In English: Visiiri met the new President of Tampere University: ”An identity of communal pride elevates organisational culture”

What does our new President think of Tuni’s potential? Will he move to the east or the west of Tampere? We asked Keijo Hämäläinen all the important questions.

Original text: Maria Muilu

Pictures: Nikke Sillanpää

Translation: Emma Brown

Juttu luettavissa myös suomeksi.

The new President of Tampere University is Keijo Hämäläinen, the current Rector of the University of Jyväskylä. The Executive Board of the Tampere University Foundation decided it unanimously in their meeting on 21st March.  

Hämäläinen will begin his 5-year Presidential tenure in Tampere on 1st June. Earlier we were under the impression that the new President would not start until the end of the year, but the Executive board of the Tampere University Foundation justified the advancement with shorter transition periods in both Tampere and Jyväskylä.  

Visiiri met with the new President right after the decision was made. 

Congratulations, Keijo Hämäläinen! How does it feel? 

Thank you. Of course, I’m happy to have achieved something I was striving for. At the same time, though, there’s a certain sense of bittersweetness. The community of the University of Jyväskylä has been so amazing, and I feel that I have truly become a trusted part of it. It’s hard, giving that away. I have and will continue to grieve the loss.  

I’m also a bit anxious to see how the community will welcome me: I’m me, and I’ll do my best. The more conversations I’ve had with the board here and the more I’ve met people, the stronger the feeling that this is going to be excellent. Some nerves, for sure, but I’m also quite confident.  

So, you’re already starting work in June. When did you first hear that you’d be starting during the summer and not at the end of the year? 

The starting time has been a point of dialogue both here and in Jyväskylä. I’m glad not to have to wait too long so I can quickly get to work.  

The University of Jyväskylä is in the midst of a strategy process, where the Rector plays a key role. It would be very hard to lead the process from the outside. So this is also an excellent solution for me, personally. 

Will you have time for a summer break? 

A President needs to vacation like everyone else. In today’s hectic work environment, it’s very important to take vacations – and when you’re at work, to always be available. 

At the beginning stages of the Presidential recruitment process, you said in a Visiiri interview that you had been worriedly following Tampere University’s potential. What steps will you take as President to best harness that potential? (Note: the mentioned interview is only available in Finnish) 

The Tampere University community was founded very calculatedly and ahead of its time. Predictions were made on how collaboration between different sectors and sciences was the way of the future that should be striven towards. Tampere was ahead of its time, and others have very much followed. But you have also been the victim of trendsetting: it’s not easy building both structures and activity and creating an identity and organisational culture. All of these are slow processes.  

In a time of change, all processes and leading structures are used to try and impact the organisational culture – and that takes time. The organisational culture hasn’t quite formed here yet, but it’s getting there. We’ll see how we take that last step. I think people have realised that this is a great place and that we have great aspirations. Now, we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. 

Even after forming a united Tampere University, there’s still a clear divide between students of technology and the humanities. How can we fruitfully work together in the same university community? 

I don’t think the point is to make everyone the same. It’s more important to bring together people who think differently. I think working together is appreciating and respecting each other’s practices, even when not understanding them. 

To the outside, things may look different, if people don’t understand internal structures. The University is seen as a whole, even if we highlight that a matter regards only a certain department or faculty. It’s crucial that we are all proud of our accomplishments together. An identity of communal pride elevates organisational culture.  

The identity environment is also important, and it can’t be too big. We must not crush someone’s pride in, say, their own subject association. We should not fade out the differences between sciences, but rather appreciate, respect, and look at them as whole. Working together doesn’t mean always agreeing.  

What kind of President do you want to be to the students at Tampere University? 

It’s absolutely vital that the President has contact with the community and that people know who the President is, what they’re talking about and what kind of worldview they hold. The student mass is quite big, and meeting everyone is certainly challenging. Even with the Student Union, there are challenges: right when the Executive Board is formed and the Chair is elected, they’re already changing. Keeping in contact requires a lot of work.  

I will certainly make sure to hold regular meetings between the heads of the Student Union and the University. The Chair of the Student Union will always have the President’s direct secret number. 

Schedules permitting, it’s important to honour the Student Union’s and subject associations’ events with my presence. I aim to meet students in my day-to-day, as well. If I see a student at the table of a campus restaurant, I might spontaneously ask them if I could join.  

Have you heard if you’ve been given a nickname among students during your tenure as Rector in Jyväskylä? 

I don’t think I can say… Well, they did call me by my first name. As a child, I was called Keke. Keke Rosberg was a famous Formula 1 driver back then. Then I moved to Helsinki, and nobody called me Keke for 35 years. When I returned to Jyväskylä, Keke came back. I’m not really called that, but it’s kind of a nickname. 

We’ll see what we come up with here.  


You’re going to move to Tampere. There are differences in identity between neighbourhoods: are you planning on moving to eastern or western Tampere? 

I might need to get several apartments and change my story depending on who’s asking… But from an everyday standpoint, my wife and I have been looking at available apartments in the city centre. Life revolves around the train station and the University, so that would be the handiest location. I’ll have to rent an apartment that available right away. We’ll see when my wife will follow.  

Ilves or Tappara? [Ice hockey teams in Tampere]

Koovee. That’s what they told me to say. (The Chair of the Executive Board of the Tampere University Foundation, Jorma Eloranta, remarks from the background that he certainly did not tell Keijo to say that.) 

Ice hockey is a fine sport but I’ve, sadly and quite surprisingly, never really watched it. I’ve played almost every sport except for ice hockey. 

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I’ve become more active in a new hobby of mine: I have a weekend cottage in Central Finland, and spending time there is a real lifeline. I used to go fishing as a child, but I had an almost 40-year break from it. These days, I go net fishing in winter. I had no prior knowledge of how to do it, but it’s a good way to keep up fitness.  

You studied physics at the University of Helsinki. Did you have student overalls? 

No. I regret not being much of a student operative. I was part of a students’ club, so I could apply for an apartment. I was rather boring in the sense that my wife and I had two kids during our studies, I had job and graduated on time. Student life was left on the back burner. 

I’ve gained some of it back in my leadership roles. As a dean, vice-rector, and rector, I’ve had my time to learn about sits party culture. 

Will you go to a sits party here in Tampere if you’re invited? 

Of course, I’ll go! As long as we make sure the songs are appropriate.