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What has it been like as Chair of the Board of HAMKO?

The organising meeting of HAMKO’s Representative Council is approaching, coinciding with the formation of HAMKO’s board for 2024. The election for HAMKO’s board will take place during the organising meeting of the representative council on November 20, 2023.

In the board blog series, the members of the board get a voice, and share their experiences, why they think it has been worthwhile to join the board of the student union.

In the first blog, HAMKO’s Chair of the Board, Aino, delves into the experience of presiding over the student union.

Who are you, and where do you study?

I am Aino Kouri, currently serving as the Chair of the Board at HAMKO. I’m studying horticulture at the Lepaa campus.

How did you end up on the board of HAMKO or as its Chair?

My journey began when I applied to be a member of the Representative Council for the 2021 season, recommended by the then chairperson of the Lepaa student association (LOK). Subsequently, I was asked to run for the board during the organising meeting of the representative council.

I started as a board member in the 2021 term and progressed to become the vice-chair by the term’s end. In 2022 and 2023, I was directly nominated for the position of chair.

Was organisation activity entirely new to you, did you have previous experience?

Organisational and board activities seem ingrained in me; my family has a history of active involvement in various positions of trust. During my student years, I not only worked at HAMKO but also served on the Lepaa student association (LOK) board for three terms in different roles and worked as a tutor for three years.

Does the Chair need previous experience in a student organisation? What should they know in advance?

While a background in other association activities helps, it’s not a prerequisite for someone aiming to lead the student union. The vital elements are the desire to learn, a passion for advancing the interests of UAS students, and a commitment for the entire year.

Among the things to be taught in advance, I would highlight language skills. The chair must be fluent in Finnish, and mastering the English language also facilitates everyday interactions with students. On the other hand, there is no need to stress about the administrative vocabulary with either language – the vocabularies will become familiar both during orientation and throughout the year.

Why did the Chair’s position interest you?

The role piqued my interest while serving as the vice-chair. I was keen on understanding the student union’s activities, including its political influence. Given my education’s focus on front-line positions and my background in competitive sports, the chair’s responsibilities align with my interests and aspirations.

The chair of the board acts as the employer’s representative in the student union, and I hope to work as a supervisor in the future.

What type of thing does the Chair of the Board of HAMKO do?

The role involves extensive email correspondence, various contacts, and meetings, including speech-leading and active participation in the student union’s daily life. The basic routine includes various meetings, their preparation and leading the speech in them. The chair participates in the daily life of the student union more than a board member, and many things happen during office hours.

Additionally, the chair represents students in the media and events through statements and speeches.

The chair often also has additional area of responsibility among leading the board. In this year, my responsibility has been the co-operation with partner associations, as well as internationality. Partner association are the student associations operating at HAMK. And since working on the board is teamwork, the chair also gets to participate extensively in everything the student union does.

Kuvakokokoelma, jossa kuvia Ainosta tapahtumissa
The chair also gets to act in the areas of responsibility of the board members, such as being involved in organizing events.

The chair of the board leads and helps the board also outside of meetings. Together with the vice-chair, e.g. division of tasks, coping and staying on schedule

As chair, you can also hold development and compensation discussions with the board regularly.

The role of the chair also differs from the role of a board member in that the chair travels more per year. Various training and events can be visited all over Finland, and some of these events are specifically intended for chairpersons. Many train stations have become familiar. I have visited more than ten UAS campuses around Finland – from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and from Seinäjoki to Lahti.

The coolest thing you have done as the Chair?

The most rewarding aspect, albeit a bit clichéd, is witnessing the collective achievements and impact. The power of student influence, evident in union meetings or speeches to the entire HAMK staff, has been striking.

Personally, my growth, from nervousness to confidently addressing large audiences, stands out. The power of student influence has been concretely visible to me many times – whether it was a big meeting or a speech to the entire HAMK staff. It has been wonderful to see how much impact well-chosen words or votes after joint negotiations have had.

It is ok to be proud of yourself and your own development. When, in October 2020, I stood in the board interview, I was so nervous just standing in front of the council that my hands were drenched in sweat. Now, a few years after, I have given many speeches to audiences of hundreds and held various training workshops for tens of people.

Of course, I’m still nervous about performing, but one by one you learn to manage the tension of performing better and better. And fortunately, the chair gets constant practice for that task. While before I might have dreaded even the idea of speaking into a microphone, today it’s already exciting.

Kolme kuvaa, joissa Aino pitämässä puheita tai työpajoja
As a Chair, you can develop your presentation skills when you hold workshops and give speeches at various events. Aino before the workshop in tutor training and giving speeches at HAMKO’s annual celebration and on May Day.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Focus on one board role at a time; it’s important to avoid overcommitting to multiple positions of trust simultaneously. Even if many titles in many organisations at the same time seem great, people think often too easily that they would manage many jobs at the same time. I don’t recommend duplicate positions of trust to anyone. Taking care of your well-being is crucial, even though trustee activities are fulfilling. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to burn yourself out while being a trustee.

Being a chair demands time and energy, so it’s essential to balance your commitments.

In conclusion, I would like to say that being the chair of the board of HAMKO is one of the best experiences I have had during my studies. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s really worth it. I can wholeheartedly recommend applying to the position. No one don’t have to deal with things alone, and no one is a ready chair when they start their first term. The most important thing is that you want to promote students interest.

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