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Finland, ASU take first joint steps

May 22, 2007

When people think of Finland, they usually think of the aurora borealis, reindeer, the arts and good design (Alvar Aalto, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Iittala, Marimekko, Esa-Pekka Salonen).

They may also think about technology – particularly if they use a Nokia cellular phone.

But Finland also is renowned for its knowledge-based economy, engineering, machinery and advancements in wireless technology, too.

Finland, with its population of more than 5.2 million and its 10 universities, is positioned well to be an exchange partner in education and technology with ASU and the state of Arizona.

ASU and Finland took the first step toward a multipronged relationship with the visit in April of Marilyn Ware, U.S. ambassador to Finland .

Ware, accompanied by Brian McCleary, head of the commercial section of the U.S. Embassy in Finland, made a one-day visit to the Tempe campus that was packed with information.

The whirlwind tour of ASU started with a welcome by Anthony “Bud” Rock, vice president for Global Engagement, and Gary Waissi, dean of the School of Global Management and Leadership.

Ware was impressed by the comprehensive presentations from the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, Mary Lou Fulton College of Education and Applied Learning Technologies Institute, SkySong, and the Office of Sustainability Initiatives.

The ambassador also was treated to tours of Decision Theater and the ASU Art Museum , and presentations by the Herberger College of the Arts and the College of Design , where Ware exchanged views with the deans on the progressive styles of Finnish culture and design. The day ended with a meeting with representatives of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Dawn Kallestad, director of the Office of Global Engagement, says Ware's visit set the tone for partnerships between the university and Finland.

“Ambassador Ware was extremely impressed with ASU,” Kallestad says. “The ambassador was delighted with her stay in Arizona, and believes the potential for U.S.-Finnish cooperation is enormous.”

ASU chose to explore a Finnish connection for several reasons, Rock says.

“Given the quality of the Finnish education system, several unique capabilities of Finland's technology-based industry, and our relationship with Finland through Gary Waissi, we reached out to Ambassador Ware to explore possible collaborative opportunities, such as student opportunities with Finnish universities and opportunities to engage Finnish corporations in economic cooperation with industries and SkySong,” he says.

Julia Rosen, assistant vice president for research and economic development, presented the university's entrepreneurial portfolio, focusing on SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Center for Innovation.

“SkySong is designed as a two-way global portal – both serving as a ‘soft landing' for firms from outside the United States who seek to enter the American marketplace, and as a gathering place for innovators and entrepreneurs already operating in Arizona and the United States,” Rosen says. “ Finland is a country rich in technological innovation. By briefing the U.S. ambassador to Finland on ASU's assets, we hope to raise ASU's profile as a potential partner for dynamic Finnish enterprises.”

The ambassador commented that the collective offering of space, services and university connections would be very well received by innovation-based firms in Finland, Rosen says.

The next step in the ASU-Finland connection is for Rock and Waissi to visit Finland “to expand on the relationship established with the Embassy and to meet with universities and companies to determine areas of collaboration, particularly with the schools of engineering, education, design, and also with SkySong,” says Kallestad, who adds that ASU also is pursuing student exchange opportunities.