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Tuija Talvitie

Tuija Kristiina Talvitie
Born August 29, Lapua

Master of Arts (English philology) 1987, University of Helsinki

Executive director 2009–, Crisis Management Initiative (CMI)
Executive director 1997–2009, British Council Finland
Exchanges Officer and Assistant Librarian 2 1987–97, British Council Finland

Board member 2005–, CMI
Steering group member, Counterpoint
Board member 2015­–, Demos Helsinki
Board member Think Tank e2
Delegation member of the University of Helsinki Alumni Association 2015–

Photo: Tuomo Manninen
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Matthew Billington

A Three-Month Replacement

Tuija Talvitie began her studies at the University of Helsinki in 1979 and graduated as a Master of Arts in English philology in 1987. During that time she had the opportunity to enjoy all the perks offered by the University. To Talvitie, the library of the English department in the depths of the Porthania building was the seat of luxury—there she could read in peace and absorb knowledge.

– I had the good fortune to study English philology at a time when the staff at the department included such international personalities as Diana Webster, Tim Andrews, Andrew Chesterman and Mark Shackleton. The atmosphere was open and unprejudiced. The teaching was broad, both thematically and temporally—we read all kinds of literature from the English speaking world, and through those texts we discussed societal matters.

Tim Andews also inspired his pro-seminar group outside the classroom. Many of his students and friends could enjoy the seaside and wonderful discussions at Timsö. Photo from the home album of Tuija Talvitie.

Talvitie says that her most valuable lesson from the University was how important it was to keep an eye on the big picture and not get bogged down with minor, micro-level details.

– I feel that a particular strength of the humanities the way it teaches how everything is connected. In today’s society, it is by no means enough to be an expert in some narrow field. It is a sign of expertise to be able to grasp and understand the larger whole, and to automatically think about things on a wider spectrum.

Like today, the majority of language students in the 1980s wanted to become teachers. Talvitie had decided early on that teaching was not her thing. After getting her master’s degree, she was hired as a temporary replacement at the British Council Finland.

– I think my title was Assistant Librarian Number Two. A three-month temporary position felt like an interesting experiment, but I ended up sticking around for a lot longer.

Talvitie quickly progressed through the ranks of the British Council Finland. Finally, she found herself in a situation where the whole organisation collapsed and she alone remained to rebuild it. The organisation changed from a cultural centre with a focus on Britain to a more regional unit promoting collaboration and networking.

– I found my work meaningful. I was able to concentrate on education, research collaboration, climate change, and all kinds of creative activity. There was talk of creative societies, a creative city, and a creative classroom. My work often allowed me to experience situations that otherwise would have passed me by. There was also a strong feeling that as an organisation we could influence things and make real progress.”

All in all, Talvitie worked at the British Council Finland for over 20 years. Then came the desire to feel a new breeze under her wings. Since 2009, she has been involved in collaboration and influencing society on a global scale as the Executive Director of Crisis Management Initiative (CMI).

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