Meet LFC student Marina Danoyan: "Here, the students have mindsets that think outside the box, and they look at things with a broader perspective"

Marina Danoyan, first-year student from the Politics track, told us about her interesting professional background and her experiences of returning back to studies after nearly a decade of working in conflict mediation. Studying in the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change, Marina feels that she learns something new every day. Meet LFC student Marina Danoyan!


Please, tell us about yourself!

My name is Marina Danoyan. I’m originally from Armenia. I have a very diverse background. I grew up in Armenia and did my higher education there at the University of foreign languages. I specialized in French linguistics. There was also a new track on trade, so I took this too. After I finished my studies in Yerevan, I continued with my studies and did another Master’s programme in Paris-Est Créteil Val-de-Marne University in France, which was about international trade with Eastern European countries. After that, I returned to Armenia and worked at the delegation of the European Commission in Armenia. And then, I moved to Finland and worked for nine years at the Martti Ahtisaari Foundation’s Crisis Management Initiative. After that, I decided to take a break and here I am, at Tampere University!

I learned that in Finland you have a possibility to study after you have worked for a while. This was very interesting for me, because I never specialized in Political Science, Peace Mediation and so on, but I thought that it would be something that I would like to specialize in.

What about your hobbies and personal interests?

I have many hobbies, but I’m quite busy and I don’t have enough time to practice, for example, dance, piano or embroidery that I like. During my free time, I’m Vice Chair of Finland-Armenia association in Helsinki. We have many activities there and this inspires me a lot. Within this framework, I also teach Armenian language to the children mostly from Armenian families. The idea is to create a space where the children can speak Armenian, learn, find new friends, share their interests with them… I feel that I’m doing something important. My children also participate in those courses and it’s great to see how they progress. Working in the association is about teamwork and community, and we also organize many events.

I always relate my studies with my work at the CMI, where I worked as Project Officer within the Eurasia programme. I also relate my studies to my work at Finland-Armenia association. I think all this creates a very complementary combination.

How did you find out about the Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change?

When I learned about the possibility to study in Finland, I had a look at different possibilities and applied to a few places. However, this programme was my favorite, because I like its interdisciplinary component and that Politics track had a strong emphasis on politics. In my work, I had realized how interconnected and complex everything is. Sometimes when you work, you don’t have time to go deep into analyzing those dynamics, interconnections, linkages and so on. Therefore, I thought that this would be something that I would like to do, underpin my work experience with academic skills, put myself in the academic context. I thought that also my work experience could be beneficial in sharing this experience with other students, and that I could also gain from their experiences: in our master’s programme, there are so many students with so many different backgrounds. I really enjoy this environment. We have a lot to share with each other. I may be the one with most work experience, but I have so much to learn from other students. Just working in teams is very refreshing and motivating!

When I was working with the topic of conflict in the CMI, I thought that there is something to learn more. One could see that conflicts are not isolated from other processes. For example, there are megatrends that influence conflicts: environmental issues, technology, questions of sustainability, to name a few. We discussed these megatrends at work and I thought it would be nice to have a deeper understanding of them and find the best tools to deal with them. Because they can be so big and so complex, that they may feel like too much to deal with.

Why did you decide to study in this programme?

All processes are interconnected. I thought it would be beneficial for me to get an interdisciplinary perspective. In my previous studies, I studied management and trade, so I could also see a link there. But especially this interdisciplinary approach was something that I couldn’t find in other programmes. The Master’s Degree Programme in Leadership for Change gives a broader perspective.

The MDP in Leadership for Change consists of three tracks: European and Global Politics, Governance for Sustainable Change and Sustainable Business Management. Why did you choose the Politics track?

In my work at the CMI, I noticed that dealing with conflicts is also about politics, obviously. Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial for myself to know more how politics is organized and how it functions in different contexts. I thought studying politics would complement my work later on. So far I have been very happy with what I have learned in politics here.

Being a first-year LFC-student, what has been your experience of studying in the programme?

In the beginning I was a little worried how my studies would go, as I live in Helsinki, but the studies are in Tampere. However, I must say that everything has worked really well. There’s a lot of individual work in the programme, which means that you can do it at home and you don’t need to be here at the university every day. I come to Tampere 2-3 times a week and this is totally manageable. I use my time in the train to study, so actually I don’t feel like losing time, because I’m putting also the commuting time to good use. When I was starting the studies, I had some questions whether it was worth leaving the work, how will I succeed at the university after such a long break… But I must say it has worked very well and the programme has exceeded my expectations. I’m so motivated and enthusiastic! I like it a lot. I like the way the programme has been structured and how the material is delivered – you can see how things have been planned, there is so much thought behind everything. You don’t need to worry about anything, you just need to study and that’s it! All the conditions have been created for you to study comfortably.

How has it felt to be studying in Tampere University?

First of all, I don’t have any experience of studying in Finland, so this is my first university experience in Finland. But since I knew that Finnish education is good, I expected it to be good. What I like about Tampere University in particular, is that there is a lot of interaction between the teachers and students. When you attend a lecture, it’s not just a lecture where you only listen and that’s it. Rather, you are asked about your opinion, you are asked to analyze with other students in groups… It feels like a dialogue between the teachers and students. You don’t feel any hierarchy between the teachers and the students, all are equal. This is something I like a lot.

Studying here feels quite research-oriented, which is something I need to get used to – I don’t think I have ever learned so much theory! It’s very interesting and enriching: having had practical experience, I’m now learning about theories, which makes me to connect practical matters with theory. The intensity of the programme makes me feel that just a few months equal what I studied in six years! You learn a lot: theory, practice, combination of theory and practice… All the time you need to process these things in your mind, you need to analyze, reflect, synthesize, summarize and so on. And as you do it, you learn to do it better and better. I feel I learn a lot every day.

What do you wish to get from your studies?

It’s a difficult question. I’m entirely sure that these studies will help me in my future, but at the moment it is difficult to say about concrete plans. This year I just want to concentrate on studies: make the most of it! Next year I’d like to specialize more in Russia. As a regional player in Eurasia, Russia’s role is very important. Therefore, I would like to do more studies on Russia and Russian politics.

Regarding Politics studies, I’m planning to take some book exams. I’m interested to see how that works as I haven’t done them before. They seem to be a good solution for someone who needs to commute to the university from another city.

Regarding free choice studies, I have two objectives: first, to improve my Finnish language. And second, because of my background in conflict and peace mediation, I will take courses in TAPRI, the Tampere Peace Research Institute. I think this also greatly complements my studies.

What would you like to say to people who are considering whether to apply to the MDP in Leadership for Change?

I would encourage students, who really want to get an interdisciplinary perspective, to apply to this Master’s programme. Sometimes people may think that interdisciplinary programmes are a bit about everything, but no – this programme really does work! I noticed that while we have so many different courses, the things are really interconnected. I do one homework in Leadership, I do one homework in Politics – and I see how interlinked they are! The programme really gives you a broader perspective about the current situation, complexities, wicked problems… Here, the students have mindsets that think outside the box, and they look at things with a broader perspective. This gives you new ideas and also employers can find it beneficial. Don’t hesitate to apply!





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