Students Receive First-hand Foreign Policy Experience about the Region from Experts
WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) College Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus begins its ninth year as students from across the United States gathered for briefings in Washington before departing for Cyprus on June 23, 2017. The two-week program concludes July 7, 2017, when the students return from Athens.
“The AHI Foundation proudly continues to offer this invaluable opportunity to our youth,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “The 2017 program promises to be fruitful for our students as they are eager to learn about the foreign policy issues that are important to the Greek American community and United States interests in the eastern Mediterranean. They will be immersed from the get-go, starting with briefings in Washington to high-level meetings with government officials abroad.”
On June 21, the students assembled at AHI’s Hellenic House in Washington for a briefing by Nick Larigakis and Nicholas Karambelas, Esq., AHI volunteer legal counsel and partner, Sfikas & Karambelas LLP. In the afternoon, they received briefings at the U.S. State Department by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Jonathan Cohen, Larina Konold, Cyprus desk officer and Wendy Stancer, Greek desk officer. Next, they learned about the latest on Capitol Hill pertaining to Greek American issues from the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). In the evening, they also received a briefing at the White House followed by a tour.
A full day of briefings from top legislators and diplomats on the issues were held on June 23. In the morning, the students met Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Harris Lalacos for a briefing at the Embassy of Greece and Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. Leonidas Pantelidis for a briefing at the Embassy of Cyprus. In the afternoon, they received a briefing by Ambassador Patrick Theros, former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, and Ambassador Tom Miller, former U.S. ambassador to Greece and current chief executive officer of International Executive Service Corps, Paul Glastris, editor, Washington Monthly and John Sitilides, Eastern Mediterranean geostrategic expert.
During the two-week program, the students will receive first-hand experience about the foreign policy issues affecting Greece and Cyprus, their relations with the U.S., and the interests of the U.S. in the region. There will be meetings or briefings with American embassies, officials from various ministries, including Foreign Affairs; parliament members, religious leaders, think-tank organizations, and members of academia and the private sector of both countries. In Cyprus, the group will visit the Turkish-occupied area. In Greece, the students will also take a day-trip to visit Naval Support Activity (NSA) Souda Bay, Crete, where they will tour the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) and receive a briefing.
Elizabeth Tzimopoulos Conway graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in 2017 with Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in Political Science. In addition to academics, she was a varsity cross-country and track-and-field athlete for Brown, a peer advisor in the Meiklejohn Advising Program, and is a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society. She will be joining Deloitte's federal advisory team in Washington, D.C. in Fall 2017. Elizabeth’s passion for politics began as a young Scholastic News reporter, which gave her the opportunity to cover the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections and even to meet President Barack Obama. In her hometown of Manchester, N.H., Elizabeth is actively involved in her Greek community—singing in her church’s Youth Greek choir, dancing in a traditional Greek dancing troupe, and volunteering for church events. As an aspiring policy professional, her interests include not only domestic politics but also international security, human rights, and emerging threats like cyber-security. AHIF’s policy trip is an opportunity for her to explore issues relating to U.S.-Greece and U.S.-Cyprus relations from a unique vantage point, which will be an invaluable contribution to her personal and professional development.
Christopher Coombs is a graduate from the University of Utah with a double major in History and Political Science. As a Utah native, Chris is an enthusiastic member of the Greek Orthodox Church. His collegiate experience has also been defined by his membership and leadership roles in distinguished groups like the Sigma Chi Fraternity, the Hinckley Institute of Politics, and Student Government. As an advocate of public service and civic engagement, Chris has participated in diverse government work opportunities, including an internship in Washington, D.C. Recently, Chris was hired staff to the House Majority Leadership during the Utah General Legislative Session. In his free time, Chris enjoys reading, traveling, exercise, and being with his friends and family. “I would be honored and delighted to participate in the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip. I have always had great interest and respect for Greek culture on a historical, political, and religious level. Since my youth, Greek identity has served as an integral part in influencing my character and career plans.” Next fall, Chris intends to move to Brookline, Massachusetts to attend Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology to pursue a Masters in Divinity.
Giana Damianos, a Dean’s List student at Indiana University, is majoring in Economics and Political Science and minoring in Psychology. Giana is a rising junior and has been named a 2017 award recipient by the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation. On campus, Giana is involved with the Hellenic Student Association, and is a member of the Mock Trial Team. Outside of IU, Giana spent a summer studying abroad in Athens through the AHEPA Journey to Greece program which allowed her the opportunity to grow her awareness of Hellenic influence. This passion has since inspired her to pursue Modern Greek language courses while at school. “Through the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip, I hope to gain as much exposure to Greece as I can – the language, the people, the political and economic structures – everything. I hope this program will provide the platform for me to pursue a career that contributes to the welfare of Greek people.” Giana intends to return to Greece for an extended study term to continue this goal. Ultimately, she hopes to attend law school after graduating.
Theofilos Koulianos graduated summa cum laude at Hampden-Sydney College majoring in Economics and Business. Theofilos took numerous Classical Studies courses and is a member of Eta Sigma Phi, the national Classical Studies honor society. Outside the classroom, Theofilos was actively involved in campus life through various volunteer efforts and working as an economics tutor. Theofilos is passionate about preserving and strengthening his ties with his Hellenic heritage. Each Memorial Day weekend, Theofilos assists his mother in coordinating Christ the Good Shepherd camp, a family camp for Greek American children with special needs. “I’m very appreciative for the opportunity to partake in the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip. Throughout my life, I’ve admired stories of my family’s resilience in the face of adversity during the First and Second World Wars, making me extremely proud of my family and heritage. I look forward to gaining the knowledge this program has to offer, then applying that knowledge to continue strengthening ties to my Hellenic heritage.” This fall, Theofilos will attend Duke University in the Fuqua School of Business pursuing a Masters of Management Studies. Theofilos will spend the fall semester in Durham and spring semester studying in Shanghai.
Theodore Pedas, a rising sophomore at Yale University, is a prospective Global Affairs major with a concentration in International Security. At Yale, Theodore is a member of the Yale International Relations Association where he has assisted in the Yale Model United Nations. He is also a student of the Hellenic Studies Program, where he is able to pursue his interest of international relations in both a general context and a Greek one. Theodore is proficient in Modern Greek and Spanish, and he continues his study of these languages and cultures through seminar classes at Yale. He also has enjoyed his involvement with the cultural events of the Yale Hellenic Society. “At this pivotal time of crisis in the world, the lens offered through this experience to the problems in Greece and Cyprus will provide me invaluable perspective as I pursue my interests,” he said.
Stavros Piperis, a rising junior at Boston College, is studying Political Science and is a member of the department's Honors Program. He was acknowledged as a Sophomore Scholar of 2017 for showing outstanding potential in his chosen major, and has studied Modern Greek for two years. Beyond academics, Stavros has devoted much of his time to civic engagement and illuminating the Hellenic experience in the U.S. As the Co-President of the Boston College Hellenic Society, he created and organized the Greek America Lecture Series, a three-part speaker series devoted to sharing the stories of prominent Greek Americans and statesmen. The project brought Governor Michael Dukakis, Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns and Nicholas Gage to speak at Boston College. “I am thrilled about the opportunity to participate in the AHIF trip. The chance to observe Greek American political relations so closely would both provide a deeper understanding of international civics and highlight the common ground between America and Hellenism,” Stavros said.
Nico Bamberger Priskos, graduated from the University of Utah in 2017, where he double majored in Entrepreneurship and Political Science, along with a minor in International Studies. A highlight of his academic career was an internship with the Utah House of Representatives during the 2017 Utah Legislative Session, as Nico worked directly under the Speaker of the House. After his internship, the Speaker of the House appointed Nico to sit on the Utah State Fairpark Board of Directors. In addition to his academic career, Nico obtained his real estate license in October of 2014 and currently works as a commercial real estate agent in downtown Salt Lake City. Nico is heavily involved in his community; driven by a profound love for Hellenism, Orthodoxy, and history of the Greek American community in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the entire United States. In the later part of 2016, Nico was elected to the Parish Council for the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake, where he currently sits on the board. “Hellenism has a deep and profound place in my heart. I believe that this opportunity to combine Hellenism and a new-found passion of politics and policy would be a surreal and unique experience. My ancestors home of Greece and Cyprus are going through trying times; and I feel the accountability to learn more about the issues and taking direct actions in contributing to solutions.” Nico intends to continue working as a commercial real estate agent while he explores his options for postgraduate studies.
Paraskevie Ramfos is a rising sophomore and an honors student at the University of Alabama majoring in International Studies and minoring in French and Public Policy Studies. She is a member of the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, chapter Epsilon Lambda at the University of Alabama. She is passionate about her Greek heritage and has been immersed in Greek culture and lifestyle since birth. She has been a member of the Greek Orthodox Youth Association (GOYA) at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland since seventh grade and was elected Convention Delegate and City Council Member of the Virginia Girls State in the summer of 2015. “The Greek community is all very intricately intertwined. Everyone knows everyone. Connections are everywhere within our community. It is one of the many things I love about being Greek American. That is why this program is just perfect for me. I am truly intrigued by world politics and I love my Greek heritage. This program is a perfect combination because it will enrich my appreciation for my culture and heritage, while enhancing my knowledge on U.S.-Greece-Cyprus relations,” Evie said.
Stephanie Tanzi, an Honors student at the College of Charleston is an Art's Management major who is part of her school's Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community program. She aspires to one day start her own nonprofit organization to support America's creative economy through providing better funding for the Arts. Outside of her academic life, Stephanie also is fascinated deeply with furthering her knowledge of her Hellenic heritage. In addition to participating in church services as well as youth group activities she has also placed as a finalist in the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival, in which she was challenged to contemplate and write about the role that her Greek Orthodox faith has played in her life. "I am very excited to be presented with the opportunity to partake in the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip. Whether it was my Yiayia preparing Greek dishes, or my mom taking me to church each week I have grown up surrounded by my Greek heritage. As an arts management major a large part of my future career will be to understand policy changes in terms of their possible effects on the arts world; thus, this excursion will be largely beneficial to both my personal and academic growth," she said. Before graduating, Stephanie hopes to study abroad in Greece to gain cultural awareness as well as become more knowledgeable on how foreign policy issues are affecting other countries as well as her own.
Luke Tassopoulos is a rising fourth-year student at the University of Virginia, currently pursuing a B.A. in History as well as a Religious Studies minor from the College of Arts and Sciences. Next year, in addition to completing his undergraduate coursework, he will start on his first of a two year Accelerated Master’s Program in Public Policy from the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Luke is a member of the UVA Men’s Club Gymnastics team, Hellenic Society, and multiple Christian fellowships. “I am honored to be able to participate in the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus to deepen my understanding of the public policy challenges and opportunities in the region. I hope to use this experience to add skills to my toolkit that I can apply throughout my career and the remainder of my academic journey.”