The honorary doctors will be conferred in May. Photo: Jouni Porsanger.

Ten honorary doctors to be promoted at the University of Lapland


Altogether ten honorary doctors will be conferred in the sixth conferment of degrees held at the University of Lapland between 13 and 18 May 2024. An honorary doctorate is the greatest recognition that a university can bestow on a person.

The University of Lapland confers honorary doctoral degrees on persons who have developed our research and education, advanced international collaboration, or promoted Lapland’s culture and business life.

Based on tradition, the conferment is an event arranged in honour of masters, doctors, and honorary doctors. It is meant for all those who have earned a master’s or doctor’s degree at our university and have not yet been promoted. The conferment of degrees is held between 13 and 18 May and registration is open here until 31 March 2024.

Honorary doctors at the University of Lapland in 2024

Honorary Doctor of Education

Professor Mhairi C. Beaton, Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Becket University (UK)

Mhairi C. Beaton is a merited researcher of education, an accomplished instructor, and an influential actor within international networks. She has extensive experience in the supervision of doctoral students and development of master’s programmes, and she has led many national and international research projects. Her research interests lie at the interface of inclusion, student voice, and teacher education. In the last 20 years, she has collaborated with the Faculty of Education at the University of Lapland within the framework of UArctic’s Thematic Network for Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity.

Honorary Doctor of Law

Director Tuija Brax

Over the years, Tuija Brax has comprehensively advanced the rule of law in both national and international contexts, focusing on human rights and environmental law. Presently, she is the director of the Rule of Law Centre, which is part of the University of Helsinki. As the Minister of Justice, she was in charge of preparing the Constitution, the Act on a Candidate’s Election Funding, and the Emergency Powers Act, while promoting the rights of the Sámi. The Faculty of Law at the University of Lapland has collaborated with the Rule of Law Centre, and faculty members have been involved, for example, as experts in the Centre’s projects and their development.

Honorary Doctor of the Arts

Artist Niillas Holmberg

Niillas Holmberg is a versatile, multifield Sámi artist of the young generation. Holmberg is well known as a poet, author, scriptwriter, musician, and activist, living in his home region in Utsjoki. The Sámi and nature are often regarded as being the core of his expression. Holmberg promotes sustainable development with themes that adhere to Arctic art and to the northern cultural environment and lifestyle. Holmberg has earned his merits through the development of art, northern culture, and especially modern Sámi art.

Honorary Doctor of Social Sciences

Professor Jef Huysmans, Queen Mary University (UK)

Jef Huysmans is a professor of international politics at Queen Mary University. Thanks to his long career, Huysmans’s research networks are extensive. For instance, he has been the director of the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance, which was one of the most recognised inter-disciplinary organisations worldwide, especially in the field of citizenship studies. Currently he leads a Research Hub in International Political Sociology that develops novel understandings of key challenges in world politics. His expertise supports not only critical research complying with the profile areas of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland but also what it means to do critical research today. Over the years, Professor Huysmans has also taught courses aimed at undergraduates and doctoral students of the University of Lapland and given presentations at various events.

Honorary Doctors Mhairi C. Beaton, Tuija Brax, Niillas Holmberg, Jef Huysmans and Gail Fondahl.

Honorary Doctors of Philosophy

Professor Emerita Gail Fondahl, University of Northern British Columbia (Canada)

Gail Fondahl, Professor of Geography (emerita), spent most of her academic career at the University of Northern British Colombia. She earned her doctor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Fondahl has conducted extensive research in the Arctic region, especially in the Russian North, and is a meritorious researcher of Indigenous peoples’ rights and human development in the Arctic. She served as president of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (2011–2014). More recently, she chaired the Scientific Advisory Board of University of Lapland’s Arctic Centre.

Actress Pirjo Leppänen
Pirjo Leppänen is an admired and merited long-standing actress from Rovaniemi with an extensive career in art and culture. She has become known for her numerous theatre, TV, and movie productions. For example, she is famous for her role as the strong character Riitu in Kalle Päätalo’s movies. Leppänen made her acting debut in Rovaniemi Theatre in the 1970s and retired in 2008. Even after retirement, she has continued performing on stage, in movies, and in TV series.

Frederik Paulsen, entrepreneur and a friend of the Arctic
Frederik Paulsen is an entrepreneur, explorer, and retired chairman of the board of the biopharmaceuticals company Ferring Pharmaceuticals. Living in Switzerland, Frederik Paulsen chairs the board of the UArctic network comprising 200 universities and research organisations around the world. The secretariat of the network resides at the University of Lapland, Finland. Frederik Paulsen is dedicated to Arctic issues and has supported the operation of the University of Lapland in many ways.

Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada
In 2021, Mary Simon became Canada’s first Indigenous governor general. She has previously worked, for example, as Canada’s ambassador for circumpolar affairs and as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. She also represented Canada in the founding negotiations of the Arctic Council. Mary Simon has promoted the construction of the Arctic network of universities and the rights of Indigenous peoples. Accompanied by President Sauli Niinistö, her previous visit at the University of Lapland took place in the winter of 2023.

Author Jari Tervo
Jari Tervo is in the forefront of Finnish writers. He is also known as a productive journalist and TV personality. His career as an author spans five decades – Tervo’s first poem collection “Tuulen keinutuoli” (Rocking Chair in the Wind) was published in 1980. The events in his books often relate to Lapland, where the author was born. Over the decades, Tervo has received many awards for his work as an author, scriptwriter, and TV performer.

Pertti Yliniemi, Chair of the Board of Lapland Hotels
Pertti Yliniemi is a long-standing tourism entrepreneur from Lapland. Presently chairing the Board of the Lapland Hotels company, Yliniemi has had an important role in building the tourism and hotel sector in Finland as well as in Lapland. Over the decades, he has boosted the attraction of Lapland both in Finland and internationally. Yliniemi’s background and mindscape are rooted in Lapland, and collaboration between him and the University of Lapland has been diverse.

Honorary Doctors Pirjo Leppänen, Mary Simon, Frederik Paulsen, Jari Tervo and Pertti Yliniemi.

Further information

Antti Syväjärvi, rector
Phone: +358 400 60 6244