Authors: Sanna Tyni, Ph.D., Principal lecturer, New Industry Expertise Group, Lapland University of Applied Sciences and
Marika Tuomela-Pyykkönen, M.Sc., Head of Degree Programme in Managing Sustainability and Systems Change (MaSS), Masters’s School, Lapland University of Applied Sciences
In September 2023, there were many excited UAS Lapland teachers looking
forward to meeting the first-ever Master of Managing Sustainability and
Systems Change (MaSS
–students in Rovaniemi (Fig. 1). After carefully designing of new
Master’s program combining transformative learning with the themes of
sustainable development, responsibility and circular economy (Circular
Economy Centre, 2023), this was the day we all had waited for. Now,
after a couple of months have passed by and MaSS studies are ongoing, we
wanted to pull together our thoughts and experiences about the start of
the MaSS learning journey.
Figure 1. The very first group of MaSS students and tutors with guests
from Ukrainian Catholic University at Lapland UAS campus in Rovaniemi.
Future change agents
The leading thought behind the new
program was to answer the need of experts to enhance systematic
sustainability and green transition in organisations. This was already
in the background of designing the MaSS programme and core courses.
world is in a situation, where we are going to need different kinds of
experts with a deeper understanding of sustainability, responsibility as
well as circular economy as a part of their expertise and everyday work
in different organisations. The green transition is seeking responses
to the sustainability crisis and a transformation of the organisations
and work life. In the MaSS programme, we combine these substance themes
into transformational learning to provide new tools and perspectives for
students to work with.
During the orientation week, after the
initial starting day with coordinating all the technical issues, the
second day really kicked off our MaSS learning journey and it meant to
apply the transformative learning pedagogy. In practice, this
face-to-face meeting day with fellow students and tutors provided an
excellent foundation to get to know each other and supported the start
of the collaboration and creating a true sense of belonging.
At the end
of the second day, while relaxing and filling our tummies with pizzas,
the looks on our faces told it all – we were all in the right place
(Fig. 2). And as many of our students commented; it felt like finally
coming home. We cannot phrase it nicer – what a sense of community was
established already during our very first days! And the sense of hope
that was brought upon us, this is exactly what we needed in this day and
Figure 2. Pizza time! (Image: Marika Tuomela-Pyykkönen, 2023)
At the core of the studies
The core and profiling studies
of the MaSS program (Fig 3.) are designed to support the growth of
expertise from the different perspectives of sustainable development,
corporate responsibility as well as circular economy. This expertise is
integrated into the master’s thesis process. (Joutsenvirta et al. 2022;
Tuomela-Pyykkönen & Tyni, 2023) With the MaSS tutor team’s support,
students are practising transformative development from the very
beginning of the studies to graduation and beyond as a part of the
Practising Transformative Development course. The course will continue
until the end of the spring semester.
Individual and group work will
provide support to other courses so that students can strengthen their
mind settings, values, and expertise within the different contexts. The
feedback from the students is mainly given as comments during the group
meetings. Overall, it has been positive feedback and they have been very
inspired and open-minded towards the new way to study. A deeper
evaluation of the course will be done after the fall semester and at the
end of the first year.
Figure 3. MaSS degree structure
Alongside the core studies, the students have an opportunity to select
5-35 ECTS for their profiling studies, to support developing their
expertise. As another pilot, in Spring 2024, MaSS students will have an
opportunity to choose a new profiling study course Solutions. now. This
course is arranged in collaboration with Tampere UAS, Turku UAS and LAB
UAS offering a great opportunity to network with fellow students from
these organising universities.
Solutions.now is a project-based
course, where a group of students will work with the real-life problems
provided by different organisations. This course is part of the Climate
University network collaboration, in which Lapland UAS has been a member
since 2022. This network consists of Finnish higher education
institutions and other stakeholders interested in developing
sustainability and climate-related higher education. More information
about the course is available in the Lapland UAS Study Guide. Lapland
UAS will provide the project case but let’s keep it a secret until the
start of the course.
The first class of the MaSS degree program was
launched and tutors have already received feedback from the first
courses. One of the positive feedbacks concerned the utilisation of
flipped classroom, where materials are given in forehand before group
meetings. The actual meetings focus on discussions and sharing the
expertise between students and tutors, which provides opportunities to
share different perspectives of “wicked issues” in different kinds of
However, the students thought that some of the discussions at
the beginning of meetings should be shorter. We should have more time to
go deeper into each meeting’s main themes. Additionally, students have
given us feedback about the amounts of tasks during the first months of
studies. This kind of feedback is quite usual in other programmes.
Master’s studies involve 60 to 90 ECTS amount of studies, and 30 ECTS
come from the thesis. 60 ECTS is the number of studies, full-time
students will make during a one year (fall and spring semester).
the students in the master’s programme are working during their
studies, which means a quite heavy weekly programme to deal with. In the
MaSS programme, courses have been designed so that individual and group
tasks would make it a little bit easier to try to combine school work
with other parts of life. Tutors are still very aware of the workload
students are going through and trying to seek new ways to help students
to combine these different elements together.
This kind of
feedback is most appreciated, especially since the courses are new.
Feedback during the semester also helps to make some smaller adjustments
to other courses still ongoing and redesign the concepts for the next
semester. At the moment, the first MaSS group have initiated the most
interesting state-of-art thesis topics related to sustainability theme
and will start their contributions to the global sustainability field.
The MaSS mentors are quite excited to see the development process of the
first MaSS group. We are also eager to start designing the next
versions of courses for MaSS Master students for Fall 2024 on account of
this experience already gained during this semester.
Circular Economy Centre (2023) Now is
the time for changemakers – new master’s program starting in Lapland
UAS, News – Circular Economy Centre, 5.9.2023,
Joutsenvirta, M., Laininen, E., Tyni, S. & Korkeakoski, M. (2022)
Transformatiivinen oppiminen kestävyysosaamisen tukena, UAS Journal,
Lapin AMK/Lapland UAS (2022) Lapin AMK Master School, Lapland UAS
MaSS (2023) Master of Managing Sustainability and Systems Change,
Lapland UAS Master School, web pages.
Tuomela-Pyykkönen, M. & Tyni, S. (2023) Developing interdisciplinary
higher education to support sustainable and systemic change in the
Arctic area, IPSERA International Purchasing & Supply Education
& Research Association, IPSERA Conference 2023, Paper 7264.
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