Close-up of Mari Walls, President of the new Tampere University


The new Tampere University is getting as President a former Tampere resident, who in her previous position brought together three research institutes.

The Transitional Board of the new Tampere University appointed Professor, PhD Mari Walls, currently President and CEO of LUKE Natural Resources Institute Finland, as the President of the new university in April. Walls takes up the reins on 13 August 2018. Up until the launch of the new university, she will serve as the CEO of Tampere University Foundation.

Who? Mari Walls

  • CEO of Tampere University Foundation from 13 August, President of the new Tampere University from 1 January 2019.
  • Holds a PhD. Walls completed her dissertation on ecological interactions at the University of Turku in 1989 and went on to pursue post-doctoral research at the University of Cornell in the USA. Docent of Ecology at the University of Helsinki.
  • President and CEO of LUKE Natural Resources Institute Finland since 2015. Before joining LUKE, Walls has worked, among others, as the Director of the Marine Research Centre in the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, as Professor of Biodiversity and Environmental Sciences at the University of Turku, and as Programme Director at the Academy of Finland.
  • Walls occupies several positions of trust and sits, among others, on the Board of the University of Oulu and on the Supervisory Board of the Finnish Cultural Foundation. She has also previously served, among others, on the Research Council for Biosciences and Environment at the Academy of Finland and on the Steering Group of the Academy’s 2016 review of the state of scientific research in Finland. In 2017, Mari Walls served on the four-member Panel for Helsinki University Change Review headed by Professor Emerita Sue Scott.
  • Lives in Espoo, Finland. Her family includes her husband, who works as university lecturer at the University of Turku, and two children. Her elder child studies at TAMK and her younger goes to upper secondary school.
  • Enjoys exploring nature and spending time at the family’s holiday home. Takes a daily sauna.
  • Moved to Tampere at the age of one after her father was appointed to an assistantship at the School of Social Sciences. Walls completed her upper secondary education at Tampere Teacher Training School. After her matriculation examination, she went to the University of Turku to study biology. “I went to school in Tampere and engaged in the usual teenage pursuits along with everyone else. I so much wanted a Tappara jacket. It’s still on my wish list.”

Walls is the first President and CEO of LUKE Natural Resources Institute Finland, the second-largest research institute in the country. Established on 1 January 2015, LUKE was formed through a merger of three research institutes (MTT Agrifood Research Finland, the Finnish Forest Research Institute Metla, the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute RKTL) and the statistical services of the Information Centre Tike, which is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

“I believe that my experience of merging three research institutes to create LUKE was a strong factor in my nomination and subsequent appointment as President. The chance to join the development of the new university community in Tampere came up unexpectedly and, considering my position at LUKE, perhaps somewhat too soon. After careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that the offer was simply too exciting to pass up,” Walls says.

“Tampere is the scene of an important reform that will resonate across Finland and Europe. The new university’s profile that combines technology, health and society is strong and distinctive. For me, this is a fascinating opportunity to contribute to the development of the new multidisciplinary and internationally competitive higher education community.”

Changes will always breed uncertainty

Walls is not startled by the disputes that have arisen at different stages of the Tampere3 process and have occasionally made headlines.

“It is only natural that changes breed uncertainty and even fear. We need to accept and make room for this uncertainty. I’m confident that we can build a culture of co-development in the new Tampere University. Personally, I’m an advocate of approachable and inclusive styles of leadership. My intention is to provide a wide range of forums for the members of our community to share their views and offer their input,” says Walls.

Walls’s duties as LUKE’s President and CEO will keep her busy right up to the summer holidays.

“I’ve already received many invitations from within the higher education institutions in Tampere. Unfortunately, my current schedule leaves little time for new appointments, but in August I’ll be fully on board,” promises Walls.

“I was delighted that my meeting with the Student Unions could be arranged on such short notice on May Day. We had a very fruitful meeting, where we got to know one another and discuss our expectations, which were very much in the same vein.”

Text: Katja Ayres
Photo: Emilia Kangasluoma