HYVÄT becomes a recognised part of the university

In this third part of HYVÄT’s anniversary blog series Julia von Boguslawski, the 2017 chairperson of HYVÄT, writes about the most significant developments during her time in the board.

When I was accepted as a PhD student at the university of Helsinki in the autumn 2014, I knew practically no other PhD students and had no clue about how I should tackle this whole PhD business. When I heard that there was an association for PhD students at the university that seemed like a good place to start – and it sure was. Before I knew it, I was elected secretary for the board of 2015 when Tommi Tenkanen was our chair and continued the next year when Fanny Johansson was chair, and in 2017 it was my turn to chair the association. After that I have stayed active as an officer of the board. During these years, I have had the opportunity to develop the association together with a bunch of awesome board members.

As the two previous texts by Harri and Tommi have shown, establishing HYVÄT as the new association for PhD students was not accomplished in one year. The hard work of the firsts boards has however been fruitful. Today there is no trace of the slight suspicion the association was met with in the beginning. Now it is asked for comments on various issues concerning the development of doctoral training at the university, such as the evaluation on the structural changes of the doctoral education in 2017. When the elections of the PhD student representatives were held for the second time in 2017, we managed to persuade the university to give PhD students representation also in the board of doctoral education. That means we now are represented on all levels of decision-making that concerns doctoral education at the university. In short, I dare say that HYVÄT has become a recognised part of the university.

Changing the association’s name in 2016 was also one step towards recognition. Then the Finnish part of the name was changed from Helsingin yliopiston jatko-opiskelijat to Helsingin Yliopiston Väitöskirjatutkijat (in Swedish and English it stayed as before: Doktorander vid Helsingfors Universitet / University of Helsinki PhD Students). This may seem as semantics to some, but the fact is, that what we call ourselves does affect how others see us. Promoting a researcher-identity, rather than a student-identity, is about taking a stand for the value of science and researchers in society.

If advocacy is the most important work HYVÄT does, its heart is about keeping in touch with the PhD community. This happens at Summer and Christmas parties, Pub-nights, campus lunches and other events. In 2017 we also managed to introduce two new larger events, sitsit and PhD Kick-off. Sitsit is the core part of Finnish academic party-culture and it is wonderful that HYVÄT carries on this tradition and introduces it to the international members of our PhD student community. Eating, drinking, and singing together simply is the best way of celebrating academic life!

HYVÄT also participatd in the Grand Sitsit orgaised by the Student Union.

Somehow, we also convinced the university to organise a PhD Kick-off for the very first time. It was designed especially for new PhD students – the idea was to welcome them at the university, give them some information of all the things the university offers from libraries to unisport, and provide a laid-back chance to mingle and get to know their fellow PhD students who started at the same time. Initially the idea was to organise the event twice every year, so new PhD students would have a chance to attend reasonably soon after they started their studies. Then Erkki Raulo, the main organiser from the university, popped the idea that the second event could be organised as a party – and so the PhD Summer Fest was arranged for the first time in June 2018. That both sitsit, the Kick-off and the Summer Fest seem to be developing into traditions now, means we must have done something right along the way.

None of these things would have happened, if it wasn’t for the wonderful, committed, and resourceful board members who devoted their time and energy to the association! It has been such a rewarding experience to get to know so many new people from different parts of the university, and to discover that we have so much in common regardless of our different scientific disciplines. My warmest thanks to you all!

I would love to be there with you at the party on Monday 13 May, but as I am writing these words from a research trip in Switzerland, I must enjoy HYVÄT’s big day from afar and hope to be there at the coming anniversaries instead!

Today I wish HYVÄT a wonderful 5th anniversary and prosperous, fun, and active years to come! Party hard tonight! <3