The Program in Hellenic Studies, Columbia University
The Program in Hellenic Studies offers an undergraduate curriculum in Modern Greek and Greek-American Studies, interdepartmental support for graduate students working on Greece and the Balkans, and a series of events and conferences for the larger academic and Greek communities in the New York area. Under the auspices of the Classics Department, the Program allows students to study Greece through a contemporary lens and prepares them for further academic study and later professional work in the field. Students are encouraged to study in Greece in the summer and during their Junior year. The curriculum aims to build a strong linguistic base, a knowledge of the field, and a theoretical framework for analyzing cultural difference more generally.
Since the 1930s dedicated teachers have offered courses in Modern Greek language and culture at Columbia and Barnard, but not until 1988 with a gift from Kimon A. Doukas was there a concentrated effort to set up a program. The efforts of Roger Bagnall, Chair of the Classics Department at Columbia, and Helene Foley, Chair of Classics at Barnard, enabled the hiring of the Modern Greek specialist Karen Van Dyck in 1988 from Oxford. Van Dyck offered a two-year sequence of Modern Greek language and culture courses, and a series of literature seminars taught in Greek, one per semester in a four-semester rotation, alternating surveys and special topic courses. This basic curriculum was supplemented whenever possible with interdisciplinary electives by Columbia faculty (Edward Malefakis for Greek History, Nina Garcoian, and later Alexander Alexakis, for Byzantine Studies, Karen Barkey for Ottoman Studies, Kenneth Frampton in Architecture, Stathis Gourgouris in Comparative Literature), as well as by visiting scholars.
In 1992 the New York Greek community sponsored an adjunct language lecturer which amounted to two extra courses per year. This meant the Program could add a much-needed language course directed to the specific needs of bilingual speakers, as well as a senior research seminar for students writing theses on Greek and Greek-American topics. Over the years the course for bilingual students has been taught on a variety of topics and by a wide range of talented adjunct faculty: Dan Georgakas (Film), Gail Holst-Warhaft (Music), Andreas Kalyvas (Political Philosophy), Ioanna Laliotou (History), Maria Leontsini (Sociology of Literature), Elena Tzelepis (Philosophy), and Vassiliki Yiakoumaki (Food and the EU).
By the mid-nineties our enrollments had reached an average of 70 undergraduates a year. In response to demand in 1995 we introduced a seminar on the Greek-American experience under the rubric of Columbia's Major Cultures requirement. In 1996 we were able to secure a three-year promise to support a junior professorship in Modern Greek Studies from the Onassis Foundation and the Foundation for Hellenic Culture. The hiring of Marina Kotzamani enabled us to have two full time professors teaching language and literature. We expanded our seminar listings to include courses in Kotzamani's area of expertise: Modern Greek theater and cinema.
In 1997 Professor Van Dyck was granted tenure and took on the full responsibilities of the Kimon A. Doukas chair. She turned her attention to long-term projects such as graduate studies, interdisciplinary planning with the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWAG), the Institute for the Study of Europe, the Harriman Institute, and the Center for Comparative Literature and Society (CCLS), as well as the Library's Modern Greek collection. In 1999 the Department secured a renewal of funding for Kotzamani's position by the Onassis Foundation, this time together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for another three year period, and is now in discussions to continue this arrangement of joint funding for another three years.
In addition to the academic program, we have also simultaneously organized a series of events directed to the Columbia community and the greater New York community. Over the years people have learned to look to Columbia as an important conduit for Greek and American cultural collaborations and a place where they have a chance to hear Greek scholars, writers, and other artists speak. Our faculty's ties with Greek and British universities and cultural institutions, as well as our fund-raising efforts have enabled a very high quality of public programming, often co-sponsored by other departments and institutes within the University, as well as by Greek Studies programs at Harvard, Princeton, NYU, etc. or by Ministries or Foundations in Greece. Generous support has come from the Ministry of Culture, The Kostopoulos Foundation and the Ouranis Foundation in Greece as well as the Onassis Foundation and the Foundation for Hellenic Culture in New York City. Each year since 1988 we have offered six or more events, from literary readings to large scale interdisciplinary conferences (The Politics of Continuity: Ancient, Byzantine and Modern Greece, At the Margins of Europe: Greek and Irish Poetry, The Art and Politics of Elia Kazan, Dissenting Journalism in Greece and the US) to lectures such as the annual Kimon A. Doukas lecture on Diaspora, and performances such as readings by Olympia Dukakis and Olga Broumas. We have involved many writers and artists from Greece and the greater New York community in the work of the University by awarding semester and year-long fellowships and creating cross-disciplinary teaching opportunities for them.
With two full-time faculty in Greek literature and language the program has flourished. The College officially approved a concentration and a special Pre-med concentration in Modern Greek Studies in the Spring of 2000. In 2004, Kotzamani accepted a position at the new University of Peloponnese in Nafplio. Our search to replace her was successful. Vangelis Calotychos whose special areas include Cyprus and the Balkans has joined our faculty this Fall. The Anthropology and History departments have both recently recruited scholars whose research focuses on Greece and the Balkans: Neni Panourgia and Mark Mazower. The College also recently appointed Stathis Gourgouris as a lecturer in the Core Curriculum. All three of these scholars are committed to interdisciplinary work in the context of Hellenic Studies. Butler Library has increased its buying commitment in the areas of Modern Greek literature and history. In the Summer of 2001 we added an intensive summer language program. In the Columbia community, Modern Greek has become an example of how to integrate and learn from the presence of bilingual students as well as how to make lesser-recognized languages central to the undergraduate curriculum.
Our program has also received national and international attention. In Modern Greek Studies circles in the United States, the Columbia program is a success story for three main reasons. First, compared to other equivalent institutions in the United States we have high undergraduate enrollments. Secondly, we have a very productive balance between heritage students and students of other backgrounds. In the past decade we have seen an increase in Asian-Americans, African-American and, more recently, Turkish and Albanian students taking Greek. Lastly what distinguishes our program from other programs in the United States is our insistence on teaching upper level literature classes in the original Greek. While there has been a trend more generally in Modern Languages to move towards cultural studies courses taught in translation, we have sustained our commitment to language proficiency. More recently we have become an example internationally of how to integrate Modern Greek Studies into an interdisciplinary curriculum. We have presented our thoughts on program-building to European and Australian colleagues at various conferences. We have also helped shape the Greek University curriculum in Modern Greek Studies, serving on Greek Ministry of Education reviews (EPEAEK).
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of the Program is in its ability to be a two-way street in which culture and curriculum are always going both ways from Greece to America and back again.
We are now at a critical juncture in which our success is moving us from the ranks of strong middle-sized programs to a major center for Hellenic and Balkan Studies. We have grown from a one-person operation to an integrated interdisciplinary program with six full-time faculty who focus their research and teaching on Greece - three supported by outside funds and three supported by the University. Our most basic needs are endowment funding for our junior professorship as well as administrative support. At the beginning of the new academic year 2004-05, we were happy to report that the Program's alumnus Mr. Kyriakos Tsakopoulos signed over a check for $1 million to initiate a junior professorship in Hellenic Studies. The University has authorized the hiring of Vangelis Calotychos in this tenure-track line as well as a part-time administrative help for the program, Ms. Elizabeth Bulls. The gift also inaugurates an annual lecture series titled, "Aristotle and the Moderns." We are confident that the rest of the necessary funds to fully endow this professorship will be in place in the near future. We are clearly in an ideal position to move forward to the next stage of our development as a center.
For the future, we look forward to building toward a center, with our own budget, funds directed exclusively for graduate study across the university, and our own physical space on campus. With our new University President interested in enlarging the faculty in the Humanities as well as the actual physical space of the University, the time is definitely right for such an initiative. We welcome your ideas and support!
The Program is thankful for the support of the following individuals and organizations: Mr. Kimon A. Doukas, Mr. Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, Greek Ministry of Culture, and the Lucy Foundation.