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Finlandia Welcomes Paloheimo Scholar

Hilary VirtanenHANCOCK, MI - Finlandia University, with the Paloheimo Foundation, announce that Hilary Virtanen has been appointed coordinator of the university's Paloheimo Fellows program and coordinator of events for Finlandia's Finnish American Heritage Center.

As coordinator of the Paloheimo Fellows program, Virtanen will help develop a student seminar with a strong Finnish heritage component, and institute a scholar program to encourage Finlandia students to study in Finland.

As coordinator of events for the Finnish American Heritage Center (FAHC), Virtanen will help organize community outreach programs, including enrichment classes and cultural and educational events.

"As a teacher and outreach educator, I am especially interested in creating dialog among a diversity of cultures and individuals to better promote understanding and social unity," Virtanen says. "I also want to encourage people to celebrate their own heritages and share their cultures with others."

Virtanen has a bachelor of arts in English and cultural anthropology from Michigan State University, a master's of arts in folklore from Indiana University, and a master's of art in Scandinavian studies from the University of Wisconsin. She is currently working to complete her dissertation for a Ph.D. in folklore and Scandinavian studies, also through the University of Wisconsin. Her dissertation topic is "Copper Country Finns."

Virtanen is fluent in Finnish and conversant in Swedish and North Sámi languages. She has instructed an intensive Finnish language course at the University of Wisconsin and taught English-as-a-second-language at Michigan Tech, Houghton. She was an intern at the FAHC in 2004 and 2005.

Born in Toivola, Virtanen has deep roots in the Upper Peninsula's Copper Country, although she has lived many places in the U.S. "I have come to agree with Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" that 'there's no place like home!'" she says.

Virtanen enjoys gardening, reading, canning food, and beach time. She and her husband, Ron Stewart, live in Ripley, Mich., with their three children, Alex, Audrey, and Anneli.

The Paloheimo Foundation works to bring together cultures and preserve historical traditions. It is one of many legacies of the late Yrjö Paloheimo, founder of the Finlandia Foundation, and his wife, Leonora Curtin. In addition to Finlandia University, the Paloheimo Foundation supports the work of the Finlandia Foundation and a number of other cultural and historical organizations.

Contact Hilary Virtanen at 906-487-7514 or

Photo cutline: Hilary Virtanen