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Dr. Benita Heiskanen's Closing Remarks


Dr. Benita Heiskanen, Closing Remarks

    We have certainly come—academically, politically, and socially—a long way from the 1930s. Whereas the impetus of early Americanists was to understand the meaning of the United States as a nation and “Americanness” as national identity; the United States is no longer understood as separate from the rest of the world, but in relation to its position within global relations. In North American Studies, the role of Canada and Mexico—as well as the relations between the three nations—have been central in cutting-edge research from the past decade.

    Because there is no singular way to conduct North American Studies--rather, it is understood and practiced in multiple ways in different continents, nations, and institutions—the field provides an excellent forum to bring together scholars from various backgrounds to forge novel interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. If anything, North American Studies is an ongoing formulation of questions, and the moment is ours to re-envision and reinvent the field in exciting new ways.

    The John Morton Center for North American Studies seeks to serve as a bridge to cater for interdisciplinary dialogue and to strengthen Finnish, inter-Nordic, inter-European, and transatlantic collaboration. Our activities include a research network, which since its launching in February, has attracted 70 members. We provide research support, administrative assistance, and office space for post-doctoral and senior researchers seeking funding for research projects on North American Studies. Members of the JMC network, in turn, are in service of the media and the broad public through our expert directory available on our website.

    While our foremost task as a research institute is to produce ground-breaking research and academic innovation; we are equally committed to serving the public sector, commerce, and media. For example, the JMC organizes “Current Issues” seminars and studia generalia lectures; these events are free and open to the public, and they are featured in the JMC Blog, which you can find on our website.

    From August 28 to August 30, the JMC will organize its first international conference, “Bridging North America: Connections and Divides.” The Call for Papers is available on our website and the deadline for abstract submissions is on May 31, 2014. In the future, we will also contribute to North American Studies education, including writing and publishing workshops for doctoral students, and provide resources for the public. We welcome suggestions and initiatives about any future activities, and urge any of you to get involved in our event planning. You can reach us via email at jmc@utu.fi.

    Although the JMC has been in actual operation for only three months, we have accrued a whole host of people to thank.  First, I would like to acknowledge Professor Kalevi Euro from Aalto University School of Business, who on December 8, 2010, published an article, entitled in Finnish “Suomi ansaitsee ja tarvitsee Yhdysvallat-instituutin” in Kanava, calling for a national research institute on the study of the United States in Finland, one which he suggested, could well be located at the University of Turku. The article prompted a series of networking meetings with Professor Euro, Ambassadors Antti Lassila and Jukka Valtasaari, and Mr. Martin Saarikangas, who ultimately passed the initiative onto the University of Turku.

    In August 2012, Rector Kalervo Väänänen of the University of Turku set up the founding committee, led by Professor Emeritus Keijo Virtanen, to plan the organization and funding of the research institute. On November 11, 2013, Rector Väänänen announced the establishment of The John Morton Center for North American Studies at the University of Turku, appointing eight members to serve on its Board, Professor Henri Vogt, Chair (University of Turku), Professor Outi Korhonen, Vice-chair (University of Turku), Professor Markku Henriksson (University of Helsinki), Professor Auvo Kostiainen (University of Turku), Professor Risto Hiltunen (University of Turku), Director Ismo Söderling (Institute of Migration), Executive Director Terhi Mölsä (Fulbright Center), and Senior Researcher Minna Ruckenstein (National Consumer Research Centre).

    I would like to express my gratitude to the City of Turku, the Turku University Foundation, and the University of Turku for their financial support of the JMC.  In addition, I wish to thank Rector Kalervo Väänänen, Dean Kimmo Rentola, Professor Henri Vogt, and members of the JMC board as well as Ms. Minna Domander and Ms. Auli Kultanen-Leino for their support and advice in the launching of the center.

    Many people have assisted in making this event a reality. Thanks to the Embassies of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the City of Turku, the Fulbright Center, and all the presenters who have shared their views and vision during the course of the day.  I want to express special thanks to Dr. Johanna Leinonen, Research Coordinator of the JMC and Ms. Malla Lehtonen, our superb intern for the past two months, who have put their utmost into making the launching of the Center a success. Thank you also to members of the event’s organizing committee, Dr. Janne Korkka, Mr. Aleksi Huhta, Ms. Suvi Karila, and Ms. Mari Toivanen, for their insights and vision.

     Finally, my heartfelt thanks go to the following student assistants—Suvi Alho, Alistair Hayden, Niko Heikkilä, Otso Karhumäki, Pekka Kolehmainen, Otto Latva, Nadia Nava Contreras, Hai Nguyen, Mikko Salminen, Laura Salonen, Mikko Suhonen, and Ella Vihervuori—who have volunteered in various capacities to help out with the JMC and this event. Thank you.

 

    I would now like to invite all of you to join me up the stairs to raise a toast for the Inauguration of the John Morton Center for North American Studies.

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