Celebrating diversity and social inclusions at Tampere Universities

Author: Raysa França

One good way to start your sustainable journey at Tampere University is to think about diversity and social inclusion. .

You’re not familiar with these concepts? No worries! In this article, we are going to walk you through why diversity matters, and what it can be your role as a student in promoting a socially inclusive university.

Sustainability is not only about the environmental issues, but also the social and communicational conscious. Taking care of the communities is a sign of sustainable mindset. Especially, as students, one of the strongest communities we belong to is the university. Thus, we should, and we can, picture the campuses as great ecosystems. As ecosystems need biodiversity to thrive, the same happens to society. We are stronger when we are different.

But, first thing first. What are diversity and social inclusion about?
Diversity is the variety of human cultures, and it comprises of any kind of minorities (immigrants, women, LGBT, people of color, and so on). However, diversity should not be limited to these dimensions and characteristics, as it includes all aspects such as religion, geography, age, worldviews perspectives, and mental health aspects.

Diversity and social inclusion matter, folks! Why?
Diversity should be valued since it brings many benefits to the university environment:
1. Different perspectives allow students to learn from one another. Can you imagine being in a classroom where people think the same way? No discussions, no debates. Multiple worldviews are enriching, to say the least.
2. Take learning to the next level. People bring to classes different ways to solve problems they learned in their lives, which can present to you, students, new ways to learn. In practice, it means developing creativity and skills to solve problems in a deeper way.
3. You are better connected to multiple people. Your networks will expand to different places in the world, and different cultures and groups inside a nation. What is better than knowing people from everywhere in the world?
This is not overestimating. We need an inclusive university!

Don’t know what could you do as a student to enhance diversity? Here are some ideas to start acting:
1. Take care of your fellow students. Diversity means that people with different backgrounds may struggle with distinct problems. People outside of Europe, for example, may have problems dealing with tuition fees and scholarships. Other international students, depending on the political situation of their home countries, or even their families, may become anxious and have difficulties studying. This is a lesson that the COVID-19 outbreak has taught us. It is very crucial to have a friendship network to support not only the beauties of difference but the difficulties that come with them. Sometimes your big score for a diverse environment may be acting with kindness and care for other people.
2. Research: If you like the topic, why not do your thesis or even discipline tasks with this theme? We need science-based information to support our diversity and inclusion actions.
3. Advocacy work: In Finland, students enjoy political freedom and have a legitimate voice to ask for changes at the university level. Thus, advocacy work is appreciated and encouraged through student and subject associations. In this sense, it is always a good reminder that a university has not only the role to produce research and teaching, but also services that are socially inclusive and that are transformative of the Finnish society.
You can work for this purpose through feedback surveys, collaboration with student associations, communication campaigns, petitions, organization of events, and anything you heart desires.
The great side of working in a student association is that you have the freedom to start projects from scratch. If your subject association doesn’t have a predefined role for diversity & social inclusion, don’t be afraid to start one!

Here are some good associations to start:
ESN FINT (City center campus): https://esnfint.org/
The UN Association of Tampere: http://www.tayk.fi/homepage/
ESN INTO (Hervanta campus): https://esninto.org/
TREY - Student Union of Tampere University (TREY): https://trey.fi/en/
Tamko - Student Union of Tampere University of Applied Sciences: https://www.tamko.fi/en
CLINT - Club International Tampere, mainly for international students and exchange students (sub-organization of Tamko): http://clint.tamk.fi

And of course, your own subject association!

Food for thought:
Keep in mind that diversity is not a burden or a cost. It is rather an asset that we offer to the university to enrich the experience for all students and staff members.