Candidates for the Board and President of SYL 2023

Introducing the candidates for the Board and the President of the National Union of University Students in Finland for the year 2023! The President and the Board of SYL will be elected in the SYL’s General Assembly on 18–19 November 2022.

For the President

Lotta Leinonen

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for president of SYL.

I’m Lotta Leinonen, originally from Mikkeli and studying at Oulu Business School. I am currently chair of the executive board of the student union. I want to be president of SYL because I want to be a voice for students, for sustainable education and for student welfare.

My leadership experience makes me the best choice. In addition to being active in the student association, I have gained experience as the president of the Student Union of the University of Oulu (OYY) and led the university’s campus vision process.

I am a confident and natural public speaker and have experience in dealing with the media in different situations. I know what it’s like to work under pressure, because this year I’ve been doing advocacy on the Oulu campus. With my experience, we could make students’ voices better heard!

SYL’s activities in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in spring 2023 require an enthusiastic and supportive leader to rally the higher education community behind students’ goals.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

I would pay special attention to making SYL a unifying force for all those who are active in the student movement and for the entire higher education community. Especially in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, it is important that students join forces to make themselves heard.

I would bring a personal touch to SYL and strengthen relations with student unions through increased interaction and better communication, for example by making it easier to provide feedback. When we are stronger within the organisation, we will also be more convincing to others.

Another important goal is to strengthen stakeholder relations, for example with decision-makers and other organisations. The student community must take a firm stance on important issues, and the different organisations should also join forces in their advocacy.

Good relations with influential actors in society will highlight students’ views and concerns more effectively. Making our voices heard is particularly important now. The debate on free education in Finland shows that advocacy on basic issues needs to be stepped up.

What are the next important steps in SYL’s advocacy?

The higher education community needs to act as one to ensure that students are taken into account on issues that matter to them. One of the most important steps is to succeed in the parliamentary election campaign and make sure SYL’s goals are made part of the next government programme.

We must continue to claim media space with attention-grabbing events, but also strengthen SYL’s position in the media as an initiator of social debate. This would ensure that issues that are important to SYL are discussed in society at large.

Students are now facing major threats, for example in the form of tuition fees, and we must put our resources into defending our principles. This debate raises concerns among students of different ages, as well as their parents. SYL is well placed to present itself nationally as a formidable advocate for education by raising that issue now.

Important successes will help to move towards other goals, such as tackling the mental health crisis, ensuring student wellbeing, internationalisation and a sustainable society.

Johannes Pessi

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for president of SYL.

My name is Johannes Pessi. This year I’m the chairperson of the board of the University of the Arts Student Union (ArtSU), where I am studying to become an opera singer. I am an experienced leader, and a proactive and solution-oriented organiser and activist.

Helping and serving the communities I belong to is something that’s close to my heart. The challenges we face as students are also present in my own life, and I want to be part of taking things in a better direction for students. I feel it is my duty to help ensure that future generations enjoy their study years and feel well.

Next year, SYL needs a caring, competent and resilient leader and someone with solid public speaking and presentation skills to ensure that students’ voices are heard and listened to. With my experience and skills, I would be the right person to lead SYL and the Finnish student movement in 2023.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

SYL’s activities must be made more open, accessible and transparent.

SYL needs to communicate its activities and processes more actively and openly so that no one is unaware of its activities. Information about the union’s activities must be easy to find. Openness and effective communication are particularly important in view of next year’s parliamentary elections, so that SYL and the student unions and those who are active in them are singing from the same hymn sheet and pursuing the same goals.

Everyone should have an equal opportunity to participate in SYL’s activities and have their say. For example, SYL has room for improvement in terms of the opportunities for Swedish- and English-speaking students who want to be involved.

What are the next important steps in SYL’s advocacy?

Next year’s activities will revolve heavily around advocacy related to the parliamentary elections. Next year’s board, under the leadership of its president, has the important task of getting the new players on board from the start of the year. Creating smooth and direct lines of communication and a good team spirit within the movement are crucial for the success of advocacy related to the general election and the inclusion of the student movement’s objectives in the future government programme.

Important steps need to be taken in SYL’s advocacy to put the wellbeing of students on a sustainable footing in all respects. This includes matters such as adequate income and tackling the mental health crisis. We need to start dismantling the structures that contribute to the strain that is leading to burnout among students, and speak out more loudly about the causes of the mental health crisis. And beyond the acute measures that must be taken, everyone concerned needs to look at the crisis more holistically. This is crucial if there is to be any hope of resolving this crisis.

Jenna Rautionaho

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for president of SYL.

My name is Jenna Rautionaho, I’m a business studies student at the University of Turku and a keen advocate for student affairs. I’m a member of this year’s SYL board, in charge of EU advocacy and international affairs. I swear by openness, internationalism and sustainability, and I have wide-ranging experience in political advocacy and leadership.

Especially in a parliamentary election year, continuity of influence, political acumen and established networks are important. These are things I have been able to build on over the years in various capacities and develop at national level, this year in particular. During 2022, I have also been involved in planning for the parliamentary election programme and campaign, and I believe that with my extensive experience in advocacy, my boundless enthusiasm and inclusive leadership style, I can get the new board members and student unions fully on board with advocacy from January 2023 onwards.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

1. I would improve SYL’s advocacy by making the lobbying of political parties and decision-maker meetings more systematic. This is particularly important in the run-up to the 2023 parliamentary elections. Maintaining political visibility is also crucial. Success requires building trust within the work community from day one.

2. I would improve communication between SYL and the student unions. In the past year, I have been developing sponsorship with the student unions I am involved in sponsorship partnerships with, and I would like to introduce effective practices I have learned to SYL as a whole. Above all, SYL needs closer communication and greater transparency, for example in preparing the minutes of meetings, and in establishing permanent language practices to improve accessibility.

3. I want to make sure that everyone on the SYL board has a real opportunity to develop and apply their skills. I also want to help everyone on the board to cope with the workload and achieve their full potential. That’s why I would invest in support for self-management and an open culture of dialogue.

What are the next important steps in SYL’s advocacy?

The next biggest step is the upcoming parliamentary elections and government negotiations, as these political events will determine how students are catered in the next government term. The key is to ensure that SYL’s voice is heard, and that the message from students is clear and consistent so that change is possible. The key is to ensure that SYL’s views are heard and that the message from students is clear and consistent so that change is possible. After the general election, it is crucial to familiarise new members of parliament with SYL’s objectives and organisation.

Once the government programme has been completed, a new overview of the current state of affairs needs to be drawn up and used as a basis for a new action plan to secure the most important elements of everyday life for students: an adequate income and resources for education and wellbeing. Preparations for the 2024 European Parliament election must also begin in autumn of 2023, as developments such as the budget cuts in higher education will have a direct impact on Finnish higher education institutions.

For the Board

Tuomas Alm

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

Hi everyone, I’m Tuomas Alm, a 23-year-old economics student from Turku. I’m originally from Salo. I enjoy scouting, sailing and the outdoor life in general. In the past year, I have served on the executive board of the Student Union of the University of Turku for International Affairs, Communication, Europe Forum & Corporate Relations. Before that, I served on the Youth Council of Sail Training International, on the board of the European Youth Parliament Finland, and in the local chapter and national government of the Nordic Economics Students’ Union (NESU). I’ve been working in various international relations roles in different organisations for about eight years altogether. I believe I am the best choice for the SYL board because I have the broadest and longest experience in international and EU affairs of all the candidates.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

At SYL, I would like to focus in particular on increasing interaction with the student unions, on communication with them and on enabling the student union sectors to be more actively involved in SYL’s activities.

For practical reasons, SYL has centralised national and international advocacy activities, but as a joint union of student unions, I think it is important for all the member unions to know what is happening in SYL at all times. It would also be fruitful to have a broad discussion with the student union sectors about what is happening in the European Students’ Union (ESU), for instance. For example, joint discussion sessions on current ESU news and matters being dealt with would be an excellent way to increase the flow of information, promote democratic relations with the membership and discuss issues before the General Assembly meetings.

What areas interest you most in board work?

I’m definitely interested above all in EU affairs and international affairs in general.

Roosa Grönberg

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

My name is Roosa Grönberg, and I’m a fourth-year business student at LUT University. This year I’ve been serving on the board of the Student Union of LUT University (LTKY). I have been in charge of education policy on the LTKY board this year as well as last year, which has given me an excellent opportunity to learn about collaboration between SYL and student unions. Understanding this area from the perspective of student unions will be particularly important next year. In the next election year, SYL needs someone with plenty of ideas who can get things done, who’s a good listener in discussions, and who has a diverse background. In addition to the student union, I have done military service and served on the board of Varusmiesliitto, the national advocacy organisation for conscripts and persons undergoing non-military service. I am also an active participant in the Martha Organization, where I have learned a lot about the different generations and things that improve the quality of everyday life. Next year, I want to be part of making life easier for students.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

SYL has worked for a long time on issues such as free education and student livelihoods, and I would continue this. For me, however, SYL is not just an advocate for students, but a driving force for society as a whole, so if I am chosen for the board next year I want to encourage broader debate on topics such as climate change. Next year in particular, I want to help solve SYL’s language policy, so that SYL truly represents all the student unions. My two years of student union experience would bring a new perspective to partnership with the student unions. I also want to be part of fostering debate on the future of higher education policy in Finland.

What areas interest you most in board work?

I have been interested in education policy since I began university, and next year I want to focus on education policy, particularly on continuous learning, the future of funding and student admissions. However, as chair of the LTKY board I have also built up considerable expertise in social policy issues. To lobby effectively in the run-up to the parliamentary elections above all, the board must remain interested in and informed about current issues in all sectors.

Jenny Kasongo

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

I am Jenny Kasongo, a 27-year-old sociology student at the University of Helsinki and member of the board of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY). At the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, I am in charge of the union’s social policies, such as income, equality and promoting the interests of students with children. I’m passionate about helping to ensure that students can have an adequate income, as is their right, as well as contributing to promoting student wellbeing and helping everyone to truly feel part of the student community. As a member of the SYL board I would contribute to eliminating student poverty, promoting equality in the student community and making higher education more accessible.

I would also help to make SYL’s activities more transparent. All union members should be able to follow SYL’s decision-making and have a say in SYL’s activities beyond the General Assembly as well. I am the best choice for SYL’s board because, in addition to being highly motivated, I am an experienced negotiator, I genuinely care about the welfare of students and I want to improve the union.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

SYL should be an open union that genuinely reflects its diverse membership. By fostering partnership, we can achieve a better SYL. During the parliamentary elections in particular, it is important to involve student unions in advocacy and to organise joint events if called for. Transparency also includes being as open as possible about the objectives of the negotiations and the results.

I would help to make SYL’s decision-making more open. Student unions should have real opportunities to follow decision-making and influence the future of SYL outside the General Assembly. I would promote the distribution of agendas and lists of decisions to student unions, and I would also develop SYL’s language policy.

Swedish and English speakers are able to participate in the decision-making process at the General Assembly, but at other times it’s more difficult. Interpreters are needed at seminars and sectoral meetings.

What areas interest you most in board work?

Income and equality are the areas I am most interested in, but I am also open to other areas of social policy, such as housing, development and climate policy, the organisation and culture.

Iikka Kokkoniemi

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

I am Iikka Kokkoniemi, a 24-year-old Kittilä native and student at the University of Oulu. I’m studying to be a mathematics teacher. I first became involved in student activism at university, where I serve on the board of the student association. Since then, I have served on the board of Oulun luonnontieteilijät, which is the student association of the Faculty of Science at the University of Oulu, and on the board of the subject teachers’ association at the university, where I first got involved in social and educational policy in a board role. This year I’m in charge of social policy in the Student Union of the University of Oulu (OYY).

I want to be on the SYL board because I have a genuine desire to promote matters of concern to students in society and to make sure students’ views are included in social debate. I am a true team player – I know full well how essential it is to work together to get things done well. It requires the whole student union movement, especially in the coming election year.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

I would develop SYL’s activities regarding communication and language issues. In the spring of 2022 in particular, SYL was fairly late in communicating with the student unions, which made it hard to prepare, especially for those coming from far away. For example, if information about seminars or meetings organised by SYL is not provided in good time, it may be very difficult or even impossible for some student unions to participate.

When it comes to language policy, it is important to take into account situations where there is a need to communicate in all three languages – Finnish, Swedish and English. It is also important to ensure that, where possible, Swedish is also used in participation, for example by with the aid of translators where necessary. Above all, all necessary materials should always be available in Swedish.

What areas interest you most in board work?

What interests me most in board work is the social policy sector, especially relating to income and equality. However, I am also interested in serving on the SYL board in general, and among the other areas I have most experience in the organisational sector.

Jasmin Koskela

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

I’m Jasmin Koskela, a 25-year-old third-year communications student from Vaasa, Finland. In the past year, I have served on the board of the Student Union of the University of Vaasa (VYY) as the campus and city policy officer, and also as communications officer. I have been working on advocacy for campus development at our university, participating in planning for the upcoming election year, and handling external communications for the board. During 2022, I have been working across party political boundaries with various decision-makers in Vaasa, and I’ve been contributing to collaboration between important stakeholders such as the Student Housing Foundation in Vaasa (VOAS), the City of Vaasa, and other higher education institutions in the region.

I take a bold approach to things, and am not afraid to speak out. My interest in advocacy has only increased over the course of the year – in the coming parliamentary election year, the SYL board needs an experienced student advocate like me, who can act on the ground and has the courage to make a difference, and who is also highly motivated and dedicated.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

In terms of cooperation between student unions, I would improve the language culture – after all, we also have people whose native language is not Finnish. So in my own sector, I would like to make communication in sectoral meetings and seminars smoother and more reciprocal. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to express themselves in their native language, and it is important that everyone feels that the threshold for contacting the National Union of University Students in Finland is as low as possible. I would also further improve SYL’s communications, especially in terms of keeping things up to date and thinking ahead. For example, sector meetings are held by SYL as a way of supporting the student unions, and in addition to providing information and notifications about them as far in advance as possible these meetings should be held regularly to provide the smoothest possible channel for student unions to be fully involved in things, regardless of their location.

What areas interest you most in board work?

In social policy, my main areas of interest are advocacy relating to the upcoming elections, income, housing, language policy and communication. For me, working in these sectors would be a natural continuation of the effective advocacy activities I have been engaged in this past year on the student union board.

Sonja Naalisvaara

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

I am Sonja Naalisvaara, a sixth-year student in the Master’s Programme in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability at the University of Helsinki. In 2022, I have been in charge of urban, housing, health and development advocacy on the HYY board. This has given be a good chance to learn more about working systematically and purposefully to make an impact. I have particular substantive expertise in social policy and sustainable development.

I am confident I could make a valuable contribution to next year’s board. SYL is facing its most important year in the next four-year term, as the next government programme will be decided in 2023. That is why the SYL board needs a team player with solid subject matter expertise, a keen political eye, and the ability to make a difference and the ability to take control of things at short notice. I am the best choice for the SYL board because I meet these criteria.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

I think SYL should be more visible and active in its advocacy in general, and in advocacy related to housing policy and the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS), for example.

With the parliamentary elections at hand, open communication with student unions will become even more important, so the entire student movement needs to be on the same wavelength and can work as a united front in advocacy. Therefore, among other things SYL must provide the student unions with all the necessary materials and clear information on election campaigning, in good time and in Finnish, Swedish and English. Only then will the student unions be able to join in, and together we can run an effective advocacy campaign in the run-up to the election with the whole student movement. SYL represents the interests of the students of its member organisations – it exists to serve them, not itself.

What areas interest you most in board work?

I am particularly interested in social policy and sustainable development. Next year, I want to be involved in improving the Finnish student health services and tackling the causes of mental health problems. In addition to health care, students’ livelihoods and their right to affordable, quality student housing must be guaranteed.

Alongside healthcare and income-related concerns, it is important for me to be involved in helping current and future students through sustainable development and promoting equality.

Antti Regelin

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

I’m Antti Regelin, better known as Rege. I am in my fifth year of studying energy technology and computer science at Aalto University. In my previous roles in the corporate world and in flagship research, I became dissatisfied with the amount of real impact my work was having. My exchange studies in South America confirmed my view that technology and hype alone will not solve the world’s most pressing problems.

I am the odd one out among the candidates, since I’m not on a student union board. My experience comes from other areas of society. Negotiations with large multinational companies when I was leading a Europe-wide design event taught me about large-scale project management. At the same time, I have made a positive difference to student life at all levels of the student union and to realising visions at the top.

I would bring to the board extensive experience in the student community, thinking outside the box and unique advocacy skills – that’s why I would be the best choice for the SYL board in 2023.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

As a new board member, I would actively listen to the ideas of the members and the union’s employees about developing activities, and I would get the entire field involved from the beginning of the year. However, in the early part of 2023 we must also focus on promoting the goals of the government programme, as the negotiations to form the new government will take place in April and May. In the coming year, I would also like to help SYL reach out to all students through effective communication relating to the parliamentary elections.

I would try to develop SYL’s sustainable development activities, even though SYL is not really a climate organisation. The student movement must lead the way in building a sustainable world, despite the boundaries of different activities not being easy to define.

There is a lot of good work and skilful advocacy going on in SYL, but outwardly it can seem a bit distant and inaccessible. In terms of communication, I would focus in particular on ensuring low-threshold communication and accessibility to members.

What areas interest you most in board work?

I think all the sectors are important, but for me the most interesting is internationalisation. I want to promote internationalism in a broad sense. It plays a key role in the Finnish welfare state, and will become even more important over time.

In addition to working on international affairs, I am particularly interested in the employment and climate portfolios. I am particularly enthused by European cooperation on education and social policy. I am also interested in the role of vice-president.

Pauliina Ryökäs

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

Hi! I am Pauliina Ryökäs, a 27-year-old biomedical student, activist and feminist from Kuopio. I have been on the board of the Student Union of the University of Eastern Finland for almost two years now, working on social and education policy. I’m someone who is solution-oriented, outgoing and hands-on. These, combined with my experience, make me well placed to serve on the SYL board next year.

It has always been important to me to stand up people who are in a weaker position, which is why I am running for the SYL board next year. Next year, I want to be part of ensuring a good quality of life for students.

In 2023, we need to be even more firm, planned and united so that we are not forgotten. I am the right choice to fight for a better future for all of us, because I have the skills, the will and the perseverance.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

For me, SYL must be the voice of higher education students, looking out for their interests. It must be a unifying force and network for the entire student union movement, providing student unions with the opportunity for and means of working together more effectively throughout the country.

I want SYL to play more of a networking role in matters that are clearly within the scope of local advocacy – for example, in cooperation with universities in the election of student representatives to administrative roles.

Based on my own experience, two important areas for improvement in SYL’s activities are increasing the opportunities for influence and transparency in dealings with student unions and taking the geographical size of the country into account.

In addition, I want to activate the alumni network more broadly, for example in the parliamentary elections and lobbying related to the next government programme, and also locally where possible. Anyone who wants to be a voice for the student movement must make the widest possible use of their own networks to achieve common goals.

What areas interest you most in board work?

I am interested in both social and educational policy, and have expertise in both sectors through my work on the board and other positions of trust in the Student Union of the University of Eastern Finland. I am open to both sectors.

In social policy, I am primarily interested in matters related to student livelihoods, housing and health services. In education policy, on the other hand, the quality of teaching, labour market skills and adequate resourcing of education are particularly important to me.

Sampo Sainio

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

I am Sampo Sainio, the candidate for the SYL board from Aalto University Student Union. I am in my fifth year studying energy technology at Aalto University, and in my second of administrative studies at Tampere University. As a board member of the student union this year, I focus on housing, campus and sustainability issues. The main area I’ve worked on is housing.

I’m applying for the SYL board so that I can make a difference with things that are important to students, such as an adequate income and quality education. At the moment, students spend about half of their income on housing and I don’t think it’s discussed enough at union level. I would like to bring a stronger focus on housing issues to SYL’s advocacy related to both income and sustainable development. I have worked in both these areas, both on the board and in employment, which would certainly be useful for SYL in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in the spring.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

I have noticed this year that student unions do not have a very accurate impression of the day-to-day activities of SYL. This is most of all a communication problem. At the moment, information about the ongoing work of the union is mainly disseminated at live events within the sectors, but this information rarely reaches all student union board members. One way to rectify this problem would be to launch a weekly newsletter for the member organisations.

Personally, I would like to see SYL do more in the field of housing and support student unions more, for example in providing guidelines for local housing foundations. Housing takes up half of students’ income, but it is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. SYL could integrate climate advocacy into its own activities through housing.

What areas interest you most in board work?

I am particularly interested in social policy, climate and education policy. In the latter area, I have experience of programme reform at my own university, where I was a student representative. Aalto University’s current bachelor’s degree programmes are largely in line with the working group’s proposals. Through my studies and work, I am interested in environmental issues and supported construction. But of course I would also be happy to work in other sectors.

Jenni Suutari

Please introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be or would be the best choice for the board of SYL.

My name is Jenni Suutari, and I’m a political science student with a passion for student advocacy. I am Vice Chair of the board of the Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä, where I work on higher education policy, employment and elections. I have also held several positions of trust and worked on social policy.

In an election year, SYL needs someone like me who can hit the ground running from day one. I have cross-sectoral expertise in several areas, including higher education policy and income-related issues. I also have experience in campaigning, advocacy directed at policymakers, and political insight.

I want to use my skills to promote an accessible higher education system, policies that promote student success, and a forward-looking student movement.

I am responsible, reliable and make a point of learning things thoroughly. I’m good at organising activities and dealing with complex matters without overlooking smaller but nonetheless important details. Collaborating with different sorts of people is second nature to me.

SYL needs a determined leader, and that is what I am.

How would you develop SYL’s activities?

1. Towards greater impact on public opinion

In addition to students, there are many interest groups that compete for political space. Alongside conventional lobbying of policymakers, SYL should invest in shaping public opinion through election campaigns and communication in both social media and other media. In this way, SYL could ensure that students’ concerns and interests are brought up in public discussion leading up to the parliamentary elections.

2. Closer and more open partnership between student unions is needed.

With a general election coming up, the student movement needs to form a united front. I want to foster an open and conversational relationship with the student unions. A priority for me is making sure that all parties are kept well informed, and I would promote a common set of practices for student union collaboration. Close collaboration is particularly important in education policy, where next year’s measures will to a great extent be within the scope of the autonomous activities of the different universities.

3. A focus on vision and proactive advocacy

SYL must be a force for change that transforms society. For this to be possible, we need a forward-looking understanding of the future of education and student life.

What areas interest you most in board work?

Because of the type of work I have done in the student union, I would be best placed to work in the education policy sector. The main issues I want to work on are student admissions, accessibility of higher education and university democracy.

My organisational skills would also make me an effective vice-chair. Leadership comes naturally to me because I am inspiring, fair-minded and open. Building on my experience in social policy, I also enjoy working on issues related to student welfare, health services and equality.