Celebrating 5 Years of Social Exclusion Master’s Program at Åbo Akademi University: A Journey of Inclusivity and Innovation

By Islam Sabry


As we commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Social Exclusion Master’s Program at Åbo Akademi University, we reflect on the transformative journey from its inception to its current standing as a beacon of inclusivity and social change. We had the opportunity to connect with key figures who played pivotal roles in shaping the program — Peter Nynäs, the Faculty of Arts, Theology, and Psychology Dean, and Aminkeng A. Alemanji, the head of the Social Exclusion Master’s Program.

A Vision Transformed into Reality: Insights from Peter Nynäs

In our correspondence with Peter Nynäs, the first head of the program, we delved into the early days when the idea of the Master’s Degree Programme in Social Exclusion was taking shape. The decision to start the program was initiated by the Åbo Akademi University board in August 2017, marking a significant milestone as the first international program in the Faculty of Arts, Psychology, and Theology.

Fostering an Interdisciplinary Approach

The collaborative efforts of the history subject, studies of religion, gender studies, and systematic theology resulted in a program that aimed to bring together diverse resources for research and teaching. The interdisciplinary approach was underlined by a commitment to humanities, emphasizing the relevance of education and research in addressing societal issues from a global perspective.

Peter Nynäs notes that while the initial proposal had a different name, the emergence of the name ‘Social Exclusion Master’s Program’ resulted from the fact that similar concerns and topics were at the core of both academic and societal programs on social exclusion, hence, the name of the program. The establishment of the program also played a pivotal role in strengthening the Minority Research Profile, fostering a harmonious balance between research and education.

At the heart of the Social Exclusion Master’s Program’s inception was a profound understanding that social and cultural futures, alongside economic and political development, are intricately woven into diverse cultural processes that span both local and global dimensions. Guided by this foundational principle, the program took decisive steps to materialize its ambitions. Initiatives were set in motion to commence the program, securing teaching resources beyond initial plans, and ultimately welcoming the first group of students. This strategic approach marked the beginning of a journey dedicated to exploring, understanding, and addressing the complexities of social exclusion on a global scale.

Milestones and Achievements: Aminkeng A. Alemanji’s Perspective

In our correspondence with Aminkeng Alemanji, the current head of the Social Exclusion Master’s Program, we gained insights into the major milestones and achievements of the program. He highlighted the journey from an idea conceived by Peter Nynäs to the program’s realization.

What Sets SoEx Apart

Alemanji underscores the uniqueness of the Social Exclusion Master’s Program. Not only is it committed to social justice as a remedy for social exclusion, but its vibrant curriculum, taught by outstanding teachers from around the world, is what sets it apart. Graduates leave not only with academic knowledge but also with valuable work-life skills.

Being a multidisciplinary MA program, SoEx offers students a chance to explore different perspectives on social exclusion, fostering a broad understanding of this complex subject. The program’s emphasis on unity and familial bonds among students contributes to a supportive learning environment.

Evolving with the Times and Addressing Changing Needs

The program’s growth is evident in the increasing number of students. Starting with a modest number in the first year, the program now boasts 35 students, showcasing its appeal and relevance. Alemanji emphasizes that SoEx was the first program at ÅAU to abandon the rigid language requirement policy to a more forward-thinking and equitable language policy exemplifying the program’s commitment to inclusivity.

Aminkeng A. Alemanji also discussed how the program has evolved to meet the changing needs of students and society. Graduates returning as program assistants have provided valuable insights for program development. The curriculum now includes two work-life-related courses, offering students opportunities to develop professional and entrepreneurial skills through mentorship programs and workshops. Moreover, annual antiracism seminars, organized by students, serve as a platform to address social exclusion-related issues in society.

A Continued Commitment to Inclusion and Positive Change

The journey of the Social Exclusion Master’s Program is not merely a reflection of the past five years but a testament to its enduring commitment to inclusion and positive change. Since its inception, the program has grown and evolved, breaking barriers and fostering an environment where diversity is celebrated, and societal challenges are addressed with academic rigor.

As we look ahead, the Social Exclusion Master’s Program remains dedicated to shaping future leaders equipped with both academic knowledge and practical skills. The program’s commitment to social justice, its multidisciplinary approach, and its emphasis on unity within the student community set a standard for excellence.

Here’s to many more years of growth, learning, and impactful contributions as the Social Exclusion Master’s Program continues to shape a brighter, more inclusive future.


Bridging Academia and Advocacy: Navigating Transformative Internships While Studying: From Classroom Insights to Real-world Impact

By Nia Sullivan


As a recent graduate from the Social Exclusion Masters program at Åbo Akademi University, my academic journey provided a robust foundation for understanding the intricacies of societal inequalities. As a student transitioning from academia to the professional world, I completed two transformative internships with Think Africa ry and Amnesty International, focusing on project coordination and activist initiatives in Finland. These internships fostered influential connections and affirmed my competence, ambition, and potential. This blog post serves as a reflective narrative on my journey, underscoring the pivotal role of internships in translating academic knowledge into real-world impact.

Bridging Theory and Practice

My academic endeavors equipped me with an essential understanding of social exclusion and gender studies. However, as I embarked on my internships with Think Africa ry and Amnesty International, I quickly realized the distinct value of applying theoretical knowledge to my perspectives of practical scenarios. Understanding the circulation of constraints that prevent individuals from full social, economic, and political participation and access was influential during my internships as both organizations work with community and societal matters. Familiarity with social exclusion theories formed a solid basis for capturing societal challenges, accentuating the nuances, and nurturing inclusivity during my internship experiences. Next, I will discuss my internship experiences and my most significant takeaways.

Think Africa Journey: Women’s Entrepreneurial Program

During my project coordinator internship with Think Africa, I immersed myself in the vibrant world of entrepreneurship and social impact. The Women’s Entrepreneurial Program encouraged community members to acquire skills in entrepreneurship through insightful workshops and training. From orchestrating events that fostered economic empowerment to collaborating with diverse stakeholders, this experience honed my project management skills and ignited a passion for community upliftment. I acquired knowledge in budgeting, timelines, reporting, risk management, and defining and directing project goals. Collaboration, prioritization, and building a professional network in Finland were significant takeaways from this position. I remain involved with Think Africa, serving as the General Secretary and partnerships lead. Think Africa regularly offers internship opportunities for students of various fields. I encourage everyone to check them out!

Amnesty International: Activism, Anti-Racism, and Amplifying Voices

My internship with Amnesty International (Finland) ushered me into the realm of activism, where my focus shifted from economic empowerment to human rights and social justice. Notably, this venture emphasized welcoming opportunities and collaboration. My internship was intended as a six-month position within the activism team; nevertheless, I was asked to stay for eleven months and collaborated with the activism, advocacy, outreach, fundraising, and communications teams. My experience working with exceptional colleagues and my involvement in campaigns and outreach initiatives greatly influenced my personal and professional life. This experience enabled me to amplify the voices of marginalized individuals and contribute tangibly to advocacy efforts through research, writing activism blogs, and working with local and international activists. I remain involved with Amnesty International and urge students in the Social Exclusion Program to become engaged in their local Amnesty groups!

Unlocking Opportunities

When exploring internship opportunities, consider leveraging Åbo Akademi’s career services and networking opportunities. Consistently cultivate connections with professors and become involved in your community. I recommend researching organizations aligning with your interests, which is how I learned about my internship opportunities. It is valuable to utilize informational interviews to gain insights and to reach out to professors, mentors, or professionals in your desired field for guidance. Persistence is vital; stay proactive and be prepared to showcase your confidence and adaptability during interviews. Internships offer experience in addition to establishing connections and exploring potential career paths.


Both internships highlighted the significance of effective leadership, collaboration, and adaptability. Working alongside professionals, activists, and volunteers has contributed significantly to my personal and professional growth. Internships extend beyond skill acquisition; they shape career goals, provide networking opportunities, and open doors to unanticipated opportunities. Including these internships in my study experience highlighted the interplay between academia and real-world engagement, which forms understanding and impactful action. The transformative power of internships illuminated my academic journey. The combination of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience has catalyzed my evolution into a proactive agent of positive transformation. I invite students in the Social Exclusion Program to recognize the potential of internship experiences in shaping a future characterized by empathy, innovation, and equity.