Schools in Greece were given strict orders— practically with no advance warning— to close in early March following a mandatory government directive.
The rule applied to all schools, including colleges like Hellenic American University— a twenty-year old U.S.-based institution of higher learning with a thriving campus in the center of Athens.
HAU was among the first educational institutions in Greece to shift its on-campus classes to synchronous online video sessions following the government’s directive. The administration mobilized its technology immediately and, without skipping a beat, classes resumed online only a few days after the front doors of the physical building were closed.
“Our overall culture at Hellenic American University is one of adaptation to change and problem solving,” University Executive Vice President Dr. Leonidas Tzonis told The Pappas Post in an interview.
This dexterity and embrace of innovation, Tzonis said, is best reflected in all aspects of the school’s culture— its administrative leadership and instructors, its current student body— as well as its graduates, many of whom remain affiliated with the school.
Such is the case of two alumni who have been in the news in Greece recently: Menelaos Makrigiannis and George Lagios.
As Tzonis notes, these are but two Hellenic American University alumni that embody the creativity, interdisciplinary mindset and readiness to take on challenges that the university has sought to foster among its students.
Menelaos Makrigiannis, who also teaches at the university, came into the public eye recently after being named to Fortune Greece’s 40 Under 40 list of innovative young entrepreneurs for 2020. A technologist with expertise in networks, cyber security and data communications, Makrigiannis was singled out for his track record as CEO of BEWISE, an ICT services firm he founded in 2018.
Under his leadership, the firm, not yet two years old, has become a recognized player in the Greek technology sector, with sales expected to reach €3.2 million in 2020 and a portfolio of cutting-edge digital transformation projects. The firm provides customized solutions in areas such as business software, collaboration tools cloud and IT infrastructure.
But BEWISE is also helping clients in two areas that are assuming greater strategic importance to companies in Greece—cyber security and IT compliance—not least because of the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, the EU’s broad-ranging data protection and data privacy law.
Despite the challenges of managing a rapidly growing firm and his team of engineers, security experts and IT and legal professionals, Makrigiannis finds time to continue teaching. A faculty member since 2006 in Hellenic American University’s Division of Informatics and Engineering, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in data and communication networks, network management and wireless and mobile networks.
For his part, George Lagios has become more widely known in Greece thanks to the success of his best-selling book “Would You Choose Yourself as a Parent?”
In the book, Lagios, a psychotherapist, entrepreneur and life mentor, advances the argument that not everyone is meant to, or indeed should, have children. But, he points out, few prospective parents ask themselves if they are truly ready to be parents (in contrast to the grueling interrogation faced by prospective parents who seek to adopt).
The question in the book’s title is one Lagios suggests that all prospective parents ask themselves and honestly answer before making the decision to have a child.
Lagios argues that many of the reasons people have children, such as societal expectations or the desire to rescue a troubled relationship, are not good ones. Nor, in his view, is the need to give one’s life special meaning an argument for having children.
“Each of us travels towards self-fulfillment on a different path,” Lagios writes, “And not every path needs to include children.”
Like Makrigiannis’ passage to entrepreneurship, Lagios’ own life path, which in his case led to the practice of psychotherapy, was not a linear one. His interest in the field was triggered while working as a certified derivatives and stock advisor following his undergraduate studies in Business Administration.
It was then he began to appreciate the extent to which his clients’ investment decisions were influenced by psychological factors.
His interest in the field was further spurred by his work with the “Moirazomai,” an NGO he founded in 2013 in the midst of the Greek economic crisis which served as a solidarity platform to enable direct, transparent contributions to individuals and families in need.
This, in turn, led him to enroll in the M.S. in Clinical Psychology program at Hellenic American University and eventually to work as a practicing psychotherapist.
These are but two examples of the environment and culture that has been fostered— even in the midst of a pandemic— at this American university in Athens.