RMU Goes Global, welcomes Dr. Helena Vanhala

Paul Wintruba

Helena Vanhala, Head of Global Engagement

Alyssa Bishop, Staff Writer

When Dr. Helena Vanhala came to Robert Morris University to the Media Arts Department, she brought with her a lifetime of global experience. Now, as the new Director for the Center for Global Engagement, Vanhala and her staff members have many exciting events to get involved with on campus.

“Our Center is really pushing towards bringing that global perspective to RMU in our every day campus interactions,” said Vanhala. “Not all of our students have necessarily the opportunity to travel abroad, but that does not prevent us from providing them with global experiences.”

For instance, on Feb. 7, many campus organizations and offices will sponsor The First Thursdays Global Get Together at Wheatley Cafe from 2:30-4:30. The get together is a way for students, faculty and staff to immerse themselves in different cultures by meeting students from all over the world and also sampling foods from these students’ home countries. This event will be held the first Thursday of every month this semester.

For Vanhala, her entire life has been nothing but experiencing different cultures and it has become a lifestyle. She has lived in four different countries and traveled to over 40 in her lifetime. Vanhala notes that getting a global perspective is important in order to grow as a person.

“You have to get out of your comfort zone, which may be hard to do. But it really is important to try new things and meet people from other countries, it helps us as a community, a global community, to understand one another,” explained Vanhala.

Another great way for students to get involved is adding the Global Ambassador leadership position for SET Transcripts. An additional way for students to expand their horizons is by being a Global Ambassador, someone that meets with new international students and helps them get adjusted and feel comfortable in this new enviornment.

“Growing up in Finland, I traveled so much with my family and friends. In Europe, it is easy to travel. You cross a border like here you would cross a state border, but you are in a completely different country and culture, with people speaking many different languages,” said Vanhala.  “But for students here in America, it is a little harder to get that immediate experience. Our center is willing and ready to listen to all of the students’ suggestions in order to help them to become globally engaged.”

Before coming to the United States, Vanhala’s university had an exchange program which allowed her to stay a year at the University of Oregon studying television production while  teaching Finnish. Loving her experience so much, Vanhala extended her stay in the United States and got her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. From there, she left to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. It was after the passing of a close family member that she began to re-evaluate her life.  While she loved her job in Wisconsin, she felt that it was time for a change. After much consideration and researching jobs throughout Europe and the United States, ultimately, the job opening here at Robert Morris was what won her over. It was what the university stood for, the opportunities that RMU could provide for her and her love of cities that brought her here to be a part of the Robert Morris Community.

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