Brännkärr-Friberg began her studies in Production Management in 1995 at Tekniska läroverket, which later became Arcada. Her interest in natural sciences influenced her choice of studies, and studying in an English-language degree programme was quite uncommon at the time.
"When all the other Ostrobothnians went to Turku to study, I was the one heading to Helsinki. The programme gave me English as a bonus, and in my professional life, I later acquired Finnish. One should not be afraid to follow their own path; confidence grows, and the world shrinks," says Brännkärr-Friberg.
Life Turned Upside Down
Helsinki was not nearly her final destination, as she has lived, studied, and worked around the world, including the USA, South Korea, and Estonia. After several years, she and her family returned to Jakobstad, where she worked as a purchasing and logistics manager until life took an unexpected turn.
"My son was diagnosed with leukemia, and we spent countless days in the hospital. Quite quickly, I started thinking that I want to do something for these children and their families, once I have recovered from the crisis myself."
From the tough experience, something good ultimately emerged: Project Liv, an association bringing joy and happiness to children with long-term illnesses and their families.
"Even though I'm not currently working as an engineer, Project Liv wouldn't be what it is today without my studies. The ability to build visions and strategies, as well as communication and leadership skills, are knowledge I carry with me in everything I do."
Strength in Changing Fields
Brännkärr-Friberg has collaborated with Arcada for many years, involving a wide range of tasks and degree programmes.
"I have always felt that Arcada has a genuine interest in what one is doing, both during the study years and for my career. Since Arcada laid the foundation for my knowledge, it feels natural for me to give back as an alumna. It's also cool that I'm the engineer working with children with long-term illnesses, but that's not seen as something negative, but rather as a strength."
This is also the Alumna of the Year's main message to the students today. It's okay if you don't know exactly what you want; you can try, choose again, and change your mind.
"Be fearless; you don't regret what you do, but what is left undone. Dare to be curious and inquisitive; there are no stupid questions. Setbacks are part of life; things don't always turn out as planned, but it still turns out well. And stick to your own values and live according to them," summarizes Brännkärr-Friberg.
Nina Brännkärr-Friberg was named Alumna of the year for being an inspiration and a pride for everyone connected to Arcada. Under the motto "it's cool to care," she has led not only her own organisation but also engaged countless students at Arcada over the years. For Nina, there seems to be 25 hours in a day, as she generously shares her time by acting as a working life contact, guest lecturer, interviewee, and thesis supervisor. She sees possibilities in every individual and generously shares her expertise from multiple industries. She is also a living proof that a career can take various directions and that every experience is valuable.
The Alum of the Year award goes to a person who is a source of inspiration for today's students and shows broad commitment to Arcada. The person also serves as an ambassador for Arcada and actively participates in the UAS’s activities.