President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö visited Aalto University as part of his Kultaranta university tour and replied questions posed by students in a direct webcast. The topic of the discussion was Money is increasing and technology is revolutionising: Will the economic order change? It was moderated by the third-year economics student and vice chair of KY (Aalto University Business Students) Elina Rauvala.
‘An assignment as distinguished as this was new to me, and I consider it a major show of confidence. But, on the other hand, it’s very characteristic of Aalto that, as a student, I was given an opportunity to step directly into such big shoes. I’m very excited about the assignment,’ Elina Rauvala says.
Rauvala prepared for moderating the discussion by reading news on economic and technology issues in various channels. Careful preparation paid off, because that way Rauvala got most of the discussion herself as well.
‘I was anxious about whether I would get nervous, but, to my surprise, ultimately I didn't feel nervous at all. Careful preparation for addressing the theme of discussion and the support provided by the Aalto production team helped me a lot, and I could focus on the questions and the President's replies – and even enjoy the situation. I personally felt that I did my part well, but it made me feel particularly good that the President's Aide-de-Camp called me after the event and thanked me for the well-moderated discussion.’
The questions the students posed to the President concerned topical issues, such as how to enable economic growth after the coronavirus pandemic, cryptocurrencies, Finland's role in international confidence-building, or how Finland could ensure that foreign students stay in Finland to work after their studies.
‘It may be that the President found some of the questions a little surprising, but, evidently, that is what he had been hoping for, as he had separately asked that no pre-selection of people asking questions or questions to be asked be made,’ Elina Rauvala says.
‘And this way, the President got to learn what currently occupies the students’ minds.’
Great and memorable opportunity
The opportunity to discuss with the President of the Republic had clearly inspired Aalto students, as more than 50 students had registered for the discussion. Ultimately, about a dozen of them had a chance to ask their questions, including students from the various schools of Aalto. Questions were asked both in Finnish and in English.
‘In Finland, which has a culture of low hierarchies, the opportunity to ask questions from the President of the Republic may not be highly unusual, but particularly from the perspective of many foreign students this was a great and certainly memorable opportunity,’ says Professor Hannu Seristö.
‘It’s important and valuable that people discuss various matters with our students. They follow the world closely and broadly. Aalto students appear to have an exceptionally wide perspective on societal matters through, for example, having already lived and gone to school in different parts of the world.’
The discussions held with students of three universities pave the way for the Kultaranta Talks to be held next summer, so they were probably considered fruitful by not only the students but the President himself as well.
‘I’ve just taught a first-year course on the subject Economics of global challenges and I’ve noticed that young people really want to understand global problems and find knowledge-based solutions to them. Therefore, I believe that the discussion was unique and equally inspiring for both the students and the President himself,’ says Professor Matti Liski.
In the Kultaranta discussions, President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö exchanged thoughts with students on great power politics, climate change and the international economy. The university tour under the Kultaranta title was organised jointly with Aalto University, the University of Lapland and the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT.