My Una Story - Tomi Kiviluoma

Where are in five years?

I am the champion representative for the transversal theme on Student-centred and research driven teaching and learning informed by cultural and linguistic awareness. For one thing, I hope that in five years we have all learnt to say that title – or at the very least come up with a catchy acronym.

I joined the Una Futura project in January last year as we, including my colleagues Ilona Södervik, Rami Ratvio and Auli Toom, were tasked to create the vision for this theme and a corresponding action plan to fulfil that vision.

Personally, I am quite proud of the outcome. There is ambition grounded in some realism. A tough balance to strike, as I’ve come to learn. More than I’m proud of the work thus far, I’m excited for the story ahead, in five years we collectively need to be able to identify the effects on our community and continue to tinker the vision, shaped by new experiences.

Criticizing ideas because you think they are not feasible based on your experience by current standards – is argumentatively quite lazy. And limits imagination. Which is essential for the practice of teaching and learning, and visioning what is should entail.

In my own research I currently explore how biology students evaluate consequences of biodiversity loss across ecosystems. For them, it is commonly effortless to list the negatives from the path of “business as usual”, almost like a mantra. But, ask the students to imagine a future where the loss of biodiversity is halted and even reversed – it becomes much more challenging to describe a trajectory of actions leading to that future. This is alarming, even though not that surprising. We are a species attracted to pessimism.

What I’ve personally experienced in the past year and a half – Una has provided a fruitful environment to practice countering this pessimism: balancing between constructive criticism of past and present; and ambitious and optimistic envisioning of a desirable future. 

This speech was originally presented at Una Europa Helsinki Spring Fest in May 2024.