“I was really surprised, proud and flattered by the choice, as well as thankful,” says Pilvi Torsti. “I got the news in the middle of an exceptionally work-intensive spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, which made it even more special. The University of Helsinki is important and dear to me: I’ve been a student, researcher, teacher and a HEI Schools startup entrepreneur here.”
Torsti has always felt a strong urge to create new things and assume responsibility for shared goals. She enjoys the responsibility.
“This mix has turned into a life and career filled with many different things. I occasionally wonder whether I should have been focusing more on a single issue. Overall, I believe that, for example, love or talent is about actions. Otherwise they don't have much value. I strive to judge both myself and others through actions.”
In 2004 Torsti obtained a doctoral degree in political history by defending her groundbreaking and scientifically highly significant doctoral thesis on the teaching of history and the management of the past in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As part of the thesis, she conducted an extensive survey called Youth and History in Bosnia. After graduating with her doctorate, Torsti headed the Suomalaiset ja historia (‘Finns and History’) project. Torsti has promoted international research collaboration in the field as well as planned and managed publication and research projects at the University of Helsinki. The title of docent was granted to her in 2013.
From 2013 to 2020 Torsti has served as a member of the Finnish Parliament and state secretary at three government ministries (Ministry of Education and Culture, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and Ministry of Transport and Communications). Torsti is a founding member of HEI Schools, a startup established in cooperation with the University of Helsinki in 2015, and she has made a significant contribution to increasing the impact of and exporting Finnish expertise in education and early childhood education, as well as business collaboration between researchers in the field and leading Finnish professionals specialised in design and strategic planning.
Torsti served as the director of a project to establish a United World College general upper secondary school in Mostar in 2005–2006, and she continues to chair the board of Education in Action, the foundation responsible for the school’s operations. She has worked as a volunteer in several countries as well as published a number of popular non-fiction books, articles and edited works. Torsti has served as a member of the City Board and City Council of the City of Helsinki, as well as in many other elected positions. She is an alumna of the United World Colleges network (1995) and an Eisenhower Fellow (2013).
Torsti and her spouse Samuli Simojoki have three children between 6 and 16 years of age, and a Nepalese child has lived with the family under a child sponsorship scheme.