“Time has gone so fast and I’ve learned so many new things,” exclaims Tuomas Martikainen when asked about his first three or so months as Rector of the Swedish School of Social Science (Soc&kom).
Martikainen, who took up office in January, holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree and the title of docent in comparative religion at the University of Helsinki.
He has had a long academic career and was familiar with Soc&kom even before his appointment, having served there as professor of ethnic relations and as an external member of the Soc&kom board.
“But working as the rector has given me new insight into the school and how it operates,” Martikainen says.
One of the reasons he applied for the position of rector was that he had enjoyed working at Soc&kom. Another was his interest in learning about how a small unit operates within a larger one.
“Compared to many others, Soc&kom is a small unit, but we operate as part of a big university and have to take a position on many things happening at the University of Helsinki. It’s very interesting, although I’ve noticed it takes a lot of time to understand the administrative structure.”
The rector supports the staff
Martikainen summarises the rector’s key duties in a single clause: to ensure that everything works as it should and to help the school make the right choices for the future.
“It’s about listening to signals from the outside world and acting on them. A concrete example is our recruitment policy. It has long-term effects on the organisation because staff form the basis for all operations.”
Asked what he would like to develop, Martikainen mentions two things: internationalisation and a broad research foundation. With Russia’s war on Ukraine, he believes the spotlight will turn to the West and that Nordic collaboration will become increasingly important.
“I would like to develop our existing Nordic contacts and support those who need assistance in creating new ones.”
Martikainen says he has confidence in the professional expertise of the Soc&kom staff and wants to support their research.
“I have a great deal of research experience myself and would therefore like to develop Soc&kom’s research profile. The biggest challenge in this respect is to establish a broader foundation for staff research initiatives.”
Martikainen would like to remind everyone of the uniqueness of Soc&kom within the University, comparing it to a village within a city. He hopes all students have the time to enjoy their time at Soc&kom and use the opportunities available.
His message to the staff is that he is here to support them.
“The staff make us what we are. They’re the ones who carry out teaching and research, whereas I’m here to support and help them if they have problems. That’s why I hope everyone thrives at work and has good colleagues.”