As part of the celebration of The American College of Greece (ACG) 100-year anniversary of operations in Greece and its winter trustees’ meeting, ACG organized a public discussion in Washington, DC, on the role of education as a pillar of growth and US-Greece ties.
The event featured high-level diplomats and business leaders from the US and Greece and highlighted ACG’s long-standing ties with US academic institutions and the business community, its top-quality education and research programs, as well as its significant economic and social impact in Greece and beyond. At a time when US-Greece relations are stronger than ever, the discussion aimed to support the efforts of the US and Greek governments to enhance bilateral collaboration through educational partnerships and people-to-people ties, as well as furthering ACG’s cooperation with potential donors and academic partners in the US.
In his welcome address, the Chair of the ACG Board of Trustees, former Ambassador to Greece, Daniel Smith, noted that ACG “is more than a pillar of American education. It plays a vital role in promoting growth and innovation.” He noted ACG’s ambitious plans to build on this foundation as part of the ACG 150 Initiative, named after the forthcoming 150th anniversary in 2025 of its founding in Smyrna.
ACG President, Dr. David Horner, also noted the College’s mission “to add distinctive and sustainable value to students, Greece, American education, Hellenic heritage and the global community through transformative teaching, scholarship, and service.” He noted that ACG is a “mighty micro-pillar” in both Greece and the US, with 65,000 alumni (89% residing in Greece), a unique Parallel Studies program with 2,360 students from Greece’s public universities enrolled in the past five years and almost 3,000 students from 367 US institutions participating in Study Abroad at ACG in the same period.
Dr. Horner also presented an update on the ACG Institute for Hellenic Growth & Prosperity, which supports Greece’s movement towards a more market-based economy and the development of key, high-growth potential sectors of the Greek economy through three Centers of Excellence, a Research, Technology and Innovation Network, an Innovation Hub at the Democritus National Lab to be launched later this year, and the ACG – Research Center to facilitate tech transfer and incubate startups.
During the panel discussion entitled “Education as a pillar of US-Greece relations,” Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to the US, Alexandra Papadopoulou, noted that education lies at the heart of the Greek cultural system and is greatly valued as the key to personal and economic advancement. She added that educational partnerships and exchanges can help bring people together and shared her personal example, noting that when she first came to the US on a Fulbright scholarship, she felt like “Alice in Wonderland,” a feeling that the US State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Erika Olson said she too had while studying on scholarship in Japan.
Ms. Olson stressed that the US government supports exchange programs, as they empower students and help develop deeper international ties. In fact, she noted that Greece is the ninth most popular study-abroad location for US students, while Greece is the eighth EU country in the number of students it sends to the US.
“I have not heard of another country so ready for opportunities as Greece is,” noted the US State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ethan Rosenzweig. He also highlighted the value of programs such as the Fulbright Scholarship and the exchanges of the Digital Communications Network, noting that educational exchanges ensure that students are exposed to different cultures, share technical information, and maintain relationships for future collaboration.
In the discussion about the role of education as a pillar for growth with business leaders from the US, Greece, and the Hellenic diaspora in the US, the President of the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, Nikolaos Bakatselos, noted the need for further developing technology skills. As he stressed, Greece will have a shortage of 7,500 tech professionals in the next seven years, a need that can be satisfied by focusing on technology training and STEM education.
From her part, the President of the Hellenic Innovation Network, entrepreneur, and writer, Marina Hatsopoulos, noted the need for other skills, such as grant-proposal writing, and expanded on the value of startups in job creation, social mobility, and reversing the brain drain. As she noted, the startup ecosystem is just beginning and will need another 5-10 years to come to full fruition, in turn attracting more people to Greece.
Finally, the Senior Director of Education Policy at Microsoft, Allyson Knox, argued that “the unique aspect of Greece is that the sky’s the limit” – noting that young people need to be part of the innovation process that is bound to lead to greater growth. She stressed that if the Microsoft Artificial Intelligence online course in Greece is any indication, four million engagements “prove that the Greek people are interested and hungry to attain more knowledge in AI.”
The ACG event in Washington was organized under the auspices of the Greek Embassy in the US and in collaboration with the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, while Kathimerini English Edition was the event’s media partner.