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Helka Kekäläinen

Helka Maria Kekäläinen (previously Mäkinen)
Born February 2, 1967, Kankaanpää

Master of Arts 1993 and PhD 2001 (theatre studies), University of Helsinki

Head of Unit, Finnish Education Evaluation Centre
Secretary general 2008–14, Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council (FINHEEC)
Senior Advisor in university sector 2005–2008, Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council (FINHEEC)
Planning and administrative posts 2001–05, University of Helsinki
Acting professor of Theatre Studies 2000–01, University of Helsinki
Research associate in theatre studies 1998–2000, University of Helsinki
PhD student 1995–98, National Doctoral Study Programme in the Performing Arts

Dissertation: Elli Tompuri – uusi nainen ja punainen diiva (Elli Tompuri – the New Woman and the Red Diva)

Photo: Matti Kajaste
Written by Helka Kekäläinen (Olli Siitonen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My best memories from the University of Helsinki

My best memories from the University of Helsinki are connected with the International Summer School in Theatre Studies, where I completed my doctoral dissertation between 1995 and 2000. During those years it dawned on me that our professor, Pirkko Koski, had succeeded in recruiting the international crème-de-la-crème of our field to the Summer School teaching staff. By bouncing ideas of this group of experts, it was easy to present my own papers at the conferences of the International Federation for Theatre Research, even in the early stages of my PhD programme. I felt privileged to get to know many of the congresses’ keynote speakers.

The International Summer School in Theatre Studies in Lammi. Photo: Pirkko Koski’s home archive.

The regularity and long-term nature of work at the Summer School required self-discipline: A paper, in English, needed to be written on schedule if it was to be handled at the Summer School. The development of my own thinking also became evident in these annual encounters. With the help of my Summer School contacts, I was able to travel as a visiting researcher to the University of California Davis, where the dynamism of the American university world left a good impression, and as a result I published my first article in English on Oscar Wilde’s reception in Finland. From the perspective of my later career, internationalism has been the key to my success. The International Summer School in Theatre Studies failed to make me a theatre researcher until the end of my days, but it was there that I learnt key skills for working in an international environment and the courage to accept challenges in foreign cultures.

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