Anne Toppinen, the HELSUS Director since 2018, is stepping down from the role at the end of the year after exciting and work-filled years at the institute. During Anne’s time at HELSUS, the institute has grown from a newborn institute at the University of Helsinki to a proper interdisciplinary sustainability science institute, with many ties internationally and within Finland. Anne says that “It has truly been a privilege to serve in this position and to be part of this dynamic community. HELSUS has grown from about 300 to well over 500 members and expanded from 6 to 8 member faculties.”
Reflecting on her years as Director, Anne highlights the growth in importance of sustainability science as a discipline at the University, and the subsequent opportunities that arise from that: “Some key highlights of this Director’s term have been organising annual Sustainability Science Days, the first European sustainability institutes’ collaborative workshop in December 2020, as well as seeing the Viikki community of sustainability researchers to shape up. Coordination of Sustainable Development Expert Panel by HELSUS, jointly with SYKE and Luke, has also been a unique opportunity to bring together national level experts and to participate in policy support work at the highest level. In its strategy the University of Helsinki has strengthened the role of being a true sustainability frontrunner, which gives a strong mandate to HELSUS. Based on our recent negotiations, I am delighted that the eight member-faculty Deans have shown strong commitment by ensuring their financing of HELSUS until the end of 2025.”
The Covid pandemic has timewise been a relatively big part of HELSUS’ short history, but Anne thinks that the coordination has still managed to function well: “The period since March 2020 has of course been quite challenging for any network-based organisation, but I think HELSUS has managed to succeed well in turning its main forums to virtual ones. But I am certain we are all eagerly waiting to get back to normal face-to-face interaction.” There has also been turbulence in personnel at HELSUS in recent years in addition to the new Director, but despite the changes Toppinen believes that HELSUS has managed, and will manage, to function well in the future: “The coordination team is a small and agile group and changes in key people have been smooth in the end. I am also certain that when I’m now stepping down, the new Director Susanna Lehvävirta will bring in her genuinely own networks, cherish new ideas, and that we will see an even greater impact with HELSUS activities in coming years!”
Anne’s plans post-HELSUS Director are already quite clear: “Starting next year, I will continue to lead our DECARBON-HOME SRC consortium and also act as vice dean in research in my own faculty. I will also continue as an active HELSUS member until I retire from the University.”
The new year brings with it a new Director for HELSUS and we’re excited to start working with her, but before that we at HELSUS want to show our greatest appreciation to Anne for the work she has done and for all the years together – Thank you Anne!