Aikaterini Grigoriadou’s trajectory from her hometown of Thessaloniki, Greece, to Atlanta has a mythic quality due to its global reverberations as well as her transformation from talented music student, to anthropologist to administrative assistant of Georgia State University’s Hellenic Center.
In a sense, Ms. Grigoriadou emerges from a Greek tragedy — namely the Greek financial crisis that devastated the country’s economy by 2011 — undergoes an existential crisis and resets her course once she meets Dwight Coleman, then-director of Georgia State’s School of Music.
According to an article written by Jeremy Craig appearing in 2016 on Georgia State’s “News Hub,” the financial crisis made Ms. Grigoriadou ask herself: “What am I going to do? What’s next? I was scared to go abroad, and I didn’t know where I’d go.”
Having collected a number of music degrees in Thessaloniki, she applied to a school in London, but changed her mind after meeting Professor Coleman, who helped her further develop her singing voice. This initial positive encounter soon led to another — that with Kathryn Kozaitis, chair of Georgia State’s Department of Anthropology, who was conducting research on how the financial crisis affected the lives of the Greeks living in Thessaloniki.
The negative response of Europeans to Greek citizens during the crisis weighed heavily on Ms. Grigoriadou, who took personally the aspersions cast upon her fellow Greeks.
Her acceptance to pursue an undergraduate degree in Georgia State’s music program provided a new opportunity at a distance from Greece, but she’s still very much involved in its struggles. While remaining a music major, not surprisingly she also continued to assist Dr. Kozaitis at Georgia State with managing data about the crisis’ impact on the Greeks in general and helped organize relevant documentation and photographs.
Her anthropology minor blossomed into a master’s degree and on to a semester of teaching at the University of West Georgia. These days she is actively promoting the activities of Georgia State’s Center for Hellenic Studies by editing its newsletter, maintaining its calendar of events and maintaining its website as well as providing a dynamic link between the center and Greece itself.
Louis Ruprecht, who became director of the center in 2012, told Global Atlanta the center has a broad perspective on what he termed “the Greek phenomenom” both historically and geographically.
Not surprisingly given Greece’s past, the center’s interests mirror those of ancient Greece that stretched along the seaside regions that were colonized by Greeks during antiquity as far east as the coast of the Black Sea, as far to the south as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and as far west as the Cote d’Azur and southern Spain. According to its website, the Italian peninsula from Naples to Sicily was known as “Greater Greece” because there were so many wealthy Greek colonies located there.
The center’s gaze is no less focused on today’s Greek diaspora, including Melbourne and Sydney, Australia; New York and Chicago; Toronto in Canada; and London and Manchester in the United Kingdom, as cities with some of the largest Greek populations after Athens and Thessaloniki and Patras on the Greek mainland.
This broad geographic focus has been embedded in the university’s Global Studies Institute enabling students to follow the experience of these geographical areas through successive historical periods right up to contemporary times.
Students in the institute have options of studying political, economic, social and cultural history generally with special courses in maritime and landscape history, geography and demography.
Additionally, the Hellenic Center offers opportunities for art history students through its Greek connections by providing access to Greece’s archives and artistic treasures.
Dr. Ruprecht said that with the support of the Greek consulate in Atlanta, he has been able to forge relations with a number of Greek universities including Ionian University in Corfu, Anatolia College in Thessaloniki, the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, the American Academy in Rome and the multiple campuses of the University of Peloponnese.
Most recently, the center signed an agreement under the guidance of Polyxeni Potter, the honorary consul of Cyprus in Atlanta, with the Cyprus University of Technology in Limassol, the second largest city on the island and located on its southern coast, providing exchanges of students as well as academic and administrative staffs.
Dr. Ruprecht said that the center’s development has been enabled by the financial support of Atlanta’s Greek community and a strong partnership with Emory University with which it is collaborating on a wide range of programs.
He added that it remains a work in progress as he is designing a proposal to offer a minor in Hellenic studies through the Global Studies Institute highlighting some of the center’s unique programs such as its archeological work at the Asphendou Cave in Crete.
And he is proud of the center’s new office at 25 Park Place where students and faculty may research themes in Greek archaeology, history, literature and religion, as well as consult study abroad materials.
To learn more about Georgia State’s Center for Hellenic Studies, click here.