Meet the InnoLabbers: Niina Mäntylä


Image: Niina and her horses Dora (energetic) and Viivi (opinionated).

This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Niina Mäntylä.

What are you?

I am an associate professor in Public Law. My core research areas are administrative law and education law.
I am also an animal lover, and I have two energetic dogs and two horses. One has energy and one has opinions.

So what does an InnoLab associate professor do, exactly?

My work tasks include teaching (courses: Environmental and energy law, Legal framework for public action, research seminars) and supervising Masters and PhD students. I also lead two research projects and one work package in a development project related to life-long learning. I do research and have some administrative tasks. I am still taking care of the task of editor-in-chief of the Nordisk Administrativt Tidskrift, but Norway will take over this publication soon. In addition I am a member of the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal of Finland.

Sounds like a lot of work. Why bother?

I have nice colleagues and the work offers new challenges every day. At the university you also have the possibility to organize your work quite freely (time, place and order). By doing research you can also change the society.

All right, but how did you end up where you are now?

Working with legal and societal questions has always engaged me, but I ended up in academia accidentally. The current professor offered me a short position as a junior researcher and somehow there has always been a next position waiting for me. I have worked in the unit of Public law 16 years now, starting in 2004. In InnoLab I started in August 2019, which has brought more international and interdisciplinary elements to my work.

I am not originally from the Vaasa area, but I feel at home here.

Imagine your phone rings. It’s the call you’ve been hoping for – what is it about?

That my greyhound has won a year’s supply of shoes to eat!

Just kidding, it’s actually a journalist. They’re finally doing a story on that one topic on which you’ve always wanted to give an interview! What do you say?

I am often called by the media, concerning school bullying and legal remedies, because it has been the topic of my earlier research. However, this topic would deserve more space in media as a whole and could be connected to my current research project examining supervision of basic education.

Sounds good. Too bad you can’t be the resident expert on every topic. What would you like to learn more about?

I have some degrees in classical singing, but I have never had time to take piano lessons. So that’s what I would like to learn better.

Quite a departure from your daily work. Are you sure you have the time?

I think it is good to have also some life outside the work.

No argument here. Now recommend me something – anything!

Listen to Rachmaninov’s Zdes’ khorosho sung by Anna Netrebko (op. 21. No. 7).

Any last advice for being both an effective researcher and a happy office worker?

Sleep well and eat enough chocolate.​

From the perspective of Niina’s colleagues: What makes you value Niina as a coworker?

“She has a busy schedule and many roles which all she covers remarkably well. Niina is versatile, practical, elegant – whatever is needed. She’s all but a one-trick-pony!”

“Niina’s best qualities as a colleague are her great passion for the work, her inspiring and supportive attitude towards a rookie like me and of course her skill to create a positive atmosphere at work.”

“She’s multi-talented, well-rounded, terrifyingly industrious and easy to get along with. I’d say the ideal colleague, if she didn’t make others look bad by comparison!”

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