Presenters at FinnFest USA 2019

Markus Aaltonen

Markus Aaltonen serves as Chair of Suomi Seura, the 90 year old organization whosemission is to connect Finland to the Finnish Diaspora found throughout the world. Aaltonen was a long time Member of the Finnish Parliament, 1975-91 & 1995-99. During those years, he developed a specialty in Foreign Affairs even as he represented his home region, Seinäjoki in Western and Central Finland. He is a graduate of Tampere University.

Kevin Adkisson

Kevin Adkisson serves as the Curatorial Associate at the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research. He assists in the preservation, interpretation, and programs across the many buildings and treasures of Cranbrook. He curated the Loja Saarinen exhibition in 2019 currently on display in the Saarinen home. A native of north Georgia, Kevin has his BA in Architecture from Yale and is completing his MA from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in American Material Culture.

Lauri Anderson

Lauri Anderson grew up in a Finnish American community in Maine. He has authored ten books of literary fiction, all with Finnish American characters. His books have been topics for
academic conferences, journals, and dissertations in the United States, Finland, Italy, and France. Dr. Anderson once chaired English departments at Suomi College, Finlandia University, and schools in Nigeria, Truk Lagoon, and Turkey. He lived in Paris three summers. He has received nine research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has been on Finnish TV, and has been a guest writer at many universities and festivals. He loves pickled tripe
and Moxie.

Soile Anderson and Eleanor Ostman

Soile (in red apron) Anderson is a native of Finland who relocated to Minnesota and the St. Paul area, where she opened The Deco Restaurant, Taste of Scandinavia bakeries and the Finnish Bistro. She has been featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine, and in 2017 she was inducted into the Scandinavian American Hall of Fame. Eleanor (in blue apron) is of Finnish descent, and was born and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota. She studied journalism at Macalester College and was food writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She drew on decades of her columns and published two cookbooks, Always on Sunday and Always on Sunday Revisited. Together, they are this year’s Finlandia Foundation Lecturer of the Year.

John Beck

Raised in a Swedish/Finnish family in Escanaba, MI, John Beck is an Associate professor in the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations
College of Social Science at Michigan State University. He is highly regarded expert in collective bargaining, including automaker pacts.

Melissa Chichester

Melissa Chichester is a third-generation Finnish American from the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University and is a full-time copywriter and a part-time faculty member at Delta College. Her work has appeared in Old Northwest Review, Welter, and Animal Wellness Magazine, and she is the author of I Am Safe Here: A New Start for Scout. Melissa is currently at work on a full-length fictional manuscript about the 1913 Calumet and Hecla copper strike.

James Ford Cooper

James Ford Cooper is a retired U.S. Department of State Senior Diplomatic Officer who had more direct experience dealing at senior levels with Finnish affairs in Helsinki and Washington during the Cold War than any other U.S. diplomat. After retirement he authored a book “On the Finland Watch: An American Diplomat in Finland During the Cold War.”
Attachments area

Thomas A. DuBois

Thomas A. DuBois is a professor and chair of the Department of German Nordic and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He researches and teaches in the areas of Finnish and Sámi culture as well as Viking Age culture and religion. His most recent books include a study of Nordic religious wood carving (Sacred to the Touch), a forthcoming book on Sámi media (Sámi Media and Indigenous Agency in tthe Arctic North) and an anthology of singable English translations of Simo Westerholm’s classic Reisaavaisen laulu Ameriikkaan, translated as Songs of the Finnish Migration.

Frank Eld

Frank Eld, the son of an Finnish immigrant who settled in Idaho, became an educator, living and working on the East Coast where he discovered the history of early Finns. Since then, Frank has traveled extensively, researching and documenting original Finnish log construction in the US, Canada, and Finland. He founded a museum in Roseberry, Idaho which includes 8 Finnish log structures preserved among its 25 buildings. Frank has written one book, Finnish Log Construction – The Art. A retired educator and businessman, he states, “My mission to to educate others on our unique Finnish Heritage of log building and encouraging its preservation.”

Dave Elsila

Dave Elsila is a retired editor of the UAW magazine Solidarity and, before that, was editor of the AFT’s American Teacher. He lives in metro Detroit, where he’s on the board of the Michigan Labor History Society and Detroit Democratic Socialists of America.

Dennis Frahman

Dennis Frahmann grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, where he often took long walks with his Finnish-born grandfather. Frahmann majored in English and philosophy at Ripon College and then earned a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University. After a short stint as a restaurant reviewer with Mpls. St. Paul Magazine, he spent most of his career as a marketer for several high-tech firms. Now retired, he lives on the Central Coast of California, where he also serves as the director of the Cambria Film Festival. He is the author of four novels, including The Finnish Girl.

Sharon Franklin – Rahkonen

Sharon Franklin-Rahkonen (PhD Indiana University, Bloomington 1991) is an Associate Prof. of History at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. An expert on East Baltic, Scandinavian, and Russian history, she is a graduate of Indiana University’s prestigious Central Eurasian Studies program. She teaches courses on Russian history, modern Europe, and social studies education. She lived in Finland for two years, where she worked on her dissertation with the help of the Fulbright Grant. The title of her dissertation was “Jewish Identity in Finland.”


Frog is an Adjunct Professor and Academy of Finland Research Fellow at the University of Helsinki. He specializes in oral poetry and mythology, working especially with Finno-Karelian traditions and traditions of Viking Age and Medieval Scandinavia. He has worked intensively with Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala and kalevalaic poetry collected from the oral tradition for the past two decades. These interests have led him from a bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota to a PhD at University College London and on to an adjunct professorship (docentship) at the University of Helsinki, where he has been for more than ten years.

Mehdi Ghasemi

Mehdi Ghasemi received his PhD from the English Department at the University of Turku. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Finnish Literature Society (SKS) and the University of Tampere, working on a project entitled “Toward a More Inclusive Finnish Literature.” This project aims to increase the visibility, readability, and research on literary works produced by immigrants residing in Finland and authors of Finnish origin living in North America. He has published five scholarly books, fourteen scholarly papers in peer-reviewed journals, and three fiction books in the hybrid genre of “noveramatry,” a combination of novel, drama, and poetry all in one line.

Andrew Gronevold

Andrew Gronevold is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan where he specializes in hydrology and climate science. He has become an expert on the waters of the Great Lakes, the source of one fifth of the world’s surface fresh water. Increasing precipitation, the threat of recurring periods of high evaporation, and a combination of both routine and unusual climate events are putting the region in uncharted territory. His writings and his public presentations have made him a frequent spokesperson for both the academic community and the general public.

Antti Häkkinen

Dr. Antti Häkkinen, senior lecturer, has worked at the University of Helsinki since the 1980´s. His research fields cover health, ethnic relations, social problems, economic and hunger crisis and the intergenerational transmission of economic, social and human capital. The life course and network analyses as well as oral history method have been central in his research work. Methods like data analysis, data capture, and data structuring of the digital humanities are his new fields of research. He has been a supervisor of 18 doctoral students and a chair of numerous research projects.

Helena Halmari

Helena Halmari is a Professor of English at Sam Houston State University, in Texas. Halmari’s PhD (linguistics) is from the University of Southern California, where she wrote her dissertation on the structure of American Finnish. Much of her research has focused on language contact between Finnish and English. She is the author of Government and Codeswitching: Explaining American Finnish (Benjamins, 1997) and a number of articles and book chapters. Since 2011, Halmari is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Finnish Studies. She has also translated fiction from Finnish to English.

Kae Halonen

Kae Halonen was a “red diaper baby,” born to Finnish American parents active leaders in the progressive movements of Seattle and grew up participating in peace and justice activities. As a divorced mother with two young children, she made the decision to move to Detroit where she become a “Detroiter”, working at Ford Motor Company and, after earning a Master’s degree at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, teaching labor history. Oral history research with people who experienced the labor activism of Detroit has been a speciality.

Louise I. Hartung

Louise I. Hartung retired from public school education after working 30 years with English Language Learners. She is a musician, and an organizer of Soittoninekat/FinnFolk, whose music is included in the video “Immigrant Families Remember.” Louise collaborated with videographer Glenn Kujansuu to create the video.

Marjaliisa Hentilä

Marjaliisa Hentilä (Dr. in Social Science; docent, University of Helsinki) wrote her dissertation (1999) on the history of women shopworkers in Finland. Between 2005 and 2019, Hentilä was the director of Finland’s Cultural and Science Institute in Berlin, and she now works as a Senior Researcher in the Finnish Labour Archives. She has written biographies of leaders of the Finnish labor movement, for instance, of the labor union leader Matti Paasivuori (2014) and of the labor women’s leader Hilja Pärssinen (2018). Marjaliisa Hentilä has published several books on German history together with her husband, prof. Seppo Hentilä. The latest is Saksalainen Suomi 1918 (German Finland 1918), which was chosen as the best history book of the year in Finland and was also translated into German: Das Deutsche Finnland 1918.

Wade Hollingshaus

Wade Hollingshaus, PhD, is Associate Professor and Chair at the Department of Theatre and Media Arts at Brigham Young University. Hollingshaus teaches courses in literary and cultural theory, performance studies, and dramaturgy. His research has been published in Theatre Topics, Scandinavian Studies, and Journal of Finnish Studies.

Tuomas Hovi

Tuomas Hovi, PhD, works as a University Teacher in Folkloristics at the University of Turku. His areas of expertise and research interests include folklore, heritage, tradition, tourism, authenticity, identity politics, ethnicity, and cultural identity. Hovi’s current research has been funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (2016–19), and it focuses on the cultural and ethnic identity and heritage of Finnish Americans currently living in the United States.

Mirva Johnson

Raised bilingually by her Finnish mother and Finnish-American father, Mirva Johnson grew up making regular trips to visit family in Finland. She graduated from the College of William and Mary where she majored in Linguistics and History. Currently, a PhD Student in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she is researching how language and culture interact in Finnish-American immigrant communities and how their traditions and heritage languages change over time.

Kristiina Jomppanen

Kristiina Jomppanen is the Finnish language coordinator at the Department of German, Nordic, Slavic and Dutch University of Minnesota. She is currently teaching all levels of Finnish courses offered at UMN. Her MA Kristiina earned at the University of Turku, where her studies focused on translated language, learner’s language and Finnish literature. She is a trained foreign language teacher and has previously worked as a Finnish as second language teacher at the University of Edinburgh as well as completed a Fulbright-year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Dr.Theol.Habil., University of Helsinki) is Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA and Docent of Ecumenics at the University of Helsinki. An ordained minister in the Evangelica Lutheran Church of America, he also serves as Associate Pastor in the Finnish Lutheran Church in California and Texas.

Scott Kaukonen

Scott Kaukonen is the author of the award-winning short-story collection, Ordination, and the co-translator, with Helena Halmari, of Pet Shop Girls, by Anja Snellman. Kaukonen is a past recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship and the Nelson Algren Prize from the Chicago Tribune. A fourth-generation Finnish American and a native of Michigan, he lives with his son in Huntsville, Texas, where he directs the MFA program in creative writing, editing, and publishing at Sam Houston State University and serves as associate editor of the Journal of Finnish Studies.

Thomas Klug

Thomas Klug, Professor of History Emeritus at Marygrove College, maintains an interest in the history of Detroit, the automobile industry and the automobile industry workers. Recent publications have included “The Deindustrialization of Detroit,” in Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies, ed. Joel Stone (Wayne State University Press, 2017) and “Employers’ Path to the Open Shop in Detroit, 1903-1907,” in Against Labor: How US Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism, eds. Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson (University of Illinois Press, 2017).

Alana Kosklin

Alana Kosklin is a third-year doctoral candidate at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research focuses on Finnish emigrant literature and its role in the creation of an ethnic culture through its ties to Finnish folklore, specifically the Kalevala. She is examining literature produced by second- and third-generation Finns in the United States, Canada, and Australia to determine the ways the stories and images of the Kalevala have been passed down and reshaped in an emigrant context, and to explore what this means for the transmission of literary images in emigrant communities.

Glen Kujansuu

Glenn Kujansuu worked in the computer/IT industry for over 20 years. Glenn has worked as a photographer for the past 15 years. This project “Immigrant Families Remember” was conceived by Louise Hartung who acted at the director. She and I collaborated on the project. Glenn’s role was videographer and editor.

Jim Kurtti

Jim Kurtti, the grandson of Finnish immigrants, was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula village of Bruce Crossing, Michigan. Since 2000, he has been Finlandia University’s Director of the Finnish American Heritage Center and the editor in chief of “The Finnish American Reporter. He was appointed the Honorary Consul of Finland for Upper Michigan in 2008 and continues to serve in that role

Tellervo Lahti

Tellervo Lahti, a University of Turku graduate, is the Director of the
Finnish Emigrant Museum and the World of Trails Heritage Park, both in
Seinäjoki, Finland. The Heritage Park, features buildings built and lived
by Finnish emigrants in different parts of the world, such as a Cane
Cutters’ Barracks from Queensland Australia, Siberian house from Russia, the
Knuttila family house from Saskatchewan Canada and the Hakala home from the
USA. Also an author, a member of Association of Finnish Non-fiction
Writers, her latest book tells about the war children from Finland to Sweden
and Denmark.

Jussi Lahtinen

Jussi Lahtinen is a PhD student from Tampere University, Finland. Currently, he is preparing his dissertation in the doctoral program in history. In his study, Lahtinen uses Finnish working-class literature from the 1970s as source material for the research of the contemporary social history (historical welfare state research). Lahtinen believes that realistic literal portrayals of the newly built welfare state can provide new and unique perspectives on the relationship between the individual and contemporary society.

Jim Leary

Jim Leary is an emeritus professor, folklorist, and two-time Grammy nominee affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His field and archival research since the 1970s has often focused on the folk humor, songs, and social dance music of Finnish Americans in the Upper Midwest.

Dave Leif

Dave has always found his Finnish Heritage to be one of the things of which he is most proud. He attended FinnFest in 2007 when it was in Ashtabula OH, and it solidified his desire to become a member of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport. His interests with the museum extend to the preservation of our culture through historical donated items, genealogy, Educational Out-Reach programs for Schools, as well as the dedicated Out-Reach Program to support the Finnish Cultural Garden in Cleveland. He works for the Cleveland Clinic’s Simulation Center as the Program Manager dealing with surgical education and the new areas of Virtual and Augmented Reality surgical training.

Peter MacKeith

Peter MacKeith is dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, University of Arkansas. MacKeith has worked in architecture and design practices in both the United States and Finland, notably with the renowned Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa. He has written, lectured and published extensively in the United States, Finland, and other Nordic countries on modern and contemporary Finnish and Nordic architecture. As a Finlandia Foundation Lecturer of the Year in 2017, he gave lectures that traced the emergence, development and ongoing vitality of Finnish identity through a century of significant architecture and design.

Hanna Mattila

Hanna is the Government of Finland/David and Nancy Speer Visiting Professor (Associate) in Finnish Studies at the University of Minnesota. During her two year tenure at the University, she is teaching urban planning and geography. She received her PhD in spatial planning and transportation engineering from the Aalto University School of Engineering. She has also worked with environmental aesthetics, architecture and urban design at the University of Helsinki Institute for Art Research and Helsinki University of Technology, Department of Architecture.

Terhi Miikki-Broersma

Terhi Miikki-Broersma earned a Master’s in Music at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland 1993.
She has been as a church musician since she was 14 and after graduating she worked 10 years full-time as a cantor-organist in a Lutheran Church in Kotka, Finland, and 8 months in Benalmadena, Spain before moving to the United States.
She has directed various choruses, and is currently the director of a Emmaus Lutheran Church Choir in Vancouver, BC and Suomi Conference choir.
She was Performer of Year 2009 by Finlandia Foundation National and she travels regularly around the States to Finnish/Scandinavian community celebrations and church services.
Her instruments are pipe organ, piano, bassoon, accordion and voice.
She is the executive director of the “Claire de Lune”, Lynden Music Festival.

Kristin Ojaniemi

A fourth generation Finnish American, Kristin Ojaniemi grew up in Paynesville, Michigan, a suburb of Bruce Crossing. A freelance videographer, Kristin has been specializing in documentary films, often with Finnish American and Upper Peninsula topics. Her film Cooperatively Yours, a film about the Finnish American co-operative movement, came out in 2017 and was shown as a part of the FinnFest USA 2017 program. This year, she brings her new film Sirkka: Past and Present just premiered in August. Her film work has been recognized for its powerful use of both archival footage and contemporary photography.

Bill Pratt

Bill Pratt is an emeritus professor of history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he taught U.S. history and served as chief negotiator for the faculty union. In recent years, he has been researching Finnish Americans in the 1930s, including “Karelian Fever” and their involvement in farm protest.

John Prusynski

John Prusynski is a doctoral student at the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has studied at Sámi allaskuvla in Kautokeino, Norway. His research focuses on Sámi literature, particularly the presentations of shamanism among Sámi authors, including Kirste Paltto.

Anni Korpi Putikka and Arlene Putikka Tucker

Anni Korpi Putikka was born in pre-Winter War Finland; she grew up there after the war and then married an American Finn and moved to Northern Minnesota. Her American-born daughter, Arlene Putikka Tucker, encouraged her to write autobiographical essays which were translated into English and published in the New World Finn. The mother and daughter are active members of the Ladies of Kaleva. Arlene has been a long time board member of Salolampi and a leader in the Duluth Finnish community.

Hanna Pylväinen

Hanna Pylväinen is the author of the novel We Sinners (Henry Holt & Co., 2012), which received the Whiting Writers’ Award and the Balcones Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Wall Street Journal. Pylväinen is the recipient of residencies at The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo and fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the University of Michigan, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Princeton University. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of fiction at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Carl Rahkonen

Carl Rahkonen is a Music Librarian and Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who wrote a doctoral dissertation on the Finnish kantele. He is currently doing research on Finnish American music and musicians.

Minna Sannikka

Minna Sannikka, MA (European Ethnology, the University of Helsinki), is an archivist at the Finnish Labour Archives (Työväen Arkisto), located in Helsinki. Sannikka specializes in oral history and the collections of the Commission of Finnish Labour Tradition (Työväen muistitietotoimikunta). The Commission operates within the Finnish Labour Archives, and it has been collecting oral history and memoirs of individual members of the labor movement from the 1960s to this day.

Tiina Talvitie

Tiina Talvitie has been the pastor of the New York Finnish Lutheran Congregation (ELCA) since 2009. The “theology of the head” she learned at Helsinki University, from which she received a Master of Theology in 1997. The “theology of the heart” she learned while a novice at the Community of Grandchamp, an ecumenical monastery in Switzerland, from 1994 until 2004. Prior to coming to New York, she served the parish of Rekola in Vantaa and the Ähtäri congregation in Central Finland.

Rev. Jarmo Tarkki

Rev. Jarmo Tarkki, Ph.D., D.Min., born and raised in Helsinki, Finland, was ordained in the Diocese of Helsinki (ELCF) in 1977. He earned his doctorate at the University of Helsinki in 1994.
Rev. Tarkki is an author of many books and articles, mostly in Finnish. He has been a Teaching Fellow in Philosophical Theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA and an Adjunct Professor of Theology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA.
Currently Rev. Tarkki serves as Pastor to Finns west of Mississippi including all of Mexico. He lives in Solvang, CA.

Miika Tervonen

Miika Tervonen is a Senior Research Fellow at the Migration Institute of Finland, and an adjunct professor of Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki. Tervonen’s work explores histories of mobility, transnationalism and diversity in Finland and the Nordic countries. He has been awarded the Finnish State Award for Public Information and the Vuoden tiedekynä science prize for his work. Tervonen’s current research deals with the often overlooked phenomenon of minorities as emigrants.

Alpo Väkevä

Alpo Väkevä is a PhD student in Aesthetics at the University of Helsinki. His dissertation will examine Finnish left-wing writer Raoul Palmgren’s aesthetical and political thinking. Väkevä is also an editorial secretary in Työväentutkimus Vuosikirja (Labour Research Yearbook), a multidisciplinary periodical published by the Institutions of Labour Movement Heritage in Finland. In addition, Väkevä is an information specialist in the Library of the Labour Movement, located in Helsinki.

Beth Virtanen

Beth L. Virtanen, PhD, is Dean of Instruction at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. She has served as lead faculty and department chair in Language and Writing Studies and has devoted much attention to the study and production of Finnish North-American literature.

Hilary-Joy Virtanen

Hilary-Joy Virtanen, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Finnish & Nordic Studies at Finlandia University. She is an ethnologist specializing in Nordic and Upper Midwestern (USA) cultural practices, including festivals, traditional arts, oral genres, music, folk dance, ethnic and national dress, and heritage language maintenance. Her interests also include nineteenth-century national romanticism, particularly in Finland, as well as 1905–1920, a period of intense labor unrest and the entrance of the United States into World War I. This historical period is reflected in labor music and laborlore (especially songs associated with the Industrial Workers of the World). Virtanen’s research in the iron and copper mining regions of the Upper Midwest and the industrial city of Tampere, Finland, are related through Finnish American migration and similar historical developments in each place.

Margaret Vainio

Margaret Vainio went to Finland with the Northern Michigan University honors choir and decided to stay. She became a Cantor in the Saarijärvi Lutheran Parish where she has lived and raised a family. Now retired, she has worked as cantor for the Finnish church on the Isle of Rhodes and has become a fully certified Asahi instructor. She will demonstrate Asahi in the tori and assist with the group singing throughout the festival.

Hanna Wagner

Hanna Wagner, born and raised in the Helsinki area, married her husband, a diplomat in the U.S. State Department, a post which meant the family lived in Latin America, Europe, Africa and Washington DC. She knows from first hand what it means to be an Expatriate Finn. Now living in Washington, she has been teaching Finnish and working as a free-lance interpreter while volunteering for a number of Finnish organizations, including the Finlandia Foundation national board. She is the Deputy Speaker of the Finnish Expatriate Parliament, representing the United States member organizations.

Marianne Wargelin

K. Marianne Wargelin grew up in three Finnish American communities: Berkeley, CA, Fairport Harbor, OH, and Hancock, MI. As a child accompanying her parents on their work trips, she visited most of the Finnish communities across the entire continental United States. Earlier an educator in American higher education, Wargelin now consults with scholars, government officials, cultural institutions, and the general public about Finland and Finnish America. She has served as an Honorary Consul of Finland in Minneapolis. Currently a PhD candidate at Tampere University, she studies the changing identity of the national Finnish American community, a subject well suited to her position as President of FinnFest USA since 2004.

Tiina Watts

Tiina Watts has been teaching Finnish for over 30 years at Salolampi, Suomikoulu, various Finnish camps, Finnish festivals, and in her home. She loves incorporating music, games, lots of conversation, grammar instruction, and movement into her lessons. Learning Finnish can be fun!