A convention like no other.
Over 150 students and young leaders from all over the world, attended the first virtual convention organised by the National Hellenic Student Association (NHSA) of North America.
The theme was “Embracing Change and Innovation.”
Anthe Mitrakos, journalist and editor of Portes Magazine, and Yanni Metaxas, alumnus Boston University emceed the event which was held via Zoom on November 14, 2020.
The first panel discussion titled “Meeting the Needs of an Evolving Society” was moderated by NHSA Director of Communications, Dimitris Mouchlidis. Panelists for this discussion included Greek government officials H.E. Harry Theoharis, Minister of Tourism, H.E. Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development & Investment, and Hon. Kostas Bakoyannis, Mayor of Athens.
The panelists discussed the challenges and triumphs of the Greek tourism industry in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, how cities are changing and adapting to be more people-centered, and what programs can help strengthen start-up initiatives to reduce the brain-drain in Greece.
The discussion touched on the increasing digitalization and accessibility of resources for business and civil needs, elevating the Greek brand name and status as a nation for innovation and ethics, and in doing so, supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Mayor Bakoyannis left attendees with a guiding idea to be successful as a leader: “It’s about working bottom-up, being as close to society as possible. It’s about talking less and listening more. It’s also about building coalitions that at times may transcend party or ideological lines. At the end of the day in our line of work pavements have no ideology, streets have no color. It’s about getting to real solutions to real problems. It’s about getting things done.”
Following the first panel, President of Ariston Foundation Vasiliki Mitrakos, and past President of NHSA Alexander Thomopulos presented the 2020 Ariston Foundation – NHSA Scholarships to Michael Evangelopoulos, pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University, and Kostapanos Miliaresis pursuing his MBA at Fordham University, Gabelli School of Business. Each student received a merit-based scholarship of $1,000. Additionally, the 2020 Ariston Honor Society inductees were acknowledged for their high academic and leadership achievements among the scholarship applicants.
“This initiative is a great example of Hellenic diaspora organizations run by students and young professionals giving back in a direct and meaningful way to promising individuals in the Hellenic community,” Mitrakos said.
The next discussion titled “Transforming the Business Landscape” featured CEO of Earth Friendly Products (EFP) Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, moderated by NHSA Chairman Konstantinos Ouranitsas. This discussion focused on EFP’s success as a completely sustainable brand and manufacturer, using clean energy and reducing waste to the fullest extent while creating a healthy and inclusive corporate culture.
Furthermore, Ms. Vlahakis-Hanks offered her advice to the audience about leadership, stating that “great leaders prioritize the wellbeing of their team, serve their needs, and respond to their concerns.”
Endy Zemenides the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council followed Ms. Vlahakis-Hanks and spoke on the topic “Understanding the East Med Relationships.” When speaking about what students and young professionals can do, she stated “you are on the front lines of history. Do not discount what you can do. First there is student activism. You all have a voice. I want you all to dream about what kind of role, what kind of future you want to see for Greece or Cyprus, or for US interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, and then ask yourselves what you can do.”
The final discussion was on “Reimagining Technological Innovation” with the CEO of Netronix Group Dr. Vasileios Nasis, moderated by NHSA President Petros Besieris. Dr. Nasis spoke on the Internet of Things (IoT) and its impact on society. He also talked about how he became an entrepreneur and advised the audience to “be open minded and not afraid to explore.”
Besieris concluded the convention with the following remarks: “Even in today’s ‘new-normal’, we rose to the occasion to overcome the challenges and create positive experiences for ourselves and those around us…While our conference today will better equip you to understand what change and innovation enables us to become, we do hope that you return to your community, university, and/or profession with a renewed sense of professionalism, community, morfosi/paideia and civic responsibility.”
The National Hellenic Student Association (“NHSA”) of North America, Inc. serves as an umbrella for Hellenic student organizations of universities throughout the United States and Canada. NHSA is the largest Hellenic student and young professional organization in North America, with over 50 member-chapters, which promotes Hellenism, education, mentorship, and overall unity of the Hellenic community.
NHSA has provided guidance, career advice, mentorship, and life-long opportunities, in tandem with local Hellenic organizations, to North American citizens of Hellenic descent for over ten years. NHSA has been uniting and offering resources to Greeks, Greek/Cypriot-Americans, Greek/Cypriot-Canadians, and Philhellenes since its inception in 2004.