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21.08.2015 13:03

Academic of the Year candidates 2015

Every year, the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers selects an Academic of the Year. Four candidates are presented here. The Union Board nominates the Academic of the Year. The nomination will be published at the Union’s seminar in October.

Juhana Aunesluoma (b. 1967)

Juhana Aunesluoma

  • D.Phil., Adjunct Professor, Director, political history, University of Helsinki, Network for European Studies
  • Visiting Professor, University of Minnesota (2015–2017)

Juhana Aunesluoma completed his Master’s Degree in Political History at the University of Helsinki in 1993 and his Doctor of Philosophy degree (D. Phil.) at Oxford University in 1998. In 2001–2009, he worked as a university lecturer in political history at the University of Helsinki, and since 2010 he has been the Director for the University of Helsinki Network for European Studies, which is part of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Before his university career, Aunesluoma worked for a while as a researcher at the Finnish Association of Graduate Engineers (TEK) and Nokia Corporation. In 2015–2017, he will work as Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota (The Government of Finland and David and Nancy Speer Professor in Finnish Studies).

Aunesluoma has been a member of the University Collegium, the faculty council and department council, and member of the Board of the University of Helsinki in 2009–2013.

Aunesluoma has been a member of the Finnish Matriculation Examination Board (chair of the history and social studies section) and in 2014–2015 chair of the Board of the Finnish Institute in London. Among his positions of trust within the scientific community, acting as the Chair of the Finnish European Studies Association is worth mentioning. 

Juhana Aunesluoma’s research themes are socially relevant and topical. His key subjects have included the relationship between geopolitics, security and financial institutions in international politics and Finland’s foreign policy. Currently, he and his team are researching the end of the Cold War and the emergence of Europe’s new political and economic order in the early 1990s. The change of political identities in recent European history is his new research interest.

He is a sought-after expert in the media, especially in matters related to the European Union. Juhana Aunesluoma has provided topical comments to public debate in Finland in his blog, on Facebook and Twitter, among other channels. His views also transcend Finland’s borders, as he regularly also gives comments to foreign audiences in conventional as well as social media.


Mari K. Niemi (b. 1974)

Mari K Niemi

  • PhD, Political history, Senior Researcher, Centre for Parliamentary Studies, University of Turku
  • Visiting Scholar, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow (2013–2016)

Mari K. Niemi completed her doctoral degree in political history last autumn (doctoral dissertation Kaksi tietä huipulle: Media ja puoluejohtajuus Suomessa naisten noususta populismin aaltoon) [Pathways to the Top. Media and Party Leadership in Finland from Women's Breakthrough to the Wave of Populism.]  In her studies with a multidisciplinary approach, Niemi has reviewed political leadership and party leader elections, the relationship between media and politics, populism and political campaigning as well as the conditions of social debate. On-going research projects: Election Campaigns as Signification Struggles. The History of Finnish Post-War Election Campaigning. (Emil Aaltonen Foundation) and The Mediation of Expertise. The Functions of Expert Opinion in News Journalism. (Helsingin Sanomat Foundation).

Mari K. Niemi has a number of referee articles on, for example, women’s path to becoming party leaders, the relationship between populism and the media, changes of party leaders and the significance of digital communications for politicians’ careers. In addition, she has written several book chapters on her research topics. Niemi has also edited a number of books that popularise science and have given rise to social debate. Her more popular articles, book reviews and op-eds have been published in Kanava, Helsingin Sanomat and Turun Sanomat, among others.

In addition to lectures, Niemi has given special courses on political leadership in English at Tampere and Turku universities. Besides international conferences, she has featured as an invited speaker in the Czech Parliament and the Hungarian Press Correspondents’ Club.

Mari K. Niemi is an example of the new kind of researcher who is not afraid to take a stand on topical political discussion. Mari is a very active user and influential person in social media, and she has networked extensively also outside the academic world, both in Finland and the United Kingdom. She also writes the Ylämaan kettu blog for Suomen Kuvalehti, and she has previously worked as a radio columnist for Yle Radio 1 Ykkösaamu programme and is a regular columnist for Turun Sanomat. Mari is a sought-after political commentator who has analysed Finnish politics for both Finnish and international media, and she has acted as election expert in the news in Finnish on Swedish SVT. In recent years, she has commented on Scottish and UK elections for Finnish media. 

Personal website:

Vappu Sunnari (b. 1952)

Vappu Sunnari

  • Doctor of Education, Assistant Professor
  • University lecturer, Women and Gender Studies, University of Oulu

Vappu Sunnari completed her doctoral degree at the University of Oulu in 1997. She has worked as senior assistant and university lecturer in gender studies at the University of Oulu since 1998 and also as an appointed professor of education at the University of Luleå at a time when the future of the gender studies was threatened at the University of Oulu. Sunnari is a representative appointed by the Ministry of Social and Health Affairs in the Barents region cooperation project and its steering group “Children and Youth at Risk in the Barents Region” (CYAR) and a member of the UNESCO network’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

Sunnari has distinguished herself as a research team leader and instructor of young researchers in addition to steering the discipline as its only regular teacher. Since 1998, she has developed international multidisciplinary research, multivocational education and cooperation networks in the fields of violence prevention, caring interaction and gender equality with her research team.

The research team currently has 15 members. Of them, nine are doctoral students whose main instructor is Sunnari. Three doctoral dissertations have been completed, and there are two post doc researchers in the team. As the only salaried person in the discipline, Sunnari has persistently built and maintained the multidisciplinary gender studies research team and its unique profile. She has played a key role in negotiating on the role of the discipline at the University of Oulu, given basic and advanced courses and methodology studies to research-phase students so as to train experts and scholars in the field.

Sunnari has headed approximately 20 research and development projects, such as two Academy of Finland projects, seven projects within the EU’s Daphne programme, one EU framework programme project, the NordForsk project and the Finnish National Board of Education project.

Personal website:

Saara Särmä (b. 1975)


  • D.Soc.Sc., international politics
  • feminist, artist and scholar. Works on a scholarship.

Saara Särmä is a researcher of international politics and collage artist who completed her doctoral degree at the University of Tampere (2014). In her doctoral dissertation Junk Feminism and Nuclear Wannabes – Collaging Parodies of Iran and North Korea, Särmä studied the role of laughter in world politics and in particular western daily understandings of “nuclear wannabes” Iran and North Korea through a feministic research approach. As her materials, Särmä used cartoons spread on the web and social media.

Saara Särmä’s research themes are feminist theory, masculinities and femininities in international politics, experimental and art inspired visual methodologies, laughter and humour in world politics, Internet parodies and memes.

Congrats, you have an all-male panel! is Saara Särmä’s project that has reached a lot of publicity, not only in national media and social media, but also internationally (e.g. Huffington Post, Daily Telegraph, BBC, Guardian). It is a website on which Särmä collects photographs of panels, seminars, editorial boards and other corresponding academic and professional contexts with only men. There are photographs from around the world, and new ones are added all the time.

The Congrats, you have an all-male panel! project is an example of how the third, or social, task of the university can also include critical dimensions, which aim to make social power structures visible – also in the academic community’s own practices.

Congrats, you have an all-male panel! is also part of Saara Särmä’s and Rosa Meriläinen’s  Feministinen ajatushautomo Hattu think tank’s Naiset esiin! [Women forward] project that has received a grant from Kone Foundation. Hattu’s website:

Personal website:

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