, adequate resourcing of university starting places, reform of the university funding model, increasing the number of international students, and combating the climate crisis.
For the Board 2022

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

My name is Oskari Heinonen, a 22-year-old fourth-year student of politics and communications from the Student Union of the University of Helsinki. I am someone who is committed to building bridges and fostering understanding. For the last couple of years, I have been deeply immersed in student politics, and have become totally committed to this community. Shared goals, endless learning and wonderful people were the factors behind my decision to apply for a seat on the board of the National Union of University Students in Finland for the coming year.

I believe that I am the best choice for the SYL board because I have a clear vision of the future of Finnish higher education, the ability to contribute to making this vision a reality, and a huge desire to advance the interests of students now and in the future.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

The National Union of University Students in Finland must be even more visionary and impactful than it has been. I would like SYL to make even bolder proposals for dealing with major problems, while at the same time keeping decision-making close to students. For example, when it comes to the obstacles facing lifelong learning and the future of Finnish higher education, SYL must have a clear vision that we can fall back on. I would like to bring these visions to SYL’s board.

Second, SYL needs to be even more effective. Students struggle for attention with hundreds of other groups, and the hundred thousand-strong student movement cannot afford to be left behind. I want to further increase the effectiveness of SYL’s work by bringing an even more systematic approach and my own communication skills. Well-implemented communication campaigns that resonate well with students, together with effective lobbying, play a key role in developing SYL’s advocacy.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

My strongest trait as an influencer is finding the opportunities in every situation, no matter how difficult. I’m bold in proposing alternatives and creative in finding new opportunities, even when an unsatisfactory compromise seems inevitable. I have been involved in party organisations for several years at both the local and national levels, and over the past year I have had the opportunity to learn how to communicate even more effectively and have participated in implementing large-scale campaigns in my own student union. I have a good understanding of how to find and maintain the balance between lobbying and external communications, and to choose the right means in any given situation. I also enjoy making advocacy more impactful, and I have concrete development ideas to offer to SYL.

However, I still want to learn to find new ways of influencing decision-making, and in that way becoming increasingly multi-faceted in my advocacy skills.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

The biggest success for the student movement in the last 10 years has been making the mental health crisis affecting students a public concern, and making all decision-makers aware of it. The ability of students to cope and students’ mental health problems are shared themes on which consensus can be found amongst almost all political parties. However, this would not have necessarily come about without the efforts of SYL and the student movement. Students boldly began to break down the stigmas around mental health problems, which is of course a great thing. During the coronavirus pandemic, students have not needed to explain their difficulties from the very beginning, as public discussion of the mental health problems facing students had started long before the pandemic began. Work in resolving the mental health crisis and improving the wellbeing of students will continue, and I believe that the quality of the advocacy that has continued for years will bear fruit in the future as well.

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

I am most enthusiastic about being able to envision and influence the future of higher education in the education policy sector. What I have to offer is a clear conception of the future of higher education, a deep understanding of the Finnish higher education field, and a keen appreciation for education and culture. The power of education in enabling people to start anew in life and create understanding are among the things I value most. This is why I want to devote my efforts to education policy.

Over the last year, I have been involved in communications at HYY and I would like to continue this work at SYL. For me, effective communication opens the door to having a positive impact, creating a positive image and prioritising things effectively. The cross-cutting role of communications in an organisation is something I really enjoy, as it makes it possible to learn about activities in almost all sectors and to contribute one’s own know-how for the benefit of others as well.

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

For three years, ever since my first year in university, I have practically lived and breathed student politics, both in my beloved student union and at national level. I have held various positions, for example as a member of the board of LYY, chair of the student organisation for students of political science and sociology, and chair of the representative council. Student politics is hugely important to me, and I have endless enthusiasm for it.  SYL needs someone who can make a strong push for student values. Someone who is knowledgeable, bold, hardworking and driven. I am just the right person to make our voices heard.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

I really want to make SYL’s activities more impactful in terms of social policy. The National Union of University Students in Finland is an important force in Finnish society, and it must be accessible to all. Students’ social policy questions are more in need of answers than ever before, and I want to help ensure that SYL’s voice is heard in this area.

SYL must also strive to make equality a reality. Studying in university is difficult for some people, for example those with dyslexia. These students should not be left to fend for themselves – universities should support them to make sure that they have the same opportunity to study as everyone else. The inadequate allocation of resources for education is also a social policy issue, as every student should have the right to a quality education.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

I think one of my most important strengths as an advocate is that I have very good interpersonal skills. I love discussing things with people and I like to hear people’s stories. By listening to others, one can learn more about the world around us, and make a real impact on social issues. Advocacy is a collaborative effort, and it is important to ensure that efforts don’t fall short before the goal is reached. Good communication skills are valuable in making advocacy a success, in bringing about real changes.

One are where I want to improve on further is time management. I love to delve into things, but sometimes a bit too eagerly, without really realising the amount of time they’ll take. So I can be a bit over-optimistic when it comes to the use of time, but the good news is that I’m improving in this area. But nobody’s perfect, of course.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

In my opinion, the greatest success has been the implementation of the FSHS reforms, which SYL and SAMOK strongly advocated for. The reform is significant, as all university students must have the right to equal student healthcare. The FSHS reform is the outcome of long-term work, and is proof that collaboration really can bring about change. Change requires commitment and continuous effort, and it is important that the FSHS reform be brought to completion to a high standard.

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

As a board member, I am most interested in the social policy sector. There have been major changes in the field of social policy, such as the FSHS reform. At the same time, the sector has an important role to play in matters such as student livelihoods and wellbeing. I want to be involved in developing a society where student wellbeing is ensured in a holistic way.

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

My name is Olli Joki, I’m a 23-year-old bachelor of business administration from the Oulu Business School at the University of Oulu. I’m currently studying for a master’s degree in International Business Management. I have been active in my student union since 2017, first for three years in OYY’s representative council and this year as the chair of the board. During my studies, I have also been involved in the Finnish Business School Graduates organisation as a contact person for economics students.

I want to join the board of SYL to work at a nationwide level to improve the lives of students. I have the vision, experience and passion for advocacy on student affairs.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

The chronic problem that student unions face is that they are distanced from their membership. This seems to be a problem for SYL too, with regard to both student unions and students. Sponsorship activities need to be continually improved, and SYL needs to take on a greater presence the day-to-day activities of student unions. It would be great for an SYL sponsor to be able to communicate with representative bodies at each meeting, at least remotely.

In my opinion, the legitimacy of SYL’s activities depends on successful advocacy and lobbying gains – after all, these comprise the organisation’s core mission. In public statements, I would like the way in which important issues are raised to be more purposeful and not just a means of gaining transient media attention that bypasses the core issue.

As part of SYL’s advocacy activities, I would like to make the organisation’s impact on working life more visible. Many students are working alongside their studies, but at the same time we are future employees and as a student movement we should be shaping working life to reflect our own concerns.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

I consider my best traits to be my ability to gain a clear view of the bigger picture and the ability to engage in constructive dialogue with different parties. Influencing policy-makers requires the ability to understand perspectives that differ from one’s own. Being able to do this also makes it easier to get others to understand your point of view.

I would see the development of my own public influencer brand as the main area I want to develop in. This relates to how I communicate with students, decision-makers and other stakeholders on social media, such as Twitter and Instagram. I’m conscious of the fact that I have a lot of room for further improvement in this area, which would also be a goal during my time on the board of SYL.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

Over the last ten years, students have been on the receiving end of many nasty decisions from a number of governments. There have been cuts to education and cuts that affect students’ livelihoods. One of the major successes of the student movement in recent years, however, has been the inclusion of students in the general housing allowance.

The general housing allowance is more in line with real housing costs and rising rents than the housing allowance. The next step should therefore be to eliminate the household-related problems with the general housing allowance.

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

What interests me most is working in the social policy sector, especially on matters related to livelihoods and housing. The gigantic reforms of the social security system is an extremely interesting undertaking that students must be involved in as test participants, and at the heart of the models presented.

In addition, I have a great desire to make SYL’s influence on working life more visible. We already have great policy papers on this issue, and with my experience and interest in it I could make a real contribution to realising our goals.

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

My name is Tuomas Karvonen, and I am a master’s student in international politics and economics at Tampere University. My responsibilities on the board of TREY are national education policy, university administration, and international lobbying. I am enthusiastic about good conversation and strong coffee.

Effective student advocacy requires a firm grasp of the issues and a burning desire to get things done. My motivation to work in the student movement stems from my family background. My twin brother Joel and I are the first members of our family to go to university, and I have a very concrete understanding of the challenges involved in accessing education and its effects from one generation to the next.

Promoting access to education has become an issue that’s close to my heart. I would like to become a member of the SYL board to promote access to education and to reduce inequality. I want to contribute to ensuring that everyone has what they need to live a good and fulfilling life, regardless of their own starting points.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

The vitality of the student movement depends on the motivation and skill of the people behind it, and as a board member I would contribute to promoting the resilience of others in the student movement. In addition, SYL must be brought even closer to the student unions, for example by developing sponsorship activities. It is crucial that SYL’s operations be developed on a long-term basis, so that the student unions are involved in these efforts on a large scale. As a board member of SYL, I would involve student unions in decision-making related to the sectors I would be responsible for.

It is also important to develop collaboration with other organisations. If we are to make comprehensive progress towards achieving our goals, SYL must be an active and constructive partner. For example, collaboration with organisations for secondary school-level students is extremely important in promoting access to education and fair student admission practices. In addition, SYL’s alumni network must be strengthened in order to make advocacy more effective.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

In addition to my own student union, I have been very active in other student organisations and international organisations. Among these are Iltakoulu, which is the student organisation for my own field of study. I have also been vice president of JEF Finland (Eurooppanuoret), the Finnish section of the Young European Federalists Europe (JEF), the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi, which is the umbrella organisation for advocacy organisations in the youth sector, and in the UN Association of Finland. I am an ambitious influencer and a hands-on type of person who always enjoys learning something new.

My best trait as an influencer is self-direction. I have a strong desire to take action, and I do everything wholeheartedly. Through my own activities I help to create a mutually supportive work atmosphere where everyone’s ideas are given a fair hearing, and where everyone is allowed to be themselves at work. At times I can be a little impatient, so that’s something I can improve on. After all, advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

The student movement is an important constructive force in Finnish society. The greatest success of the student movement over the last ten years is its success in actively and boldly highlighting matters that are central to students’ mental health and in reducing the stigma around mental health problems. Thanks to the hard-working and sharp members of the student movement, the student’s mental health crisis has become a publicly debated issue.

These efforts must be resolutely continued. The coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for mental health services for students. We need more preventative action regarding mental health and significantly faster access to services. Instead of just talk, students deserve a guarantee that they will get mental health treatment when needed. More work needs to be done to make free psychotherapy training a reality.

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

I am most interested in the education policy and social policy sectors. The plan for increased accessibility to higher education that was completed in the summer of 2021 clearly states that higher education in Finland is not equally accessible to everyone. Accessibility must be promoted with the aid of clear indicators, for example through performance guidance in universities. The student movement is needed to break down entrenched perceptions of the kinds of people who can be university students in Finland. I want to be involved in developing a clear vision for SYL concerning the future of fair student admissions and in setting clear advocacy goals related to the new university funding model.

In the social policy sector, I am particularly interested in improving and safeguarding the livelihoods for students. SYL must act effectively and boldly to ensure that the coronavirus pandemic does not cause lasting harm to the livelihoods of students. The student movement must be actively involved in social security reforms, and make students’ livelihoods one of the main themes of the next parliamentary elections!

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

My name is Elina Kuula, and I’m a fourth-year law student at the University of Lapland. I am currently chair of the board of the student union of the University of Lapland. I have experience in student advocacy from serving on the board of Artikla, the student organisation for my own field of study, and from my time as a student representative on the administrative board of my faculty.

As chair of the board of LYY, in addition to the activities of my student union and university I have got a broad view of the entire student movement. I have gained a good understanding of national education policy, and I have a strong desire to continue influencing it.

My particular area of expertise is education policy. Expertise in student politics and university policies is sorely needed for addressing the challenges for education policy, for example in terms of education structures, starting places, and the preparation of the future funding model.

I want to bring my skills and hard-working approach to contribute to the important work that SYL does, and along the way, I want to learn new things and continue to wholeheartedly make an impact on education policy.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

In all their decision-making, both the General Assembly and the board of directors develop the activities and provide a direction for further development. It is important to remember that every student union has its own characteristics, both in terms of geographical location and size. SYL must ensure that all SYL members feel that they have every opportunity to make a difference within the student movement. I also feel that SYL could be more regionally accessible. We must continue to work to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in SYL and apply for a position on the board. In addition, I consider it important that SYL events and meetings are also held in parts of the country outside southern Finland.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

With the aid of good communication skills, even difficult issues can be resolved collaboratively and quickly. University rectors and board members alike are easy to get in contact with nowadays. Within the student movement in particular, communication works in both directions. In my role as chair of the student union board, I learned that there should be little hesitation in calling people when needed. In the student movement, the year goes by goes fast and there are plenty of things to deal with. Student union boards often have only limited resources in working to meet their goals. Knowing the operating environment, it’s not a good idea to go full steam ahead in dealing with things without first seeing the bigger picture. It’s important to remind oneself that it’s enough to ensure that things are taken care of. Sometimes, it’s the person themselves who is most critical of what they do.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

Successes are of course important, as they are milestones in the history of the student movement. The history of SYL that was written in honour of its centenary shows the number and importance of achievements for the benefit of current students. In this context, I would like to highlight the important work that the student movement is doing. These efforts often also involve defending what has already been achieved. The day-to-day work of lobbying is essential to its success. Advances can be made through perseverance, but good values and choices require continuous effort, over and over again. These concern free education, the improvement of student welfare services, and the emphasis on the student perspective in all decision-making that affects us, students. So I want to express my gratitude and respect for the selfless work that the student movement does every day.

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

As a student activist, advocacy and education policy, in particular, have been at the heart of my work. I want to play my part in ensuring that the quality of teaching remains high. The quality of teaching suffers both from direct spending cuts to education and large educational expansions. Teaching based on the latest advances in knowledge is topical, meaningful and prepares students for working life. To support their activities, universities need predictability in their funding and guidance from the Ministry of Education and Culture. When universities are doing well, this is also reflected in the wellbeing of students. This can be achieved proactively by various means, including individual guidance for students, a well-functioning feedback system, high-quality systems, and solutions for flexible study opportunities.

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

Hi! My name is Suvituuli Lundmark, and I’m a member of the board of directors of the Student Union of the University of Turku. I am studying to become an early childhood education teacher at the Rauma campus of the University of Turku. I am a mother, and issues related to students’ livelihoods, mental health and coping are close to my heart. The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the ability of students to get by financially and to cope in general, and the mental health crisis was a reality even before the pandemic. As a board member of SYL, I would contribute to efforts to provide students with a guarantee that they will receive mental health treatment when needed, as well as helping to bring about an increase in resources for the FSHS to respond to the mental health crisis. I would also discuss the inadequacy of the current level of student financial aid with decision-makers. I’m confident that I would be a good choice for the SYL board, because in 2022 the issue of social security reforms and the buildup to the next parliamentary elections will be on the table. As an advocate for improving the livelihoods of students, I would be needed in these areas. Student financial aid is a form of social security – it is not a handout for partying or investing. The amount of student financial aid must be enough for students to get by, and it must be developed towards the goal of a basic income.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

I would work hard to communicate actively with the student unions so that information reaches the people in the field, and that SYL also remains up to date on developments. A well-functioning flow of information is important for advocacy, and I would make it a priority. At the same time, I would draw attention to the possibility for student unions to network with each other. The more cohesion there is between the unions work, the more effective the actions taken will be.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

As an influencer, I am tenacious and hardworking, and I have a lot of experience in advocacy on a long-term basis. I have been a secondary school students’ union board member and a university student union board member, as well as a member of the board of the Left Students organisation. I therefore have plenty of experience in taking positions on various issues, participating in working groups and highlighting topics that are important for the wellbeing of students. I tend to be a bit nervous about public speaking, but I’m sure that with more experience I can get over it. A year of board work has already given me a good bit more self-confidence, but experiences in different occasions and speaking before different audiences will certainly be beneficial.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

The reform of the FSHS was a major success, as it brought about greater equality in the provision of health services for university students. Despite that success, however, the expansion of the services has not gone smoothly. Congested services, the transfer of some services to the internet and the centralisation of health service needs assessment are all challenges that require firm advocacy in the future as well. Advocacy is also necessary because of the mental health crisis, which requires expertise and resources from the FSHS so that no students are left alone with their problems.

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

I am most interested in the social policy sector, because I want to work to improve students’ livelihoods and mental health. The mental health crisis requires decisive measures, and SYL would have the opportunity to make its voice heard on the issue of funding for the FSHS, and on the issue of providing students with a guarantee that they will receive mental health treatment when needed and the issue of free training in psychotherapy. I am also interested in promoting equality – the goal of an egalitarian and accessible university system is dear to me. I want to be involved in developing the student financial aid system towards a basic income model, so that it is adequate, flexible and provides basic financial security for students.

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

Dear representatives of the student unions,

My name is Sophie Nyyssönen. I am a sixth-year student of general and adult education and I am seeking to earn your trust for a position on the board of the National Union of University Students in Finland for 2022. I am a lively and productive person who is determined to become a skilled negotiator and expert in student advocacy.

I come from a non-partisan group in which I have been particularly active in promoting the capacity of communities and organisations to support the wellbeing of students, and in developing the structures to make this possible.

Working with a diverse range of organisations has allowed me to develop my diplomatic skills and strength of judgement. SYL needs people with a desire to listen and build bridges between the interests of different parties, as well as the ability to steer the common agenda towards concrete solutions. I have developed these abilities in various ways, for example by chairing the World Student Capital student advocacy organisation.

My experience, motivation and bold outlook make me an excellent choice for the board of SYL.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

In 2022, I want to carry out impactful advocacy with the ultimate goal of promoting a more equal, better-off world for all of us.

SYL is already doing valuable groundwork for advancing equality, amongst other things, but I want to make sure that this hard work is optimised for the best possible benefit of the membership, and I would like the organisation to become even more outward-looking.

We need training courses, discussions, taking a firm stand on things, and doing things together. SYL’s activities must serve a wide range of students as well as members of the representative councils, whose only contact with SYL currently is the General Assembly.

The activities of the General Assembly must be made even clearer and more people-oriented. This would make the work of volunteer student representatives easier. Ideally, the movement would bring people together across city boundaries, allowing for better identification of common goals and a stronger common voice for promoting students’ interests.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

I am a lobbyist who really gets things done, and my ability to present issues concisely and engagingly has helped advance the goals and values of the student movement. Over the past year, I have had open and constructive discussions with dozens of municipal and parliamentary politicians from all the major parties.

The discussions have touched on many issues, including the city’s strategy, student housing, changes to the public transport ticket system, the growing need for mental health services, access to services in three languages, and measures to promote the improve the employment prospects of international students.

I believe that I can greatly benefit SYL by drawing on the relationships and networks I have built up this year with decision-makers, their assistants, and officials of the preparatory bodies, as well as many other parties.

Clarifying various issues and doing the necessary background work are important areas in lobbying where I want to further improve. I also want to become more self-directed in my own work.

I have no hesitation in getting in contact with people and striving to create a lasting dialogue.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

Efforts to promote equality work as part of the core values and core activities. Together, we increase our awareness in the communities we act in, and can act more and more ethically. We develop a better understanding of our own privileges and make room for others. The student movement has been active in promoting equality since the 1980s, and has gradually become a pioneer in dealing with ever-broader social structures.

“In November 2016, the General Assembly of National Union of University Students in Finland decided to declare SYL a feminist organization.” (https://syl100.fi/en/blog/from-womens-rights-to-feminism/)

This work will continue in the 2020s, breaking glass ceilings, leading discussion about therapy, racism, sexism, other barriers to equality and accessibility, pay equality, Sisu, and all else that can be done together step by step.

As content highlights, here are a few Instagram accounts that I especially like:

naisunioni

pehmeeog

curatedbygirls

mielenterveys

invaliidiliitto

miehetry

mixedfinns

kynnysry

socohelsinki/-jyväskylä/-tampere

omassatahdissa

qaareva

cvltcvnth

heforshe

ruskeattytotmedia

tiedenaiset

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

Working this year on HYY’s board on social policy has been particularly motivating for me, and I hope to be able to continue working on topics that affect students’ lives at SYL as well.

Students’ health and being able to get by financially are the basis of everything else – without them, there can be no success in studies.

Fighting for these things is particularly important to me!

I am interested in a position as vice-chair of the board. I have good qualifications for this, especially in the areas of long-term planning, project management, giving and receiving constructive feedback and expressing gratitude for it.

In addition, I believe that in the areas of elections, internationality and equality I would be able to further develop my skills and contribute to making the student movement increasingly influential, both nationally and internationally.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sophie Nyyssönen

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

My name is Tiina Pajukari, and I’m in my sixth year of studying information networks. I am applying to SYL’s board of directors to continue the advocacy work I started this year on AYY’s board of directors, with the goal of promoting students’ wellbeing, livelihood and sense of community in a sustainable way. I would be an excellent addition to SYL’s board, introducing a strong system thinking element. Through my studies, I have developed the ability to approach complex problems from many different perspectives in a solution-oriented way. This proves to be a valuable skill in various ways, for example when solving the mental health crisis affecting students, because I can see and deal with the problem holistically, taking different factors into account.

I can also bring experience to the union from the exceptionally rich range of community and organisational activities I have been involved in over the years. This experience is useful when dealing with issues such as student loneliness, a sense of community and equality. In short: As a highly knowledgeable and bold influencer, I am confident that SYL would benefit from having me on board.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

I would like to be involved in developing the way that SYL measures the positive impact of its own activities. Converting influence into a measurable form is certainly not an easy task, but doing it well would benefit SYL a great deal. Measuring influence would help SYL and student unions focus their limited resources on the best means to achieve maximum positive impact.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

My best attribute is the courage to express my views openly and to be actively involved in making a difference in things right from the start. I have excellent people skills and am good at expressing my thoughts as well as making strong arguments and participating in presentations and similar events. I’m highly passionate about advocating for the best interests of students, and this comes across clearly in how I work.

I am a passionate person, which means I need to pay particularly close attention to rhetoric. Fine-tuning my rhetorical skills to suit each situation has already been my development target this year on AYY’s board of directors, and I intend to continue this work next year.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

To my mind, the biggest success of the last decade has been the transition to general housing allowance for students.

This has improved the financial situation of very many students, as the average housing allowance increased. In addition, the general housing allowance is given year-round, and it does not depend on the students’ progress in their studies. It also takes regional differences in the price of housing into account. In my opinion, any reform to reduce the amount of red tape involved in student support is by definition a good thing. Towards a basic income!

Of course, the development of general housing support to make it more responsive to each individual student’s circumstances is still some way off, despite it being included in the government programme. There is always more to be done.

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

in board work, I am most interested in social policy, students’ livelihoods and wellbeing, and sustainability. I have been deeply involved in these areas throughout this year, and I know I have a lot to offer at national level also. I am passionate about these issues, and I would be a strong, courageous and knowledgeable member of the board of SYL responsible for social policy.

Introduction: Why would you be the best choice for the board?

My name is Jenna Rautionaho, and I’m an enthusiastic 22-year-old student advocate from Turku. I study business law in the Turku School of Economics of the University of Turku and political science at the University of Jyväskylä. On the board of directors of TYY this year I have been responsible for education policy, working life matters and corporate relations. Before that, I worked in a wide variety of organisations at different levels and in different areas of social influence. I am applying for a position on the board of SYL because advocacy is truly where my heart lies. It’s my conviction that through the education system, students have every potential to find solutions to social and global problems. That is why I want to make the voice of us students heard, and highlight the solutions that can contribute to greater opportunities for future professionals to develop and shape the world. It is genuinely a future-oriented drive for getting things done that makes me want to do everything I can to make a difference.

How would you develop the activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland?

Next year, SYL’s operations and communications must be developed in such a way that advocacy is even more visible to all members, not just to student union activists. SYL should represent a wide range of views and accommodate a diverse membership. In particular, more needs to be done to make progress with ensuring accessibility so that people can participate in discussions at sector meetings regardless of their native language. Student unions need to be more actively involved in planning the stances they’re going to take and in planning campaigns. Increasing the amount of dialogue between organisations is a natural step, for example through closer board sponsorship activities. In addition, I would like to play my part in furthering partnership between student unions and peer support channels.

What is your most important trait as an influencer, and in what areas do you have room for further improvement?

As an influencer, I am curious and open: I like to listen, ask questions and aim to understand the background to various issues. I want to see all aspects of things, and in this way be able to form my own opinions and burst the bubbles around me. Thorough groundwork is the key to credibility, and makes it possible to have a greater impact. One area in which I want to further improve is in becoming more self-confident in advocacy, and in my own activities. I have been working on strengthening these skills at TYY over the last two years, and I want to continue to become an increasingly effective influencer at SYL.

What do you think is the most important success of the student movement in the last 10 years, and why?

In my view, one of the greatest successes of the student movement has been in keeping students’ voices consistently at the forefront of debates, especially when those in power have been seeking to cut student financial support and spending on education year in and year out. I consider it extremely important that education in Finland has been kept free – that tuition fees have not been introduced. Free education is the cornerstone of Finland’’s success, and it must continue to make it available to everyone, regardless of background.

Which sectors interest you most in board work?

The sectors I am most interested in are the EU and ESU, the international student sector and education policy. The themes in all these lobbying sectors are interconnected. My own road to becoming active in advocacy began with Erasmus projects and European youth activities, and continued this year on the board of the Europe Forum in Turku. European affairs therefore play a big role in my own life, which is why I see many opportunities in international collaboration for peer learning and making the voices of students heard. I also want to help improve the opportunities for international students to get an education and remain in Finland by removing barriers to employment and education. I believe that high-quality education and research offer the solutions to many problems, which is why I want sufficient resources to be allocated to them in the future also. Instead of a model that pressures students to complete a narrowly-focussed degree, and to do so quickly, everyone must be able to gain the benefit of a flexible and individual study path.