Dean Pirjo Hiidenmaa wants to bring a humanist perspective to public discourse

Professor Pirjo Hiidenmaa began serving as the new dean of the Faculty of Arts at the beginning of October. The Faculty was in need of a new dean due to Hanna Snellman, the former dean, beginning her term as a vice-rector of the University.

“I applied for the position because I am interested in looking at the University from different perspectives,” Pirjo Hiidenmaa explains.

Hiidenmaa has worked as professor of non-fiction studies at the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies since 2015. Prior to that, she served as director of the Open University and Palmenia, and as a unit director at the Academy of Finland.

From the beginning of this year, Hiidenmaa has also been a member of the Board of the University. She has since relinquished this position, as deans are disqualified from the Board’s membership. Her successor on the Board is Professor Markku Kulmala from the Kumpula Campus.

“The Board was an excellent and very educational opportunity, providing an overview of the entire University,” says Hiidenmaa.

The dean as an enabler

To Pirjo Hiidenmaa, the dean’s primary duty is to ensure funding for the Faculty.

“As the dean, I don’t intend to come up with reforms, but to instead put my mind to providing the best possible operational conditions for researchers and teachers. In negotiations with the rector, I must highlight the diversity and special nature of the Faculty of Arts. Naturally, the dean must also perceive the University as a whole and make sure that University guidelines are observed.

The dean must be on the ball, while having confidence that responsible people themselves know best how to go about their work,” Hiidenmaa summarises.

Public engagement

Another motivation for the new dean is the desire to increase the visibility of humanistic research in public discourse.

“Participation in public discourse occurs mainly through research and popular non-fiction books authored by our researchers, but how can we get more humanists to engage in the discourse in an increasingly diverse and frequent manner?” asks Hiidenmaa

“We could, for example, more strongly emphasise that we are educating modern teachers who understand digitalisation and globalisation.”

Developing community

During the autumn, Dean Hiidenmaa intends to visit the meetings of the Faculty’s six departments and pay close attention to what the staff has to say.

“Teaching and research are largely solitary endeavours, but there’s a lot to be gained from collaboration and membership in a community. I would love to see collaborative consideration of work plans and study programmes to find natural forms of cooperation that support everyone in their everyday work.”

The new dean is also concerned about how grant-funded researchers and doctoral students can be engaged in the Faculty’s operations and, for example, to take part in joint festivities.

“We should have various informal communication channels and meeting locations, such as break rooms.”

Read more about Pirjo Hiidenmaa on the 375 Humanists website

More about the subject: Language & culture