Interview with Christina Wikström, President of AEA-Europe, 2020-22
Interviewer: Congratulations Christina, for being our new AEA-Europe President. We are privileged to have you to lead our association for the next two years. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and perhaps your story with AEA-Europe?
Christina: I think my professional journey is very intertwined with the activities of the association. I think I’m the greatest fan of the association, which I will go on to explain. So being the president is such a great honour and I am really grateful to have been elected for this role.
Currently, I am associate professor in Educational measurement and work at the department of Applied Educational Science, Umeå university in Northern Sweden. I am deputy head of department, responsible for research and two doctoral programmes (Educational Work and Educational Measurement), and very much involved in the PhD programmes at our department. I am also Vice coordinator for a national research School “Quantitative Research Methods in Educational Research”, run in collaboration between Umeå university and Gothenburg university. In my research I am interested in education policy, educational assessment, and validity aspects related to admissions to higher education. I also lead a research project which aims to define and measure aspects relevant for empathy in future police officers, and how it is affected by education and professional practice. It is a bit outside what I normally do, but very interesting!
That is where I am today, but let me share my personal story with AEA-Europe right from the beginning of the association. Back then, I had a mentor professor, Ingemar Wedman, who was among those forming the association back in the 1990s but had no time to be on the council. As I was then working with test development for a company delivering computer based assessments, he recommended that I should attend the the first AEA-Europe-conference, and later on he put my name forward for a council position in his place. In the very first conference I attended in Prague, Czech republic in 2000, I knew no-one. It was presented a biannual conference, with around 50 participants, but there was a really warm and friendly atmosphere. The year after, I was invited to give a keynote in Krakow on computer-based assessment and ever since I have been hooked.
I joined the AEA-Europe Council soon after and started my PhD studies. Looking back today, I feel like I had AEA-Europe right beside me in my professional journey, introducing me gradually to researchers and other education professionals. Today, I sometimes cannot say whether they are colleagues or friends or both. Over the years, our annual conference has become a tradition where meeting the AEA-Europe family has made a great an impact on me. Professionally, it was an ideal space to collaborate with many researchers as a young PhD student and to this date, it is an extremely valuable gift that I cherish. Without being dramatic, I honestly believe, that AEA-Europe is absolutely the best thing that happened to me professionally. I also proudly hold the record of the member who has attended all the AEA-Europe conferences!
Interviewer: Well, what an honour to have as our new President, a member who has not only lived the association’s history from very early on, but who has also embodied the journey as a member, researcher, served on the various committees and today is now serving the association in its highest capacity. So today, with your experience and enthusiasm, what are your plans during your two-year mandate as President?
Christina: I believe the vision is to cherish what we have built and keep adding high quality research, high quality practice, while simultaneously maintaining the spirit of the community feeling. Our annual conference has been very successful in uniting members and participants around educational assessment in an enjoyable manner. We should maintain that. I would love to encourage more PhD students to join AEA-Europe and be present in a more active way. It would be amazing if other young researchers to benefit like I did, when I was given the opportunity to join the association. The AEA-Europe Council will be exploring these avenues. I am particularly attached to keeping AEA-Europe as one of the best and friendliest associations promoting high quality work in educational assessment. Maintaining regular interaction between members is key especially now that we have learnt to use technology to our advantage, when we cannot be present in person. Still, I am really hoping to meet everyone again in Dublin in 2021.
Interviewer: So how do you think we can combine the situation as it exists today, to live that community spirit while being physically apart?
Christina: I think 2021 will be a hybrid year, which will combine some virtual meetings and physical meetings. I believe we will meet altogether in Dublin, although it is understandable for some people to not feel entirely comfortable to travel and meet in person. We will explore ways to accommodate that people can attend from a distance but feel like they’re a part of it. Our AEA-Europe 2020 festival was very successful, content wise, and people were able to relate to colleagues they already met. Next, we need to look into ways of making new members feel just as welcome, even if they cannot attend the conference in person. I am looking forward with much optimism for 2021.
Interviewer: Are there any particular activities that the Council has already thought of?
Christina: I know we are planning to use the website as a hub for activities, where members can share what’s going on in their own contexts. Other options include offering regular webinars and engaging members through the activities of our Special interest Groups on e-assessment and assessment cultures, so as to keep the momentum of sharing in between the annual conferences.
Interviewer: Is there any special message you would like to say to our readers?
Christina: Just stay safe. Wash your hands. But stay in contact. And most of all, I wish everyone a holiday season, filled with love, warmth and joy. Above all, let us hope 2021 brings to us more health!