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Partnership Between UMN Morris and West Central Initiative Fund Results in Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence

Sue Dieter
Publication date: 
September 23, 2021

Iiris HappoIiris Happo will be adding depth to the Education program at UMN Morris with her interest in early and pre-primary childhood education and teacher training. Happo is a principal lecturer at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences, School of Professional Teacher Education, in northern Finland.

Happo’s visit is a joint effort between UMN Morris and the West Central Initiative Fund (WCI), a philanthropic and planning organization serving nine counties in West Central Minnesota.

Acting Chancellor Janet Schrunk Ericksen is delighted to have Happo in Morris. “Dr. Happo’s presence enhances our efforts to develop broad perspectives as well as international curriculum. This opportunity is even more remarkable because of the partnership with the West Central Initiative.”

Happo’s residency was originally scheduled to begin in the fall of 2019, but the program was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, she arrived in Morris a few weeks ago, just in time for new faculty orientation. She was excited to hear discussion of values, particularly regarding diversity, as part of those presentations. The campus commitment to diversity was a major part of what drew Happo to this opportunity.

Happo is living on campus and has found everyone to be quite welcoming. She has even spotted a “I Got Sisu” bumper sticker. Sisu is a Finnish concept described as stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, and hardiness and is held by Finns themselves to express their national character.

As for living in Minnesota, Happo said that the warm weather in August was a bit of a surprise.  “When I told my colleagues that I was going to live in Minnesota, they warned me that it is very cold there. I reminded them that it is also cold in Finland. I am looking forward to cross-country skiing here.”

During her stay in Morris, Happo will meet with UMN Morris faculty and students, but also community members in Morris and throughout the region. That is also an intriguing part of the joint venture with WCI, Happo said, as she will attend meetings with WCI early childhood staff, Nancy Jost and Marsha Erickson.

Overall, Happo said her first few weeks have shown her that UMN Morris is indeed committed to the values of cultural and intellectual diversity and equality. “The system [in Minnesota] is different, but the goal is the same.”