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Meet Airi and Joona, Aalto’s student representatives in the Unite! university alliance

At Unite!, students are equal partners and participate in the network's advisory bodies as well as in the planning and implementation of various activities. Students also have their own association, SURE! - Students in Unite! for Representation and Empowerment.
Airi Nevalainen ja Joona Huikuri Aallon opiskelijaedustajiksi Unite-yliopistoverkostoon

A few months ago, Aalto University students Airi Nevalainen and Joona Huikuri started as Aalto's student representatives in the Unite! university network. In addition to Aalto, Unite! includes six European universities, which together build for example joint programs, flexible study pathways and practices for the virtual and physical mobility of students and staff. 

Airi Nevalainen has just graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and started her master's studies. Joona Huikuri is studying in the Information and Service Management program at the School of Business and is currently graduating with a bachelor's degree. In addition to their studies, both have been involved in a wide range of activities. Airi has worked e.g. on the Board of Aalto Economics, which is a discipline specific organization within  economics studies , and as the student representative of the School of Business's teaching competence assessment group. Joona has founded a couple of student associations, and has also served for two years  as vice chairman of the higher education committee of KY,  the Aalto university business school students’ association

We talked to Airi and Joona about their new roles as Unite!’s student representatives and got some great ideas and advice from them.

What is your role in Unite?

Airi and Joona: The role of Unite's student representative is surprisingly diverse. We are part of the SURE! network, which brings together student representatives from Unite! universities. We meet once a month. We are also starting to work on an IDEM (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity in Mobility)  project to improve the mobility of all students. We are also involved in the Unite! Academic Forum meetings and Aalto's own Unite! meetings, where we get to bring out the student perspective in an excellent way.

You have worked with Unite! for a few months now. How does it feel?

Airi: Little by little, I’m internalizing what Unite! is all about and how the alliance operates. The beginning has been a bit confusing and it feels like information is flooding like a tidal wave. Now, however, moving more confident forward.

Joona: There was not much introduction to the Unite!'s student representative role, so my main focus has been to get a grip on all the flood of information. Now that I begin to understand the alliance and how it works, I can better focus on bringing the perspective of students to all of the Unite bodies in which I work.

What benefit do you think Unite! has for the student?

Airi: If Unite! is successful in reaching its goals it could offer students many new opportunities in terms of both course offeringand mobility. I flag them also myself, so it's great to be involved in the project. I am also extremely interested in cultural differences and find it interesting to see at the grassroots level how cooperation is built between different academic cultures.

Joona: The purpose of Unite! is to create a degree-granting meta-campus between all its member universities. However, this sounds like a rather distant idea to me. I don’t think this will be fully realized at least during my studies. The corona pandemic canceled my bachelor exchange twice and I had to make many preparations twice for an exchange period that never happened. Unite! could allow students an easier exchange experience where certain courses can be taken at different universities in Europe. Being able to choose courses that best match your degree would also make the most of the "exchange", which seems to be rare, especially in bachelor exchanges. International co-operation can also facilitate other practical issues that act as a barrier or a barrier to inter-university mobility.

How can we better reach students and get them involved in Unite?

Airi: Unite! is currently, I think, hidden from students. I came across this myself by chance, but luckily so. Unite! should have a stronger presence on social media and websites on its campuses to reach more visibility. Students won’t find Unite's own channels until they have received information about the alliance's opportunities elsewhere.

Joona: Unite! is currently rather poorly visible to the students. I think Unite! could be better visible  on the social media, as well as at orientation week events and on the stage of the student show Speksi, so that students could hear about Unite! and the opportunities it offers. Unite! does not yet offer studies suitable for all Aalto graduates. This makes communication challenging, because as an economist, for example, Unite's offerings in the field of architecture or energy technology don’t really match with my own interests.

Learn more on Unite! (https://www.unite-university.eu)

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