Community is vital to creativity and top-level quality

In August, Johan Bärlund assumed the duties of rector at the Swedish School of Social Science for the period 2018–2022. Vice-rectors Anna Henning-Lindblom and Helena Blomberg-Kroll took up their duties at the beginning of the year.

Johan Bärlund: Leadership, decisions, encouragement and attention

Johan Bärlund (LLD) assumed the position of rector of the Swedish School of Social Science in August. He is currently on leave from the position of professor of Nordic law at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law.

“I have worked at the Faculty of Law for more than thirty years, and during that time the Swedish School of Social Science has become a familiar and dear place to me on the City Centre Campus,” says Bärlund, who takes a genuine interest in administrative duties in addition to his regular, professorial work.

In his capacity as rector, Bärlund wants to encourage and care for his staff so that everyone can thrive. He also wants to ensure that the School’s community spirit continues to flourish.

“I would like to develop incentives for the staff to encourage them to work towards top-level performance in research and teaching. A positive atmosphere promotes high quality in research publications and teaching development.”

The Swedish School of Social Science is the largest Swedish-speaking unit at the University of Helsinki. Johan Bärlund has always been an ardent supporter of Swedish and bilingual activities at the University. In his capacity as rector, he feels he has an even better opportunity to serve and support the Swedish language and related activities.

Bärlund has built extensive networks during his time at the University. Among other things, he is a long-standing member of the University’s Board for the Development of Swedish Affairs and Teaching.

“As rector, I feel that one of my most important tasks is to make the whole university community understand the School’s position as the University’s twelfth faculty,” Bärlund says.

As regards internationalisation, Bärlund looks primarily westward. One of his aims is to promote the School’s visibility in the Nordic countries.

“Since our languages of instruction are Swedish and English only, we have the potential to be an attractive alternative for Nordic students.”

Johan Bärlund would like to see more collaboration in the field of social sciences in Swedish Finland.

“With the aid of modern technology, we could arrange interesting lectures as joint efforts targeting a larger audience,” he says.

Anna Henning-Lindblom: Academic affairs

“My task is to ensure that everything related to the School’s teaching and instruction is organised in the best possible way to facilitate learning in our students and wellbeing in our staff,” says Anna Henning-Lindblom (DSocSc), university lecturer in social psychology and the School’s vice-rector in charge of academic affairs.

“Right now it is time for us to evaluate the education reform and the new degree programmes. That will give us a good start when planning the programmes for the next period from 2020 to 2023.”

Henning-Lindblom is also the director of the School’s Bachelor’s Programme in Social Sciences. As vice-rector, she is also responsible for the School’s educational offerings as a whole, including the Swedish-language Master’s Programme in Social Sciences that is offered in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences.

“Before my current job as vice-rector, I worked for several years in the field of social psychology, which is one of the subjects offered at the School. Despite the intensity of the educational reform process, it’s stimulating to work with the big picture of the School’s disciplines and develop transdisciplinary collaboration in the hope of achieving synergy effects.”

Henning-Lindblom wants the School’s degree programme to be the leading Swedish-language programme in its field in Finland.

“Considering the tight schedule we were on when we were designing our Bachelor’s programme, I think we have every reason to be proud of what we accomplished. Now is the time to evaluate the programme and develop it further. We have a wide and unique range of study tracks to choose from, and through new forms of transdisciplinary collaboration, we have much to offer that is relevant for today’s society.”

Helena Blomberg-Kroll: Research

“After the turbulence of the past years, I consider it my mission to make sure that the status and development of research stays on the agenda,” says Helena Blomberg-Kroll (DSocSc), professor of social work and social policy and vice-rector in charge of research.

A lot of research activity is currently taking place in the field of social sciences, both at the University of Helsinki and elsewhere. Blomberg-Kroll emphasises the importance of keeping abreast of developments and making sure the School participates and is included in appropriate initiatives. Initiatives aiming to reinforce the School’s research profile are an important avenue of participation and visibility.

“We must, however, keep in mind our national task of Swedish-language instruction and research, and this also includes the publication of research. We have many competent researchers, and they should all be allowed to feel that they are entitled to conduct research, regardless of whether they are externally funded or not. The opportunity to conduct research must be integrated into every job description.”

Studies consistently show that a good working environment is the best way to promote creativity and novel ways of thinking.

“We place a premium on a good work climate, one where there is time to concentrate and think about ideas for new, innovative research. By promoting a positive atmosphere and supporting and mentoring one another, we are creating an attractive environment where people enjoy working and developing their skills, research merits and the School’s profile.”

Helena Blomberg-Kroll is very happy about the master's programme that the School offers in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences. She is also pleased that the School’s supervision of doctoral students has been ranked as equivalent to the supervision offered by the Faculty.

“This means a lot for the research conducted at the School. It gives us the opportunity to recruit students to research projects and nurture new academic talent in Swedish.”