Georgetown University senior Patrick Dowd always envisioned a life in foreign affairs. Majoring in political and security studies, with a regional focus on South Asia, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Dowd grew up traveling the world with his journalist mother and international businessman father, and counts among the 40 countries he's visited Norway, Thailand, Egypt, South Africa, The Czech Republic, The Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, The Netherlands, and Ethiopia. "Growing up, we'd complain our family vacations weren't at Ocean City or Dewey Beach like everyone else, instead we were going to Cambodia or Morocco," says the Georgetown Student Body president who is fluent in French and Hindi. "But now I find I'm comfortable forging relationships no matter the situation. I have an appreciation for people from unusual places and quirky backgrounds."
A recent course on Global Cities and the components that define them gave Dowd a new set of lens --anthropological, political, architectural, and commercial-- through which to experience world capitals. "Helsinki will be my first international travel since completing this course, and I'm eager to experience the city through this new paradigm. I think I'm going to be able to engage with Helsinki in a totally different and unexpected way."
The greater Helsinki area has a substantial number of high-quality universities - too many to visit each of them exhaustively. During his stay, Mr Patrick Dowd will be introduced to a varied sample of the universities and university life in the greater Helsinki region. As the forerunner and flagship of multidisciplinary cooperation, the soon-to-be-formed Aalto University (comprised of the former Helsinki University of Technology, the University of Art and Design Helsinki and the Helsinki School of Economics) will be presented, and visits will be made to venues such as the Design Factory, the Aalto University Transformation Team, and a few world-class laboratories representing both well-established technologies and important cutting-edge research. Other universities that are not going to be part of the new Aalto University will also be presented to provide another perspective on the issues.
In addition to the academic programme, Finnish culture will be strongly present with visits to the famous Sauna Society, the Ateneum, the Yrjönkadun Uimahalli swimming pool and possible visits to student speakeasies in undisclosed locations.
Mr Anders Häggman will act as host for Mr Dowd during his visit. Mr Häggman works as a Associate Research Scientist at the Aalto University Design Factory, which is a result of an earlier project named the Future Lab of Product Design, which aimed to create the ideal working space and environment for product developers and researchers alike, simply put "a facility driven by passion, coaching and inspiring the mind".
After a long flight, and a stopover at London Heathrow, the eagle has landed at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport!
My gracious host, Anders Häggman. This picture was taken at the innovative Design Factory, which is part of the new Aalto University. Anders is an expert in mechanical engineering and product design. Like most students in Helsinki, he speaks perfect English, is smart, and is extremely friendly. It's typical for Finnish university students to have studied abroad. Anders spent a year studying at Stanford University, and he stays in close touch with his American friends from "The Farm."
Steve Jobs, look out: Anders Häggman is The World's Best Product Designer!
The Helsinki School of Creative Entrepreneurship is part of the newly formed Aalto University. This program is housed within the Design Factory, where my host Anders is a Research Associate. The entire space is specially designed to facilitate creative forms of collaboration that lead to innovation. It sort of looks like what you might expect Google or Yahoo's campuses in Mountain View, CA, to look like. There is a strictly enforced rule here that noone is allowed to have coffee makers in their offices. This ensures that the product designers regularly interact with one another and share ideas. There is also an entire room specifically designated for playing the "Guitar Hero" video game. Rock on!!
As it turns out, there are many students at Aalto University interested in entrepreneurship. When I visited a meeting of the Aalto University Entrepreneurship Club, there were over 200 students in attendance! To put this in perspective: at Georgetown, a good turn out for a club meeting is about 30 students.
The budding entrepreneurs at Aalto are using innovative methods to hone their skills. For instance, I learned that many of the Entrepreneurship Club were participating in a challenge to design and market products online within the virtual realm of "Second Life." This excerise was meant to simulate the experience of entering foreign markets, something that Finnish entrepreneurs are eager to do!
Here is an example of the innovative projects that Aalto students are working on at the design factory. The miniature sensor that these young Finns have designed recognizes when somebody is slipping and about to fall. It then activates a cushion-like apparatus that rapidly expands and cushions that person's most fragile bone structures, thereby preventing injuries. Many elderly people in Finland are hospitalized every year because they slip and fall on the ice. Thus, this technology has the potential to be marketed to elderly individuals as well as insurance companies.
The most exciting aspect of this research is that it is being done in collaboration with other design and engineering students around the world. At the design factory, there are multiple flat-screen TVs mounted on the walls that serve as virtual portals to other leading universities around the world such as Stanford, MIT, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Kuampur. The students who were working on the anti-slippage technology, for example, were collaborating with students at Stanford, with whom they had regular video-uplink meetings to refine their their designs.
Here I am in the mechanical engineering wing of the Design Factory at Aalto University. One of the things that makes Aalto University such an attractive place for young product designers to conduct research is that they have access to cutting edge machinery that allows them to build models of their designs. The particular contraption behind me in the picture is a machine designed for cleaning windows and making repairs to sky-scrapers.
CAPTAIN: ICEBERG DEAD AHEAD!!
Here I am with one of Aalto University's leading naval architects. Aalto has a massive hanger designated for research and design of maritime vessels. Finnish naval architects have an excellent reputation for designing boats intended for arctic (i.e. icy) sailing conditions. In this picture I am holding a model of an innovative propellor that was specially designed to enable large vessels to navigate through ice-infested waters.
This picture was taken at the Aalto University Naval Engineering Center's synthetic wave pool. This massive pool is equipped with machinery that creates various wave conditions in which the sea-worthiness of model ships can be tested. The water can also be frozen to simulate icy wave conditions. They not only use this technology to test new ship designs before they are commericalized, but also to investigate why older ship designs fail. For example, after a Nowegian vessel capsized in a violent storm, the researches at this facility reverse engineered a model of that vessel and then put it up against various wave conditions to discover why it capsized. It turns out that a combination of waves from multiple directions was what brought her down to Davey Jones' locker...Ahar!!
Mammi is something of a controversial desert. Finnish people either hate it or love it, but nearly everyone has tried it and feels strongly one way or the other. Americans will recognize Mammi's taste as being quite simillar to the filling inside of a Fig Newton cookie. Finns eat Mammi as if it were cereal, in a bowl with milk.
Here I am tasting the famous Mammi desert. Foreigners should look upon this as a badge of honor.
SUITABLE ATTIRE FOR FINNISH COLLEGE PARTIES.
All Finnish university students have colorful jumpsuits like the one pictured here that they wear to parties in the warm weather months. Finnish revlers get a new badge for each party the students attend. These parties are occaisonally sponsored by Finnish corporations, such as Fortum, Finland's leading energy company. Talk about an effective recruiting tool!
I think this is a great tradition, and look forward to bringing it back to the states. :-)
Here I am with a bunch of Aalto University party-goers in front of St. Nicholas' Church, one of Helsinki's most famous landmark. This day was kind of like an American "pledge day," when underclassmen vy for a place in their favorite clubs.
WHAT'S THE PASSWORD??
As my favorite American political satirist, Christopher Buckley, likes to say, "Great ideas ought to weather the test of time. An idea that was good in 1920 ought to still be good today. Unless, of course, that idea was banning alcohol!" In this picture I am following Anders into the top-secret APY speakeasy in Aalto University neighborhood of Otaniemi, where the sale of alcohol is banned.
APY: ANIMAL HOUSE, FINNISH-STYLE.
Here I am with the editors of the 2009 issue of APY. APY (pronounced aah-POO) is a Helsinki tradition that streches back decades. Every year at the May 1 festival, these pranksters publish a comic rag that pokes fun at Finnish politics and culture. The editors prepare for the highly anticipated release of APY in the basement of their speakeasy, which doubles as a newsroom.
The writing's on the wall. This chalk board is used to post the outside water temperature at the exclusive Finnish Sauna Society, where generations of Finnish dignitaries and their guests have gone to take a sauna and have a ritualistic dip in the icy winter waters.
WHEN IN ROME...
I don't know about Rome, but the tradition in Helsink is that after sweating it out in the Sauna, you go for a dip in the ocean -- even it it is the middle of winter and the water is 0 degrees!
WALKING THE PLANK.
Call me crazy, but...Actually, no. What I am about to do IS crazy.
IF IT DOESN'T KILL YOU...
Supposedly, the shock of swimming in O degree water is good for your health. I would say that it is more likely to add life to your years than years to your life. In fact, I'm pretty sure that my life flashed before my eyes in the few moments I spent clamoring through these frigid waters. Indeed, Mr. Hobbes, it was nasty, brutish, and short.
This picture pretty much sums up the feeling of swimming in O degree water.
IN GOOD COMPANY
As it turns out, I wasn't the first American to brave the winter waters at the Finnish Sauna Society. Here is a letter from Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush expressing gratitude to his host for brining him to the Society. While I imagine that Bush had a "kinder and gentler" visit than I did (he stopped by in the summer), I share his gratitude for having been allowed to take part in this amazing tradition.
THE VIKING LINE
Behind me is one of the famous Viking Line cruise ships that ferry Scandanavians back and forth between Helsinki and Stockholm. These overnight ferry rides, which feature an endless supply of food and alcohol, are notorious for the raucous antics their passengers often exhibit. Think Scandanavian Spring Break.
A Finnish sunrise, as seen from Helsinki harbor.
This style of Soviet-era bikes are a popular form of transport amongst Helsinki's "Skene" hipster set.
007: Dowd, Pat Dowd
This interesting structure was built as part of a design contest at TAIK, which is part of the newly-formed Aalto University. It provided a righteous photo-op, that was too good to pass up!
Finnish people love there summer lake houses, which invariably include a personal sauna. Here is an innovative design for one of these classic Finnish country abodes.
The Mayor's Office, Helsinki.
A clay sheep in a wolf's coat and the artist. Very nice.
Inside the mind of a Finnish graphic designer from Aalto University.
Me and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Situated in the heart of Helsinki's business district, the Yrjönkadun Uimahalli swimming pool was built circa 1900, and serves as a welcome haven from the bustling pace of Finland's capital city.
This is a model of the tram cars that Helsinki residents enjoy riding around the city. The public transportation system in and around Helsinki is quite efficient and easy to use. As such, it is extremely popular with local and foreigners alike.
Getting geared up for emergency ice rescue training with the Finnish Marines.
Here I am meeting with Finnish MP Pekka Haavisto, who is the EU's special diplomatic envoy to Darfur. This was one of the high points of my trip, as I was afforded the opportunity to speak 1-on-1 with this lead EU diplomat about the how the European style of diplomacy differs from the style of their American counterparts.
The Hoya: "Dowd Makes Global Connections"
Inside the chambers of Finland's Parliament
My wonderful hosts: Mikko Lesti, Risto Kuulasmaa, Anders Häggman, and Susanna Torvinen
All togged up and ready to go!
STRENGTHENING DC-HELSINKI TIES
Here I am meeting with Helsinki Deputy Mayor Pekka Sauri. Mr. Sauri is a leading voice within Finland's Green Party. During our meeting, Mr. Sauri and I had the opportunity to speak about how Finland's domestic politics have been influenced by the history of their interactions with neighboring countries such as Sweeden, Estonia, and Russia. We also spoke about how the forces of globalization have led to a realligning of coalitions within Finland's domestic political sphere.
FINLAND'S ROLE IN THE 21st CENTURY
When I was first invited to visit Finland, I knew very little about the country, and I was curious to discover what sort of role this small Nordic nation plays in the broader global scene. As it turns out, this small country plays quite a big role.
During my time in Helsinki, I routinely asked the people I met the following question: "What does Finland see as its role for the 21st Century?" From sweltering hot saunas, to hotel lobbies, to the street-corner cafes, to the well-lit corridors of Finland's parliament building, I received a variety of answers that collectively amounted to a rather coherent response.
If there is one thing the Finns are good at, it is design. I didn't really need to travel to Finland to figure that out (the strikingly modern Dulles Airport just outside of Washington, D.C. was designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen), but visiting Helsinki, which is in the running to be World Design Capital in 2012, really drove the point home. Nearly every structure that you encounter in Finland seems to exude a deliberately and purposefully rendered sense of style. Even the massive coal refinery that lies at the city's limits looks as though it belongs in a museum.
If there were any question as to whether or not Finns take design seriously, it is being put to rest by the soon to be inaugurated Aalto University, which is named after the famous Finnish architect Alvaro Aalto. Broadly regarded throughout the world as the "Father of Modernism," Alvaro Aalto's celebrity within Finland is second only to that of Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, the much-lauded national hero who served as Commander-in-Chief of Finland's Defence Forces during the Finnish Civil War of 1918 and World War II.
Aalto University has been formed by pooling the resources, expertise, and intellectual capital of three existing universities: The Helsinki University of Technology, The Helsinki University of Economics, and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Prior to their merging, each of these universities were the best of their kind in Finland. Now that they have united under the umbrella of Alto University, they are worth more than the sum of their parts.
The experimental Design Factory at Aalto University, a massive warehouse equipped with state-or-the-art product design equipment, computer technology, and study spaces, is emblematic of the collaborative learning environment that Aalto University seeks to foster. Brightly lit and decorated with an eclectic mix of whimsical stage props, the Design Factory feels more like a playground for grown-ups than a university classroom - it's actually both.
It is fair to say that Finnish people, as a rule, are very cognizant of how different environments influence one's behavior. This is hardly surprising given the vast environmental fluctuations that can be observed over the course of a year in Finland. In January, sub-zero temperatures cause Finland's many waterways to freeze over, and there is less than two hours of sunlight per day. From June to August, the sun never sets and long days spent lounging in one of Helsinki's many parks or exploring its neighboring archipelago by boat become the norm.
If Napoleon Bonaparte has been celebrated for declaring: "geography is destiny," then perhaps it would not be unreasonable to say that Finn's believe: "environment is destiny." I would say that if the Design Factory at Aalto University is any indication of the broader Finnish mentality, they certainly do.
One of the more interesting things I encountered at the Design Factory was a control room used to monitor the behavior of students in a nearby classroom. It was also equipped with a number of dials that could alter certain variables within the room such as lighting and ambient noise levels. The purpose of this arrangement, so I was told, is to discover the environmental factors that are most conducive to achieving creative breakthroughs in group projects. While I found this Orwellian arrangement rather unusual, I have to admit that it was-like so many other Finnish concepts-a rather novel idea.
Another novel idea can be seen hanging on the walls of the Design Factory, where flat-screen televisions are equipped with cameras that link up to other leading research universities around the world. The day I visited, I observed students video-conferencing with their project partners at Stanford, MIT, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. Not bad for a day's work.
The philosophy behind the Design Factory and Aalto University in general is indicative of Finland's strategic outlook at the outset of the 21st century. Indeed, the same factors that make Aalto University likely to succeed-interdisciplinary in research and development, accessible top-quality educational infrastructure, a global perspective, and solid financial backing-are all reasons why Finland is well poised to succeed as well.
While Finland has been recognized for its design acumen relating to built environments (Aalto, Saarinen), and has been celebrated for its ability to produce cutting-edge technologies (Nokia, KONE elevators), it is perhaps underappreciated, at least in the United States, for its ability to be an architect of peace in diplomatic settings. That former Finnish President Martti Athisaari's was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize for his successful efforts to resolve conflicts in regions as diverse as the Balkans, Southern Africa, and Indonesia is, I believe, a testament to what Finland is capable of contributing in the realm of international affairs.
This revelation was made most clear during a meeting I had with the Student Union President of the Helsinki Theatre Academy. He explained to me that Finland, which is especially well known in classical music circles because of the prolific work of Jean Sibelius, is the only country in Europe where set design and stage lighting have been elevated to an art form (the Helsinki Theatre Academy offers a 3-year masters degree in set design). It occurred to me that this, the role of stage director, is precisely the role that Finland is so well equipped to play in international affairs.
If one thinks of international politics as a performative exercise, in which various actors play different roles, then Finland deserves to be respected and sought out as a leading set director. By setting the stage, Finland can shape the environment where critical interactions take place. Just like at the Design Factory, it can help to foster settings that are conducive to creative thinking processes that can lead to diplomatic breakthroughs.
As the 21st century begins to show signs of increased instances of conflict around the world, Finland's ability to serve as an architect of peace, and to set the stage for progress, has never been more necessary, or more timely.
THE HOYA: "Dowd Makes Global Connections"
By Tomi Maxted, Staff Writer | Mar 23 2009
Georgetown University Student Association President Pat Dowd (SFS '09) never thought he would spend his senior spring break in a Finnish sauna, meeting Finland's president or jumping into a frozen lake - but that is just what he ended up doing.
After traveling 3,000 miles as part of a cross-cultural exchange, Dowd said he gained a new perspective on life abroad and experiences at Georgetown. When he was first invited to Helsinki, he knew it would offer him a valuable opportunity to learn about international affairs, but never considered that he would land the unexpected chance to speak with Finnish diplomats and politicians.
"If you were to ask me did I think I'd be going to Helsinki to talk to politicians about Finland's role in international affairs for my senior year spring break I'd have told you to get lost," Dowd said. "[The Parliament visit] was a high point ... [to my] senior year."
Dowd was invited by Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen to come to Finland to strengthen ties between Finland's capital and Washington, D.C. Dowd, representing the District's university students, was among 12 D.C. residents who were selected to come to Finland to learn more about Finnish culture and politics.
Among the dignitaries Dowd met was former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who recently won the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. Dowd formally extended an invitation on behalf of School of Foreign Service Dean Robert Gallucci to come and give the Herbert Quandt Distinguished Lecture this year.
With all expenses financed by the Finnish government, Dowd was given the opportunity to immerse himself in Helsinki's university community and political arena. Dowd visited many universities and colleges and was able to take a first-hand look at the city's Aalto University project, the opening of a new university in August 2009, combining the Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and University of Art and Design Helsinki.
"To me that seemed as kind of an unusual pairing of competencies, so I guess I was kind of skeptical what they were attempting [through the Aalto University Project], but by the end of the week, I got a really good idea of what that was," he said.
Dowd was also given nearly full access to Finland's diplomats and politicians to explore Finland's role in international politics for a paper that he is writing.
"I got a Thomas Friedman level of access when I was there to ask questions. The trip was really cool, because I got a chance to take all the theory and conceptual stuff I learned at Georgetown and apply it to a real issue," Dowd said. "It really validated the worth of a Georgetown education."
In addition to writing a paper, Dowd was asked to complete some other tasks upon his return. Dowd is involved in organizing both the Ahtisaari lecture and an embassy party at the Finnish Embassy on May 6. Furthermore, Dowd is helping a Finnish marketing team work on myhelsinki.com, a Web site aimed at improving Helsinki's visibility and accessibility.
Dowd used the information he learned from touring universities and combined it with the knowledge gleaned from interviewing politicians to gain a new perspective on Finnish diplomacy.
"What had occurred to me was that Finnish people are very creative people and have this long history of creativity," he said. "They also bring this approach of design and architecture to diplomatic and world affairs."
Dowd also tasted a bit of Finnish culture during his trip, visiting the Finnish Sauna Society, a place where Finnish dignitaries go to relax and unwind.
"I had never [gone to] the Finnish sauna thing and it was a three-hour ordeal," he said. "That was actually a great place to ask more people about Finland's role in world affairs, because people chat in the sauna about all kinds of stuff."
While gaining a new outlook on Finnish international relations and cultural differences, Dowd frequently drew on his Georgetown experience during his travels.
"I was the youngest person recruited on the trip, and I was able to really have a successful cross-cultural experience because of the skill set I got at Georgetown," he said.
Read more: http://www.thehoya.com/node/18516#ixzz0CzUNt21s&B