A young man from a small village in Pylkönmäki became interested in history, studied at the University of Jyväskylä and graduated as a teacher of history and social sciences, and was elected as a Member of the Finnish Parliament and Minister for Science and Culture. The university studies offered Petri Honkonen “a large window” through which to look at and understand the world, providing skills for social influence as well.

Petri Honkonen comes originally from Kalmari, a small village in Pylkönmäki, which is now, since 2009, a part of Saarijärvi. The very first occupation he dreamt of in childhood was that of farmer. In his teens, Petri took interest in animal husbandry, and still in his study years he was earning additional income as a farm relief worker.

Petri graduated from Saarijärvi Upper Secondary School in 2006. History had always been a motivating school subject for him, and also studies in Political Science felt interesting. Although being shy and prudent by his basic character, this young man did have his opinions and also dared express them.

“At the upper secondary school, I acted as the chairman of our student union and became interested in societal matters.”

In 2006, the University of Jyväskylä had an exceptionally large number of candidates in the admission exams for history. – It might be due to the thin test book, Petri says laughing. Despite the harsh competition, Petri was admitted at his first try, and after doing his military service, he started his studies at the Department of History in 2007.

Petri participated in the activities of Centre Students Finland and was an active member in the subject association Tosine ry. Gradually, he started to gain positions of trust. He vividly recalls the good atmosphere, freedom and creativity at the University. Petri and his fellow students used to spend time in the Library cafeteria making the world a better place and talking politics.

“It was a great time of learning. I had positions of trust in the Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä and experienced student life in the city, living also in the Kortepohja student village.”

As regards his study years, Petri Honkonen also points out his student exchange period in Albi, France, where he studied e.g. French history. He studied French also in Belgium and several courses in Jyväskylä. Petri praises the University’s language studies and teachers. Good language skills have been an advantage in international positions of trust.

“No one should skip a chance to go for a student exchange.”

Petri graduated from JYU in 2014, after a period in working life, e.g. as an MP’s Assistant and working for rural development. His Master’s thesis dealt with Santeri Alkio’s thinking on political centrism.

Petri Honkonen has been a member of the City Council of Saarijärvi since 2013. Before the Parliamentary election in 2015, Petri worked for only a couple of years as a history teacher. He was elected as an MP at his first attempt. Now he is a second-term MP representing the Finnish Centre Party. He has worked as a Vice Chair of the Centre Party since 2019.

An MP’s work involves continuous learning, as the flood of information is enormous. Success in this work calls for diligent familiarisation with matters and acquisition of large entities. Petri feels that the University of Jyväskylä prepared him well in this respect. The positions of trust in the Student Union trained him for influencing, involvement, and promotion of interests.

“For my whole career as a MP, I have represented Finland in the General Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council, for which my exchange studies provided a good basis. There we are working for the promotion of human rights and freedom of speech. The history studies have offered ‘a large window ‘ to the world and helped understand various connections between different matters. It is easier to grasp new information quickly in Committee work, for instance, when you have a large knowledge base.”

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