An experience, not a lecture series

Kristiina Hiukka
Kristiina Hiukka. Courtesy photos

Kristiina Hiukka, a lecturer in UW Bothell’s School of Business, has been teaching senior-level courses since 2016. This fall, she’s adding a Discovery Core course for first-year students because she has something she wants to say to students just entering college.

Her course, Playbook for Life, is especially timely during the coronavirus pandemic when incoming students may worry about how much more it will constrain their lives.

“I want to show they have the power to turn this into a great opportunity,” Hiukka said. “It’s not dependent on the circumstance. They can turn it around and have a fantastic experience as college students.”

Instilling curiosity

Hiukka loved being a college student herself in her native Finland. In the past 20 years, she has worked as a leadership and life coach, helping people be productive and “fully human with each other.” She also currently serves as an honorary consul of Finland, helping the Finnish community with passports and other documents and promoting trade with the state of Washington.

At the National Nordic Museum
At the National Nordic Museum

After teaching the History of Globalization and International Business Environment at the Eastside Leadership Center, Hiukka wishes some of those seniors had taken more opportunities to experience college — a time to be curious and build networks. For example, a college student could ask to interview a company CEO for an assignment and find that most people are willing to sit down and talk. “When you are a college student, you have an awesome power to reach out that nobody else has,” she said.

“It’s an opportunity missed when seniors graduating haven’t taken advantage of everything the University offers,” Hiukka said. “If you approach college courses with an attitude of curiosity you are so much further ahead. Curiosity is what I want to instill in young people.”

College is a time to move beyond parental protection and high school guidance, she said, advising first-year students in particular to not let their worries and struggles prevent them from reaching out to create more exciting options in life.

Envisioning change

“I really want to strengthen that life force in them that questions everything and wants to change things,” Hiukka said. “I want them to have the courage to speak up and trust that it’s up to them.

“If they can envision the future being better than where we are now, that will help everybody — all people around the world. And that’s why I’m excited to support them.”

Playbook for Life is based in part on academic research from Yale University’s certificate course in happiness and Stanford University’s Design Your Life course that stresses self-knowledge, personal values and authentic relationships. Students in Hiukka’s course also will talk about growth mindsets and resiliency.

As part of UW Bothell’s Discovery Core, Playbook for Life is one of the courses designed to help students transition to college life. They connect with resources, develop learning skills and explore a range of disciplines before having to decide on a major. A signature experience of UW Bothell, Discovery Core is required for all incoming first-year students. This autumn quarter, they have 29 different courses from which to choose.

After teaching remotely over the summer, Hiukka is confident Playbook for Life students can have a quality experience in the course. She is planning two- and three-person collaborations and will have all students come together as a class in weekly two-hour video conferences. “It’s very possible to make this an inspiring and exciting experience for students,” she said.

Spunk and grit

In fact, Hiukka’s goal is to help transform any pessimism she uncovers with optimism.

“Too many people think, ‘I don’t matter — what I do, what I think — who cares?’ There’s so much of that kind of cynicism,” Hiukka said. “We can’t afford that. We need our young people to feel they do matter. I want to help them tap into that fire in their hearts.”

There’s a Finnish word, sisu, that sums up a spirit of determination, resiliency “and creating that energy that gives you the life you want,” Hiukka said. “I want them all to leave the course with much sisu.”

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