ExpREES alumni

ExpREES graduates’ theses, alumni events and alumni stories

Alumni events

ExpREES wants to keep in touch with its alumni through social events. All past and present students are welcome to attend the regular alumni meetings, which are held annually on a Wednesday or a Thursday in late September or October and in May. More information about the events on the ExpREES Facebook page and ExpREES alumni email list. Remember to join the ExpREES alumni email list!

Marina Danoyan / Research

Project Manager, Women in Peacemaking, CMI — Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation

"The studies gave me more confidence in my work. I developed a lot of analytical skills and critical thinking that I am now using in my work on a daily basis."

Marina Danoyan, originally from Armenia, has worked in Finland within the field of peacebuilding and conflict resolution for nearly fifteen years. Driven by a deep commitment to enhancing her knowledge and academic foundation, she decided to further explore the very topics that underpinned her impactful work. In 2018, Marina took study leave to complete a master’s at Tampere University where she enrolled in the Leadership for Change Program and pursued select courses at the Tampere Peace Research Institute. 

It was during these studies that she discovered the ExpREES Program, a unique opportunity that aligned perfectly with her interests and would allow her to build on her previous work experience focusing on Post-soviet Countries and Russia by digging deeper into the region. The opportunity to attend courses at the University of Helsinki alongside Tampere University was another appealing aspect, given her residence in Helsinki and the chance to further diversify her studies.

Marina particularly valued the interdisciplinary nature of the ExpREES program as she could choose courses that were relevant for her and had many opportunities to interact with students with various backgrounds from places around Finland. 

When speaking about attending the ExpREES summer school Marina described her experience saying, "To be with students from various backgrounds from many different parts of Finland, this exchange for one week was just amazing. Not only the courses, but the informal exchange on a daily basis was enriching." 

She also explained how the summer school provided her opportunities to connect with other students and speak and improve her Finnish as most of her other courses were in English and held online during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marina commented on her unique position returning to academic studies after a long break and having already led a successful career. While her professional background provided many advantages in understanding and perceiving the application of her studies, Marina also valued the perspectives of younger students who had already been studying for some time.

 In her own words Marina said that, ”While I had more knowledge from the practical world, there was also a lot to learn from the students themselves." 

The students in the ExpREES program were also able to benefit from Marina’s willingness to share about her experiences applying academic knowledge and concepts in the field. Marina's work experience proved especially valuable in the theoretical courses, enabling her to bridge the gap between abstract concepts and real-world scenarios. Marina was even invited to share her experience to a class of students to answer questions about how studies will be applicable to future careers. Overall, Marina’s added educational experience along with her courses in the ExpREES program gave her more confidence to excel in her career.

 In Marina’s own words she says:  "The studies gave me more confidence in my work. I developed a lot of analytical skills and critical thinking that I am now using in my work on a daily basis".

Today, Marina continues her mission of promoting peace and strengthening women's agency in political and peace processes. Her current focus is on the "Work with Afghan Women Leaders Forum," aimed at bringing Afghan women together, virtually bridging the gap created by their forced exodus from Afghanistan due to the Taliban's takeover. Marina explained that: "their expertise and knowledge are still valuable and need to be somehow kept and used."

Marina's future aspirations remain rooted in making a concrete impact on people's lives in the field. For those embarking on similar journeys, Marina offers valuable advice. Highlighting the importance of motivation in job applications, she encourages graduates to be ambitious and apply for positions that genuinely interest them, even if they don't exactly meet the qualifications. She says, “you need to be ambitious, and you need to try and apply even to the vacancies that you might think you don’t correspond to but are really interesting for you for some reason”.

 Emphasizing passion and motivation in applications can be a compelling factor for future employers. She described her own experience saying that: "This is the way I started my career at CMI without really having a background in peacebuilding, but I was coming from a region that experienced conflict and was really interested in this field."

Marina is a tremendous example of how passion, motivation, and expertise collide, and represents the diverse perspective, leadership, and impact that the ExpREES program hopes to enable all of its participants to achieve.

ExpREES graduates

What about ExpREES graduates? More than 600 students from the network have completed ExpREES studies (REES Master's School) since 1998. Please see our website in Finnish about their career paths.

In addition to the compulsory and optional courses, ExpREES have written a thesis or dissertation focusing on a geographical area covered by ExpREES. The most recent  theses include the following: