As a part of the activities of the EC2U Alliance, Professors Daniela Șoitu and Conțiu Tiberiu Șoitu from Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi in Romania visited the University of Turku between 24 and 25 April 2023. During their visit, the Professors met the EC2U coordination team and staff members from the Faculties of Social Sciences and Medicine.
Conțiu Tiberiu Șoitu is a Professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Work and Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Social-Political Sciences at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi. In the EC2U Alliance, he is a Professor in the LIFELINE Joint Master's Programme.
Daniela Șoitu is a Professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Work at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi. She is the leader of EC2U Work Package 4, which focuses on health and wellbeing. At the University of Turku, Work Package 4 is coordinated by Professor Sari Stenholm at the Department of Public Health.
Ana-Maria Grigoriu, an intern from Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi, sat down with them to talk about their role in the EC2U Alliance and their visit to Turku.
What does your journey in the Alliance look like in terms of activities?
– This is a challenging, innovative project. Within the work package, we have organised around 32 monthly meetings in addition to other meetings and visits to different EC2U universities. We are also responsible for selecting students to the LIFELINE Joint Master’s programme, Daniela explains.
– We are developing activities by engaging more colleagues from different fields of study. We have held half-day conferences with online participation, forming inter-university teams on particular themes and with the intention of shaping an academic community within EC2U, Daniela adds.
– I have contributed to the accreditation and implementation of the LIFELINE Master's degree and identified potential legislative difficulties and sought solutions to them. Within the Master’s programme I have prepared a new course in English and during the half-day conferences of the Virtual Institute I have presented on mental health on campus, details Conțiu on his academic role.
How do you combine your work as a teacher with the work you are now doing in the Alliance?
– The project requires a lot of time but can also be rewarding. Work-family balance is not easy to achieve and many times EC2U took priority, but all in all, we are enjoying both experiences. I have previous experience with 30+ national and European projects and this has helped me to manage the responsibilities and activities better within EC2U, Daniela points out.
– This career path requires passion and dedication. I have been involved in numerous associations and projects but EC2U has a special place and character due to the ambitious objectives and the institutions involved, states Conțiu.
What was the purpose of your visit to the University of Turku?
– I set out to reach out to each of the 6 partner universities during summer schools and forums. It is more efficient and easier to come up with ideas and solutions when you know the partner university, the conditions and the working environment of the people involved. This facilitates collaboration in the coming years, emphasises Daniela.
– Another important aim of this visit was to lay the foundations for the accreditation of the Master’s programme, says Daniela.
– I also wanted to get to know the Finnish academic space, the Turku campus and city which I can describe as very beautiful and interesting, adds Conțiu.
How would you describe your experience in Turku?
– I found colleagues with common concerns, similar teaching methods and a good way of publishing research results, which are also accessible for the public on the university’s website, describes Daniela.
– We wanted to learn about supporting the health and wellbeing of students and employees. We found out about a survey that is conducted every two years nationally among university employees on their well-being and health by Varma Pension Insurance Company. The survey is carried out in order to make sure that university staff remains in good physical and mental health, Daniela says.
– I also wanted to find out more about how students support each other. On a project called On my Mind, experts from Australia have been brought to train students regarding mental health, dubbing it mental health first aid. We wanted to learn more about this in order to implement these on our campus, explains Daniela.
– I have noticed many similarities between us, from the location of the university on a hill to the emergence of the universities in the same decade, adds Conțiu.
How do you see the collaboration between you and the staff of the University of Turku after this visit?
– None of the meetings ended without proposing something by the end of the project, both in terms of teaching, research and administration. With some people, we hope to collaborate in the next phase of the project and others we invited to our university to identify common research topics or established a calendar for the Master's activities. These meetings were very pleasant, efficient and productive, says Daniela.
– The purpose of the trip was to develop and bring closer interpersonal and interinstitutional relations, which I can say was successful, concludes Conțiu.
What are your future plans until the end of the pilot phase of the Alliance?
– The Alliance has a very clear programme of its next activities. We have been able to carry out our activities successfully and will certainly do even better from now on, says Conțiu.
– During the next EC2U Forums in Jena and Poitiers we hope to discuss with colleagues who have taken over responsibilities and meet colleagues who we have not yet met but who have been active in the project, explains Daniela.
– The work for the next phase of the Alliance has been productive and we hope that funding will be approved. A lot has been built so far and we want to continue this work. The fact that the responsibility is on all of us gives us hope and strength to move forward and achieve our goals successfully, concludes Daniela.
Text: Ana-Maria Grigoriu
Photos: Suvi Harvisalo, Ana-Maria Grigoriu