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Katariina Styrman

Born March 3, 1980, Espoo

Master of Arts (General History), 2009

Managing Director, Finnish Sauna Society, 2014-
Secretary General, Student Union of the Helsinki University (HYY), 2008–2012
Chair, Student Union Representative Council, 2007
Deputy Chair, Student Union Representative Council, Chair of Economic Committee, 2006
Chair, Kronos ry, 2003

Photo: The Finnish Sauna Society
Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by John Calton

From the refuge of the Student Union to the heat of the sauna

Katariina Styrman came to the University from Matinkylä in Espoo in 2000. Studying at the University was not an obvious choice but she was an avid reader, especially where historical works were concerned. Her passion for studying came from her parents who encouraged her to continue. The then Department of History was to be home for the following ten years.

Styrman has great appreciation for Finnish education and the school system, especially because children from more disadvantaged backgrounds are given equal opportunities. Styrman notes that this is a great way to make use of the whole of society’s potential.

“Once, when I was talking with Matti Klinge, he mentioned that he addresses all his students formally precisely because everyone is equal and on the same line. Not everyone comes from a so-called cultural home or has the benefit of a strong academic background, so the teacher must treat everyone equally, ignoring possible class differences. Later when we took part in the promotion in 2010, we agreed to use first names.”

Styrman had time to be active in student organisations as well on the side, which is one of the reasons why her studies took ten years. She got into student organisation activity during her first autumn in the organisation for history students, Kronos ry. Kronos had, and indeed has a tradition of asking the freshmen to organise their annual Christmas party.

“Working in the student organisation felt natural: the people were nice and we started hanging out together and that led to doing all kinds of things together. The esprit de corps was the trigger that got me involved. That’s how I got the idea.” Styrman was persuaded in 2003 to become a candidate standing in the Student Representative Elections of the Student Union. She was duly elected and although the task turned out to be tougher than expected, her studies rolled on nicely (with time in her schedule even for a term in Russia as required in her subsidiary subject). Being active in the Council led to even further involvement in the Student Union. Fresh elections took her to the Board of the Union and eventually she became Secretary General.

Preparing the Student Representative Council Elections in 2011 with Emma Ronkainen. Photo: The Student Union of the University of Helsinki.​
Preparing the Student Representative Council Elections in 2011 with Emma Ronkainen. Photo: The Student Union of the University of Helsinki.​

Working in the Student Union, both as a representative member and as Secretary General, brought a lot of responsibility and the prerequisites for operation were much greater than in student organisations, but the basic idea remained the same. Things were done together for the good of all students. Styrman even mentions that the most important thing was to understand the meaning of your own role and action as part of the entire organisation. The first steps at the Union involved getting a sense of the organisational structure and form wholes out of small details. Later, as head of the staff, it became necessary to separate the essential from the inessential to save the staff time. It was in situations like this that Styrman found her history studies extremely practical and useful.

Nowadays Styrman is the managing director of the Finnish Sauna Society and the work is more varied than you would think.

“One day I might be inaugurating a new sauna with Prince Edward and another day I might be going through the fire safety drill in saunas. Through my studies and working in organisations I learnt representative and presentational skills.”



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