Carol Tenopir and Jerry Lundeen at the Fulbright Finland Foundation office
Fulbright Finland News Magazine

Paying it Forward

13 December 2023 • Text: Louisa Gairn, Photos: Mirka McIntire
Carol Tenopir and Gerald (Jerry) Lundeen share their life long connection with Finland and Fulbright, and their motivation to give back.

While Jerry counts close family ties with Finland, for Carol the relationship has professional roots - but Fulbright opportunities enabled the couple to forge lifelong bonds with the country.

Jerry Lundeen grew up with Finland in his bones. The descendent of a full set of Finnish grandparents, Jerry was surrounded by Finnish conversations and stories throughout his Minnesota and Wisconsin childhood.

“My grandparents all came from Finland - according to DNA studies, I am 98% Finnish and 2% Swedish. The 2% Swedish is where my surname Lundeen comes from,” he smiles. “And although my parents learned English when they went to school, they spoke Finnish at home. So I’ve had this interest in and connection with Finland since I was a child.”

The Fulbright Finland grantee in this story, however, is Jerry’s spouse Professor Carol Tenopir, a native of California. A well-respected academic expert in scientific communication, Carol also wrote the monthly “Online Databases” column for Library Journal for 27 years.

After studying library science at California State University, Fullerton, Carol worked as a librarian at the University of Hawaii, before gaining her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She then worked as a professor of Library and Information Studies at the University of Hawaii. Next stop was the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she was a professor in the School of Information Sciences, as well as Director of the College of Communication and Information Research Center. Carol continued to teach at the School and was its interim director until she retired in 2021.

Personal and Professional Connections Piqued Interest in Fulbright Finland
“I got involved with Fulbright because Jerry was always interested in Finland, he’s Finnish American, and has lots of relatives there. But there are also a number of Finns who are deeply involved in the same kind of research that I am in,” Carol explains. 

“I hadn’t done any study abroad as a student or any Fulbrights as a young career person. But I met quite a number of Finns at conferences and through research collaborations.”

Carol first visited Finland in 1992 when she was invited to keynote a conference in Espoo. The family were living in Hawaii at the time with their six-year old son, and came to Finland during March. “It was the first time our son had been on a sled,” she smiles. In subsequent visits we’ve gotten around, we’ve visited Karelia, western Finland, down to Turku and castles everywhere,” Carol says. “Our son is probably the only kid in America who’s been to every castle in Finland.”

The personal and professional connections piqued Carol’s interest in Finland - but it was a Finnish colleague, Mirja Iivonen, who first suggested Fulbright as a possibility.

“I met Mirja at meetings of the Association for Information Science and Technology. She was involved with research in the same field, and so we got to know each other professionally. And she was intimately involved in bringing me to Finland and helping me get my first two Fulbrights.”

Carol has visited Finland through Fulbright on three occasions. Her first taste of the country was as a short-term Fulbright Specialist in 2005 at the University of Oulu. Carol then came back with Fulbright ten years later, again on a short specialist visit, this time to Tampere University in 2015.

It was through conferences that Carol made her second pivotal Fulbright connection, meeting Bo-Christer Björk, a professor at Hanken School of Economics and a pioneer in the field of open-access journals. In spring 2006 Carol spent 3 months in Helsinki doing research with Björk funded by the Research Council of Finland. “We continued doing research together, and that’s how I came to do the third Fulbright, which was at Hanken.”

Carol returned to Finland with her third Fulbright, and this time for a full year during 2016-17, which allowed her - and Jerry - to more fully immerse themselves in the Finnish experience, as Fulbright-Nokia Distinguished Chair in Information and Communications Technologies at Hanken School of Economics.

A Fulbright Scholar’s Spouse in Finland 

A fellow information science specialist, Jerry also has plenty of research experience under his belt. But Jerry’s Fulbright Finland journey had a different focus: language, culture, and family. Jerry explains that on his mother’s side, his grandparents emigrated from Finland to America in the late 1870-1880s, while his father’s family came to the U.S. around the turn of the twentieth century. “My first actual contact or visit to Finland was inthe summer of 1960,” Jerry recalls. “I toured Europe with two friends of mine, which included about a week and a half in Finland.”

In the U.S., Jerry’s parents had kept in touch with their cousins and other relatives back in Finland, who sent packages and correspondence back and forth. At home, Finnish culture and traditions remained very much alive. “I heard a lot of Finnish growing up. My parents spoke Finnish to their siblings pretty muc because it was their more comfortable language. They never spoke Finnish to me, so I missed out on learning Finnish as a child. However, I probably learned a few hundred words just from exposure.”

“But I didn’t really have any opportunity to spend much time in Finland until Carol got an invitation to be a keynote speaker in 1992,” he says. From then on, Jerry and his family rekindled their Finnish connections, he explains. “We made more of an effort to get in touch with relatives and have kept that up since then. My sister and I brought my father back to see his cousins and other relatives, when he was 92, back in 2000. Since then, we’ve been going almost every year for trips of three or four weeks."

“Finland in 1960 reminded me of where I grew up in the 40s, in northern Wisconsin. So it looked very familiar. It had pretty much the kind of community and stores and everything that I was expecting to see,” he recalls. “And then when I came back, 30 years later, I was impressed with how much more modern everything was. They were really leading in a lot of ways, setting examples for things like education and innovation.”

Fulbright Finland for “Late Bloomers”

“I was already a professor before I did my first study abroad – I guess you could call me a late bloomer in that case,” Carol smiles. “But that’s the nice thing about Fulbright, that it gives an opportunity for a short visit, because I couldn’t be gone more than the six weeks that the Senior Specialist awards were for. At that point in my career, I was a full professor who had other obligations. But I had the connections, I had the desire to go, and Fulbright made it work out really well,” she explains.

Having the full year during 2016-17 gave plenty of time and opportunity for Carol to participate in more complex research and teaching projects on the one hand, and for Jerry to connect with family and deepen his knowledge of Finnish language and culture on the other. “I was really pleased to get there for the full year experience for lots of reasons, but one is that I got to for the first time participate in the Fulbright orientation, which was marvelous,” says Carol.

“The Foundation staff spend so much effort and time and kindness in the orientation – I missed out on that with the shorter visits. Getting to participate in that really cemented for me how important it was.” 

“The Foundation helped in other ways for the short visits but this was the first time to really get to spend a lot of time with them, and see all they do for the scholars,” she says. 

An Opportunity to Connect and Learn

“Carol mentioned the fact that she was rather senior when she started this whole process. I'm even more senior because in 2005 I was fully retired. So anytime she's going someplace interesting, I'm able to go along,” Jerry smiles.

“I've gone to Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden… lots of places besides Finland. But anytime there's a chance to go across the Atlantic I want to spend time in Finland, because if you're going to fly all that way, I don't want to miss a chance to visit.”

“My father’s cousins had two grandsons at the Sibelius Academy, and my mother’s cousin had a grandson at Hanken. So all three of them were in Helsinki studying, and I was able to meet each of them at least once a week to have lunch. It was really a nice opportunity to get to know them and also to work on my Finnish speaking ability.”

Jerry was determined to build up his Finnish knowledge, taking Finnish for foreigners classes at the University of Helsinki, as well as attending conversational groups through the Lutheran church and the Public libraries. Although he modestly claims to be “struggling”, as we speak, he has a contemporary Finnish language novel in his hands with a bookmark about midway through.

“I've read a fair number of Finnish books and I’ve watched a lot of movies. And I've got something like 360 Finnish movies that I've bought over the years. So yeah, I'm pretty involved in studying the Finnish language,” he smiles.

From Fulbright Grantee to Fulbright Donor

“For me, Fulbright has allowed me to make connections with colleagues and researchers who share an interest and expand my thinking,” Carol says.

“It’s been really great to make that connection with other researchers, and also the personal connections with family and friends. The fact that there is this shared love of the country coming from Jerry makes it really special. We keep going back, not just to see relatives, but to visit art galleries and historical museums, and to go to the ballet, opera and concerts…The personal life and the research just come together.”

“So, beyond just writing a paper, it’s getting involved with the graduate students, getting involved with the faculty, but also getting involved with the culture of the country. To me, it’s that whole package. It would still have been really important even if we didn’t have any relatives in Finland.”

Carol and Jerry have also chosen to personally support the Fulbright Finland Foundation as donors. What motivated them to contribute in this way? 

“I just felt like we should pay it forward a little bit. We’ve benefited so much from the Fulbright experiences that we just kind of owe it to them to help keep this going.” 

Carol and Jerry also participate in the Friends of Fulbright Finland alumni network, and Carol has served on selection panels with the Foundation to choose Finnish scholars to the U.S. “I got to see both sides of that, and realize what an important role the Foundation plays and how much effort they put in, to see their enthusiasm and that they really care.”

“We just wanted to be able to contribute in whatever way they need to make that continue because it’s really valuable for the visiting scholars.” Carol notes that there are different ways to participate, even from a distance. “The last two years, I have volunteered to do the virtual orientation with the people that just found out they’ve gotten their grants to Finland. So it’s nice that you can get involved even if you’re not real close to an institution.” 

“We do try to go back to Finland every year. We had a two-year break like everybody did during the pandemic, but we want to come back, and we always like to visit Terhi and the Fulbright Finland office, because we feel a lot of gratitude for what they do, and a lot of connection there. We want to maintain that connection, which I think is really important, and even if we couldn’t travel back to Finland, giving the donations allows us to still keep that connection alive.”

But Carol and Jerry aren’t quite ready to hang up their travelling shoes just yet. “We’ve already planned a visit with one of Jerry’s cousins, who is an opera singer,” Carol says. “He keeps inviting us to see the summer opera festival at Savonlinna, so that’s where we’ll be going next year.”

Read the whole Fulbright Finland News 2/2023!

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