Face behind the course: Meet Salla Atkins

January 25, 2023

Meet Salla! Salla is the teacher behind one of the popular UniPID virtual studies: “Social protection and health: definitions, policy goals, and global examples”. As she gets ready to offer this course for the third time, Salla shares her thoughts and reflections on her experiences of hosting a course like this in 2023.

Salla Atkins
Salla Atkins

Hello everyone, my name is Salla Atkins, I am a social scientist and professor in the Global Health and Development group at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Tampere University. My working experience is related to conducting research in fields such as poverty, inequality, and health systems mainly in low and middle-income contexts. At the moment, I am part of different collaborative initiatives with partners in Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, India, and South Africa on projects related to health equity.

The “Social protection and health” course funded by UniPID is one of my favorite experiences in teaching, not only because I get to engage with students from across Finland, but across the world. I get to avail to students to the most experienced international experts on this topic who are also dear friends of mine, willing to share their expertise and collaborate in the development of this course. Though lectures are recorded, each collaborating professor is ready to answer students’ questions online, an aspect that encourages our students to be active in the discussion.

One of the most relevant benefits I observed in the virtual studies offered by uniPID is that it allows global collaboration, especially with partners in the Global South, as well as it is an open scholar atmosphere available not only for students from Finnish universities but also around the world. The online format grants both our collaborators and students, participating and contributing to the course from anywhere in the world.

We have also managed to have fantastic interactions as part of our course, where students have found an enjoyable way of learning, at the time that we as teachers explore new perspectives. The liveliest discussions have focused on, for example, gender gaps in social protection and how these should be addressed, media’s role in the acceptance of social protection interventions, which is a new area for me, etc. I can say that this course is a win-win experience which has broadened my worldview.

In contrast, I consider that online teaching and learning can be sometimes lonely. However, I do believe that collaboration and discussion teach more than lectures, and these are aspects that students could find in the UniPID virtual studies. It also helps that this area is one of my key research areas, but also full of interesting debates and conflicts. Hence, I am interested and committed to discussing these matters and students bring fresh and thought-provoking input.

You could follow some of these discussions through our blog on the Tampere University Global Health and Social Policy website. As part of the final assignment, all our students are required to write an essay about a key area of social protection and health. Every year we have new, interesting, and varied essays from which we select two of the most outstanding ones to support students to publish their papers on our website. (Read the interesting essays written by students here!)

Overall, the course has been a learning experience for me, and a few hundred students over the years, across the North and South. As time moves on, key concepts from the UniPID course will be integrated into our Public and Global Health Master’s programme. The UniPID tool of course development is a fantastic way to include new and emerging teaching areas.

What is next? The course registration period is open until 31 January, so do not hesitate to register! Also, follow Salla on Twitter and get to know more about the themes, activities, and discussions on social security and health. Thank you so much Salla for leading such a brilliant course and encouraging students to actively engage with the current debates around Social Protection and Health issues. You can also follow the Tampere University Global Health and Social Policy on Twitter @GHSP_Tampere


Photo credits: Madison Agardi, 2021, on UnSplash