Interview: Carolina Islas, from Turku to Lugano
International Relations and Study abroad Service
27 February 2023
Carolina could you please briefly introduce yourself and your home university?
Hello, my name is Carolina Islas. I am originally from Mexico City, where I studied my bachelor in Electronic Engineering and Communication Systems. Afterwards, I did my masters in Germany, in Communication and Media Engineering and finally my PhD was in the Educational Research group, located at the School of Computing at the University of Eastern Finland. Along my studies I have worked in academia and in industry (in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur).
Currently I work at University of Turku, at the school of computing within the Faculty of Engineering. My research activities include bridging knowledge between industry and academia. My research interest lies in creating systems and meaningful digital tools through a collaborative process of knowledge exchange across different stakeholders, including individuals from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. The design and creation of tools that support and engage an audience to discover and learn in context fascinates me, including the possibility to have playful knowledge experiences.
A brief information of the University of Turku (UTU) is: it is located in Southwest Finland and it is a multidisciplinary university. In UTU we have eight faculties (Faculty of Education, Faculty of Humanities, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Technology, and Turku School of Economics) and 130 disciplines. You can find 94 degree programmes in Finnish and you can also find 29 international degree programmes in English. UTU ranks among the top 1 % of universities in the world. Our community is of 25,000 students and staff. Students are from over 100 different countries, and we have exchange destinations in over 80 countries. UTU was founded as the first Finnish-language university in the country in 1920. In 2020 was the 100th anniversary of UTU.
Why did you choose USI for this experience?
I have had this desire to spend some quality time with people at USI and to discover more about their work for some time already. The first time I worked with USI was when we organized the Summer School of the UNESCO chair in ICT to develop and promote sustainable tourism in World Heritage Sites entitled: Co-creating on-the-road ICT solutions to promote Sustainable Tourism in World Heritage in Finland. You can see our website in here: https://www.unescochair.usi.ch/summer-school-2018
Since then I realized it was a pleasure to work with USI team. Later I had the opportunity to coincide in other events and the desire to unveil more about their work increased. However, when you meet at events, time is short. Then I realized that if I want to promote more collaboration between both universities it will benefit to spend some quality time at USI to discover them. Then I discovered this exchange opportunity, talked with my counterpart
In Lugano, and organized the visit. The goal was to have quality time together in order to get to know one another and learn from both sides, and luckily it worked.
What were the three highlights of spending two weeks in a different team?
There is something magical when one is so welcome in another research group. I am thankful for my hosts. All their organization allowed me to discover different talents at USI. People make all the difference in an organization, and USI has an outstanding team working with the UNESCO chair. I had interviews with different team members, and unveiled different areas of research from tourism, fashion culture interpretation, law, communications, education, etc. I contributed in a course of UI and UX which allowed me to have an insight also of the practical flow of their lectures.
All the conversations I had, allowed me to gain an insight of the visions that people have, their research interests and their knowledge. It allowed me to detect in what areas we are complementary, and discover other research aspects I have never thought about.
When one has the fortune to immerse in a new context, one is immersed in a space where much tacit information is shared. For example, how things work and are organized, what are the routines, what are the ways to interact, etc. To detect the spaces where discussions take place, where ideas are created and shared, connects you over time. For me to discover USI campuses and Lugano has been a privilege. It allowed me to have an experience of the context which otherwise I would not have, even if people would try to explain it. At the same time I created memories for me and with others, while sharing the spirit of the place with others while we are immersed in it.
It was a busy time during my visit there, and now I can see there is potential for collaboration. Now in December I am writing the report of the visit to share it with my research group, department and faculty at UTU. I am looking forward to building synergies and together continuing contributing to our planet. There is research and stories to follow as well as the possibility to create new ones. So the journey is just starting.
What did you learn and what would you implement in your work?
Interesting question as it can be answered in different dimensions, as there were many things that I learned. One practice that fascinated me is the research seminar of the group. As we know the UNESCO chair has a tight agenda, however the interest to promote the growth of his research group is unquestionable and by having their research seminar at lunch time quality time is given to this endeavor. The seminars are cleverly organized. People eat lunch together and listen to a speaker, at the end of the presentation the audience offers its feedback and comments. If the speaker wants to follow the conversation with someone in particular, then a meeting is agreed for a later time. In my opinion the current dynamic brings the group together, it updates the group, and increases productivity while getting valuable input and organizing meaningful follow ups afterwards.
I want to thank all of you who shared time with me. In particular I want to extend my gratitude to the persons who facilitated my visit and organized it, among those are Prof. Lorenzo Cantoni, Dr. Silvia De Ascaniis, Dr. Anna Picco Schwendener and from the international office with Dr. Arianna Imberti Dosi.