Monday, December 7, 2009

Independence Day for Finland

December 6th was the Finnish Independence Day... a day that I missed while in Copenhagen. Yet, for this city of Helsinki as its was a grand day of concerts, events, and an official formal gala with the president and key officials with a major ball and other recognized formalities on the TV. Finland received its independence in about 1917... not yet a hundred years. If you were here, you would continue to hear of its domination for many centuries by Sweden, and its recent issues with Russia. I had not realized that part of its territory - Karelia- was taken or given to Russia with the war...and that they still grieve over the loss. Many of the original Karelians had the opportunity and often have come to Finland because of the poitical and financial issues facing Russia. How little I know of the many problems faced by other countries and peoples... how fortunate we are to not have experienced the ongoing issues of war amongst neighbors.
So, toss you hat for the Finnish Independence Day!!!

Hopenhagen and Climate Change

This weekend I visited Copenhagen and Lis Hemmingsen of the Danish School of Education. Of course, it was also the site for the upcoming World Conference on Climate Change. The airport was a place of a number of sites to meet delegates, as well as many varied posters and statements on issues of the climate. But, the inner city also was an amazing display of huge displays (lighted for viewing at night) with pictures and English phrases regarding aspects of the environment, such as a polar bear and the loss of ice in the Artic. There was a gigantic inflated globe of the world, display tents from various organizations, such as the World Wildlife Federation, and most curiously a huge ice carving of a polar bear. There were many posters with key leaders and the phrase that in the year of 2020 they could have made a decision to change the world climate situation at this conference. Did they want to be held accountable for the loss? It had an amazing impact upon me and I suspect others.
Of equal fascination were the displays from the city. There were also posters and displays on buses of the words... “Hopenhagen” This was a subtle, but clear concern that Copenhagen could be the place of hope for a better future for climate policy. It was fascinating to think about all of the 15,000 delegates to the conference, as well as the city of Copenhagen and its many tourists…all focused upon climate change and the future of the world. How do we learn and communicate our desires for this future? It may be a valued experience to host this type of conference (although there are concerns for protest riots and for the general chaos of huge numbers of individuals. Clearly Denmark was actively engaged in the dialogue with the conference. What would a USA city have done in these same circumstances?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Learning of Professionals in the Project

For the past two days, I have offered lectures and instructional facilitation for a group of teachers of further education, (this means faculty who work in polytechnics – professional programs that are application-oriented). This group works with the Collaborative Intensity project based in Metropolia College and the project I am providing Fulbright support. I provided dialogue and stimulus lectures/discussion about their work in the project start-up. They are developing partnerships with various public and private organizations to integrate their academic programs and instruction with the work life of that organization. For example, about half of the individuals work with health care programs, so they are working with hospitals and municipal health care services to identify ways to integrate with them through practical involvements of their students, research projects, and other possibilities.
I found the group to be intently engaged, but reticent to speak during our time together. They suggested that it was the Finnish way. So, the next day, they were both more responsive, but I had also structured more exercises for them to brainstorm and share beyond my discussions of communities of practice, the inclusion of adult students with young students, and the initial development of partnerships. I am always amazed at the ability of other individuals who are not native English speakers to listen, understand, and speak in English. These folks were amazing as they struggled sometimes with locating a technical English word for their Finnish activities. I also found them to appreciate the sharing of their past work at integration with their colleagues. I would hope these experiences have a positive impact on their future work.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bollywood and international experiences

As in the US, Metropolia had a staff and faculty gathering in downtown Helsinki on Friday night. The theme was Bollywood… Yes, about one-third of the folks were in full dress, about one-third had some form of Indian garb – scarf, etc, and one third were given a “bindi”- a beauty spot on their forehead. As I saw the decorations, the excellent buffet of Finnish and Indian food, and then the Bollywood dance celebration, I marveled at the differences. They asked if US universities did the same…and I had to admit that we never had a “party” like this with the whole university. So, we discussed our department or college gatherings to celebrate the end of the year and the season of holidays. Although there were many in my group of faculty who didn’t come, it was obvious that folks here were carefree and lighthearted last night. Two of the faculty had rented costumes and looked like Aladdin and the Sheik… with makeup and full head to toe costumes. It was amazing. I also considered how these folks were able (yes about 300 or more) had found Indian dress or a facsimile.
Yes, Finland is not only part of the broader world, but its people have had experiences of travel, study leaves, and research projects in India, Africa, and Asia. I suspect that my colleagues, as worldly as they may be, have not had these same opportunities. Many of the Finnish faculty travels have been funded through the government to provide social and educational supports in other parts of the world, as well as support for international travel. From my vantage spot, the US talks about internationalization…but doesn’t step forward to provide the financial and physical structural supports. I fear we are losing our worldview—because of our isolation to the rest of the world. We don’t speak multiple languages, we don’t craft our work in relation to other countries and systems … we appear to dabble, rather than commit and act. We have much to learn from the Finnish perspective.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Today is just another day in Finland. I discovered it was Thanksgiving in Raleigh as I chatted with my B & B hotel breakfast colleagues about the weather…and discovered that today Raleigh is under a dense fog severe weather alert.
My life here is continuing to be a fascinating venture. I have found that Metropolia College, my project site, has an “adult education” effort focused upon select programs targeted to adults who are working and who wish to return and receive a credential or additional training. However, this focus is a unique one for the institution. If individuals desire to be in an undergraduate academic program that has an adult education commitment, they come four nights a week (yes, from 5-8pm taking courses) and complete their two year course of study in about 1 ½ years. Not all programs offer this option. At the master’s level, individuals come one week a month (yes, during the day) and complete their studies in approximately 1 year. Both of these options are paid by the government, so the program and courses are free to the students. At this time, there is not a significant press for adult career changers. Part of the stability is the economy and part of it is the culture. They have mandated retirement (which varies depending upon the year of your birth – due to policy changes. So, you may be required to retire at 54 up to 63 years of age…and you are called a “pensioner”.) I hear little of industrial layoffs, they face limited migration, and, I suspect, it is a hearty culture that doesn’t easily attract outsiders (to learn Finnish and live in a climate of colder weather and limited sunshine in the winter).
Tonight I will experience the Finnish Symphony in Finlandia Hall… It should be a special treat

Monday, November 23, 2009

Helsinki - November 22

Helsinki and Metropolia College of Applied Science
Helsinki is an amazing, compact city. I start tomorrow with a meeting of the key faculty leaders in the area of Health and Social Services at Metropolia College of Applied Sciences. The college was created by the merging of two institutions in 2008 and is now the largest technology college - or what I would call polytechnic college - in Finland, with a specific focus on serving international student clientele as well as the greatest Helsinki metropolitan area. I will be working with the group in Health on a project called, collaborative intensity, a partnership with the Helsinki hospitals and Metropolia through funding from the European Union. They are creating a partnership in both the instruction and action research across these two arenas.
This weekend I have a number of special experiences as a explore Helsinki. During Saturday, I joined the massess and saw a major exhibit of Picasso from the key museum in Paris with Picasso's collective works. Although I have seen various pictures by Picasso over the year... this was by far the most impressive exhibit, with the best representation of all of his works = from the earliest to a few months before his death. Further, it included his patins, his drawings, his sculpture (yes he was a great sculpture) and mix media too. There were also photos and a variety of drawing. I again was in awe of his amazing creativity, and discovered his close relationship with Braque. Secondly, I did shopping for food --- at a major grocery store - Kompaii-- in the basement of the bus terminal and major shopping area. It was an amazing experience seeing the packing, pricing, and of course -- the names in Finnish of many products. I was not clear about buying chicken, but last night I did discover that I can guessed correctly. I also went to the Rock chuch on Sunday and experiences an English worship service filled with individuals from throughout the world. I discovered that there was a committed group to Bible translation through a presentation from someone in Togo and also a brief discussion of a mission representative from Singapore. So, even Finland - which is someone homogenous in culture - has an active outreach to other lands. The church itself was amagin --built within a rocky mount-- in a rounded auditorium structure. It was most impressive on the inside - given that you felt literally you were walking into a rock. Yes, Helsinki is filled with huge rock structures throughout the city.
I will share more later...with the weather and the college. These three weeks shoudl be an amazing difference from my experiences in Korea and Malaysia. Now to resolve technology difficulties - as well as experience my first Helsinki bus ride back to my private hotel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I am back in Raleigh with the rains of Hurricane Ida. And the next few days I am getting caught up with life survival activities...and preparing for Finland next week.
As I pause to think about these past three weeks... I recall a discussion with an fellow traveler in the "holding lounge" in Taipei on our way from Kuala Lumpur to LAX. He believed all college students should spend a summer, a semester, a year, in a developing country doing service work. He believed that Americans (he was Scottish, Malaysian, and Australian ) were very naive and ethnocentric. So, he challenges all of us to move beyond our comfort zones - and learn and be in the world of diversity beyond our white faces, our cultural understandings, and our achievement focus. In particular, he and I spoke of the many international students in the US...who gain so much beyond the classroom, while few US students have the same type of opportunities.
Another key reflection from my chats with my Malaysia counterparts - they view traditional extension outreach by the university to no longer to knowledge exchange. Rather, it has become entrepreneurial, focused on benefit exchange between private industries and the university, and with traditional training activities become cost centers. Yes, even in Malaysia, they have seen significant changes in the roles of universities providing lifelong learning supports.
I will share more when I start my next segment - my Fulbright experience in Finland around November 19th-20th. So, thanks for checking this blog out! And I have learned many painful lessons about connections between my laptop and hotel internet access. You don't want to learn about the many crazy moments... just say, even in the best of hotels and universities - technology does have its own glitches.