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Master Courses Celebrate Graduation

Publication date 11.8.2023 16.08
Press release
Perjantain juhlallisuuksien aluksi maisterikurssit järjestyivät Maanpuolustuskorkeakoulun sankariaulaan

Master of Military Sciences Course 11 (SM11), Officer Pilots’ Programme (SMOHJ16) and the Executive Assistance Programme (SMVIR21) graduate today Friday 11 August 2023.

The graduation of the Master Courses has been celebrated in traditional ceremonies at the National Defence University in the course of the past week.  On Wednesday, commendable final papers were presented at the pro gradu seminar. Before that, the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, General Timo Kivinen gave the graduates a review of the Defence Forces today and in the future. On Thursday, the Rector of the National Defence University, Major General Mika Kalliomaa gave a final lesson to the students.  Today, Friday the week culminated in graduation ceremonies which started in the morning with a laying of a flower arrangement in the Memorial Hall. It was followed by a Day Celebration at the National Defence University with speeches and awarding of distinguished students.  

The Master of Military Sciences Degree is a higher university degree in military sciences which includes the Army, Navy and Air Force Programmes, and the Border Guard, Officer Pilots’ and Executive Assistance Programmes.  This autumn, a total of 125 students graduate as Masters of Military Sciences, including 15 from the Officer Pilots’ Programme and two from the Executive Assistance Programme.  

The majority of the students have graduated as Bachelors of Military Sciences on the 100th Cadet Course  or the 83rd Midshipman Course. After a five-year working life phase, they returned to the National Defence University to study for their master's degree.  Officer pilots proceed to master’s degree studies right after having completed their bachelor’s degree.  The Executive Assistance Programme is intended for civilian students outside the Defence Forces who have completed at least the bachelor’s degree.  In 2023, the Executive Assistance Programme celebrates its tenth anniversary.  

The Vice Director of the Master's Degree Programme, Lieutenant Commander Marcus Duncker is happy with the team spirit on the course, the arrangements and success. 

“As far as the course is concerned, I am particularly happy with the team spirit and the cooperation that took place between the students, teachers and course leaders on the basis of which it was easy to build everything else.” 

The Master’s Degree in Military Sciences provides the students with readiness to work in leadership and specialist tasks in normal and emergency conditions.  As a matter of fact, during the final months of the course, focus has been on honing the students’ supervisor skills and operational competence.  The change in our security environment and Finland becoming a member of a military alliance have brought extra perspectives to teaching and the conversations involved.  

Commendable master’s theses achieved on the Military Sciences Master’s Programme

Excellent final papers by students from different study programmes were presented in Wednesday’s pro gradu seminar. Among others, First Lieutenants Marko Ruokolainen from the Army Programme, Ville Ahokas from the Border Guard Programme and Miikka Karjula from the Air Force Programme had a chance to give presentations of their master’s thesis results. 

On the Master Course, the National Defence University’s first double master’s theses were achieved. These refer to considerably more extensive master’s theses than normal achieved on two different study programmes.  In the double master’s thesis he wrote on the NDU’s Military Sciences Master’s Programme and the Security and Strategic Analysis Master’s Programme at the University of Jyväskylä, Marko Ruokolainen discusses Russian threat narratives as justifications for Russia’s foreign and military policy activities.  

“ I wanted to write a final paper on a topic involving Russia, because I have been interested in Russia as a country and phenomenon for a long time.  When choosing a topic, you also had to take into consideration that the thesis would be expected to show knowledge of both scientific fields.  Many subjects on the Military Sciences Master’s Degree Programme can be linked to the other University’s degree programme”, Ruokolainen thinks.  

In the research material, Ruokolainen discerned a clear and historical trajectory in which Russia’s relationship with the West deteriorated from reserved cooperation to mistrust and finally, conflict.

“The war itself did not impact my research question, and I left the events which took place in 2022 outside the scope of the study.  They provided, however, interesting perspectives for the consideration of the research results. What emerged was that the trajectory up to the present day has been long and consistent. 

Ruokolainen appreciates the process as a whole, even if it meant a considerable workload. According to him, both universities had a very positive and encouraging take on the process at every level. 

“If you are interested in writing a double master’s thesis, it would be a good idea to have it approved well in advance before the beginning of your master’s studies.  This takes self-direction and certain abilities researchers must have.  For example, if you have been doing complementary studies at another university alongside your work, and you are interested, it may, perhaps, mean that achieving a double master’s thesis could be the right thing for you, Ruokolainen thinks. 

Ville Ahokas who studied on the Border Guard Programme was able to turn his Master’s Degree to great advantage in his duties in the Southeast Finland Border Guard District’s Crime Prevention Unit.  

“Right after I returned to work after Midsummer, I noticed how much the programme had improved my professional competence.  The Border Guard is an inter-administrative organization, so the programme emphasized law, administration and supervisor work."

“In my master’s thesis, I discuss the fact that the Border Guard needs an inspector- in- charge working with limited rights.  A surprising fact that came up was, for example, that the Border Guard used to have an inspector- in- charge, but in the framework of current legislation, this is not possible for the Border Guard, even if it is for other criminal investigation authorities.  While working on my paper, I delved into government proposals, committee statements and law in general. I acquired useful experience, because all the work done in the institution bases on lawfulness", Ahokas says.  

Miikka Karjula, who studied on  the Air Force Programme, emphasises that the choice of your master’s thesis topic should be based on its usefulness for your future work tasks.  

“I think that my readiness for my next duties improved due to my master’s thesis on Air Force tactics.  I made my final choice regarding my topic based on the idea that the time I would use for the study would serve me in my future work tasks."

“The most important thing is to choose a topic that interests you, working on which would be meaningful for you.  It would be a good idea to think about the topic well in advance, read studies and discuss with more experience people”. This is Karjula’ advice to future master’s thesis writers.  

Team spirit was the Course’s strength

Today, Friday the celebration started in the morning in the National Defence University’s Memorial Hall.  Laying a flower arrangement, the graduating students commemorated the 450 cadets and professional officers who have fallen in our wars. The festivities continued in the National Defence University’s Great Hall with a Day Celebration. The Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, General Timo Kivinen and the Rector of the National Defence Forces, Major General Mika Kalliomaa delivered celebration speeches.

At the Day Celebration, the speeches underlined the team spirit on the course and the importance of cooperation.  Ville Ahokas gave a speech representing the students.  In his speech, he looked back on the journey shared with his course mates and thanked them for the friendships that would last a lifetime. 

“ On the Master’s Course, I often came to witness how other students lent a mate a helping hand with studies or things having to do with family life.   They gave a mate some encouragement, if he was having a bad day.  Today, too, it has been a pleasure to see friends happy for each other and taking care of each other. 

Ahokas also thanked the course leadership for the successful and instructive course. 

“All through the Master’s Course, we also received tonnes of good advice and instructions for life to serve as exemplary supervisors, subordinates and work colleagues.  For this, we owe thanks to our course leaders, instructors and course secretary and the entire National Defence University personnel. 

Major General Mika Kalliomaa complimented the Course in his Rector’s Address giving encouraging wishes to the master’s degree graduates headed for working life.  After graduation, the graduates will be heading for different duties, more  challenging than they used to have. 

“Your units are looking forward to having you.  You have excellent skills and knowledge for starting your new work. You are already equipped with strong competence before embarking on the course on working life.  I am confident that the new competence you will build on top of the experience you have already acquired will give you a strong foundation on which to base your future work. 

Nevertheless, he also underlined that an officer’s career signifies constant learning in a changing world. 

“Remember also that our education will never be finished. Learning new things is a requirement because of constantly changing working life and our operational environment.  Keep improving your competence and be active with regard to reforms. 

Looking into the future

The final “leg” of the day was an Evening Celebration for graduated officers with close friends. After graduation, the students will go their separate ways again as they will be assigned to tasks across Finland, some of them in familiar, some of them in  completely unfamiliar surroundings.  

First Lieutenant Miikka Karjula wishes that after graduation his work input will help develop the Air Force.  

“Our time on the course has been a time of changes in the Defence Forces. The security policy situation has changed, a new fighter jet was chosen for Finland and Finland’s accession process to NATO was brought to a close.  It is great that the Defence Forces affords a master’s degree-wide contribution to students’ personal competence, and we will make use of this professional competence acquired to carry our share of the workload.  

Course primuses

Army Programme, First Lieutenant Ville Meriläinen

Navy Programme, First Lieutenant Tahvo Hirvonen

Air Force Programme, First Lieutenant Miikka Karjula

Border Guard Programme, First Lieutenant Ville Ahokas

Officer Pilots’ Programme, First Lieutenant Jaakko Kallio

The master’s theses of students who have given a publication permission will be available by the end of week 32 in the publication archive Doria