In the general election in spring three young JYU graduates were elected as Members of the Finnish Parliament: Joonas Könttä (Centre Party), Bella Forsgrén (Greens), and Janne Heikkinen (National Coalition Party). I visited them when they had been working at the Parliament for about five weeks.

We sat down in the Yellow Hall to talk about the meaning of the University of Jyväskylä for their lives and future work. We are going to produce a video on this topic. The conversation also touched upon the University’s new strategy, vision and mission. These young MPs presented their views aptly and with appropriate argumentation, giving ample material for an online article.

The new JYU strategy entitled “competence and wellbeing for the individual” is in itself easily associated with the University’s policy for physical activity at the workplace. JYU staff members may use two weekly working hours for physical exercise of their choice. – When you invest an hour in yourself, you gain two in return. This is management by example, demonstrating what well-being is, Joonas Könttä says.

All three have noticed how much growth pains the study years may include for some students. Mental health problems and distress have increased among young people. This point is emphasised by Janne Heikkinen, in particular:

“I find it important that the University takes up holistic well-being as a central issue.”

The new vision of JYU, ”we will be one of the leading science universities in the world in the fields of learning, well-being and basic natural phenomena and also a reformer of expertise and sustainable society”, makes the MPs nod approvingly. – Ambitious aims, Heikkinen states. – And aptly so, Könttä accompanies.

We stop for a while to consider the concept of sustainable society. Bella Forsgrén tells that she approaches this concept from the viewpoint of social and ecological sustainability. – I’m looking at this as a social scientist and see these matters in terms of structures. People coming from different starting points should be able to experience themselves as equally important members of society. Also Janne Heikkinen agrees with this point: – Each of us should be able to feel that it’s possible to reach one’s goals. In this I rely on the individual, however, rather than on the system, Heikkinen adds.

– Maintaining the sense of involvement is really important like also ecological sustainability, that is, looking at things in long term. I wish for a long-term perspective in future decision making; seeking for quick wins is nowadays regrettably common, Forsgrén continues. Könttä is in the same lines,

“People should pass society in a better shape to the next generation; it makes it sustainable.”

As our conversation proceeds, the Finnish term ‘sivistys, i.e. ’education’ and learning, comes up at times. The mission of JYU is defined as ”to be an influential educational university”. I can’t restrain myself from asking what education and learning mean for these fresh MPs.

Joonas Könttä underlines that education and learning have always been a central cornerstone of his ideology. – I’m a living example of what can be achieved by education and learning. Despite the starting points, one can seek education and become a university graduate and then even an MP, which is one of the finest posts a citizen can receive. Naturally, I’m pleased with the fact that in the new Government the Minister of Science and Culture comes from the Centre Party, he adds.

Janne Heikkinen sees education and learning in terms of increasing one’s own understanding. – The coolest thing at university was the broad provision of studies through which I got a chance to gain understanding of topics that I even didn’t realize to interest me, Heikkinen says with a laugh.

Bella Forsgrén sees that appreciation for education and learning constitutes the core for the value basis of society at large. It is about such questions as who have access to school, does everybody have the right to be included within the same sphere of information, and what kind of libraries do we have?

“Education and learning are about searching for new knowledge. Universities play a great role in producing new knowledge. If society doesn’t remember the meaning of education and learning, it forgets its own meaning.”

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