1992 - Harley Johansen

Harley Johansen

Fulbright to Finland 1992
University of Joensuu

I went to Joensuu University in the spring of 1992 to lecture in the geography department and conduct research on “modeling rural development strategies in Finnish communes.” The research was a continuation of a project that I had started with funding from the National Science Foundation in USA in 1988 with colleagues at Oulu University. Little did I know that my Fulbright experience would lead to an intense involvement with Finland and the Baltic region that continues to this day for my whole family. It was an exciting time to be in Finland and the region because the USSR had just ended and many changes were happening in Russia and the Baltic countries. While there, I developed an interest in the spread of foreign investment from Finland to the former Soviet Republics and began a series of research projects that kept me involved in the region every year since 1992 (including a Fulbright grant to St. Petersburg in 2001). I also became a docent at Joensuu University and have enjoyed continued collaboration with colleagues there, including over 15 PhD students whom I have advised with additional support from the Fulbright Senior Specialist program.

But it was not just me who got hooked on Finland. My wife and daughter returned in 1999 so our daughter could finish high school there while learning to speak Finnish (she was able to re-connect with some friends from her school days in 1992), and continue on in an art and design school the next year. Our son has become a weaver of Finnish style rugs that he and my wife learned how to make at the weaving studio in Joensuu. They started a family business here in an old mining town where we discovered a large Finnish American population and that the street in front was formerly called “Finn Gulch,” and a public sauna house had been up the street in the heyday of mining. So naturally, my wife is now working on a history of the Finnish settlers in Mullan, ID, along with several of the local historians with Finnish roots. So the Fulbright experience got us connected to many aspects of Finland and the Finnish culture and it gave us a chance to meet people who have remained friends ever since.

Your office sponsored reception in Helsinki in 1992 to honor Senator Fulbright following his honorary degree from Tampere University. It was very special to be able to meet the senator and many people from Finland who had studied in USA under the Finland exchange program.