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leasa weimer, finland, 2011-2012

Fulbright Year: 2011-2012
Country: Finland
Proposal Type: Research
Field of Study: Education
Proposal Title: International Student Market, Academic Capitalism, and Finnish Higher Education
UGA Graduate Department: Institute of Higher Education
Degree: PhD in Higher Education
Hometown: Boulder, CO

Although Finland is a long way from her native Colorado, Leasa Weimer says in some ways it feels like going home.

“During my Fulbright year, I am most looking forward to living in Europe again,” says Leasa, who will study public education in the Nordic country of some 4 million people. “I spent two years in Europe as I pursued a master’s degree through the European Union-hosted Erasmus Mundus scholarship program. One of the countries I lived in was Finland; thus, this trip back to Finland will feel as if I am going home.

“Yes, I will experience a long winter, but I love winter sports and the novelty of a Finnish sauna, and swimming in a frozen lake. Plus, the long winter days will motivate me to write, write, and write. My boyfriend will also accompany me, as he was offered a consulting position at one of the Finnish universities. All in all, I am looking forward to the totality of the adventure that awaits us.”

Leasa will be occupied by her research on the Finnish government’s progressive attitude toward education. Up until 2010, the country’s constitution guaranteed a free education for all students (regardless of nationality) pursuing university level degrees. New legislation unearthed a five-year program to allow universities to charge tuition fees from non-European Union and non-European Economic Area students, which brings focus to her research.

“The purpose of this study is to analyze the various impacts, rationales, and decision-making processes of the shift from a tuition-free university system in Finland to a more entrepreneurial and fees-based higher education system,” she says. “I will conduct interviews with ministers, university administrators, faculty members, and students, as well as document analysis of university and government policies to analyze differences and similarities in impacts, rationales, strategic choices, and decision-making of the introduction of tuition fees.”

When she completes her Fulbright work in Finland, Leasa says she’ll return stateside, with plans to earn her doctorate.

“First and foremost, I hope to defend my dissertation and place those three magical letters next to my name: Ph.D,” she says. “Then, my plan is to step back into the working world where I will work either in a branch campus of a U.S. university or as an academic director for a study abroad program. My long-term goal is to eventually settle down in the U.S. and take on a leadership role in a university’s international office.”

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