CHICAGO, IL – Members of the National Hellenic Student Association (NHSA) chose the Windy City for a three-day conference filled with networking sessions, city walks, and celebrations October 23-25.
Despite some last minute venue changes that the organizing group had to accommodate, the NHSA conference was a success in bringing together Greek-American youth for a combination of learning and socializing with a total of 114 registered attendees and a dozen mentors, representing 45 U.S. universities and 23 NHSA member chapters.
On October 23, students were welcomed at various offices in the city for professional networking, followed by an evening happy hour at Chicago’s legendary Hard Rock Hotel. A Greek night was later held at the Wit Hotel in downtown Chicago as a warm-up to the Saturday morning speed networking sessions, presentations, panel discussions and team-building activities that followed. Saturday night could not be spent without yet another festive social gathering, while Sunday included a farewell walk around the city.
“The convention is a wonderful way for young professionals and students to meet each other and foster a supportive relationship across the United States,” said University of Iowa student Panagiota Terzis. “I met a lot of people and created the foundation for long lasting relationships, professional and personal,” she added.
The next day, the current events panel included commentary and a follow-up discussion with Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council Endy Zemenides, Consul General of Greece in Chicago Ioanna Efthymiadou, and Honorary Consul of the Republic of Cyprus Michael Dovellos.
“Unless they are reading the National Herald every day or other Greek newspapers, most students aren’t getting this type of news,” Zemenides said of the talks. “It’s one thing to just see headlines and it’s another to really understand the substance about it,” he added.
This year’s speaker discussions touched on the Greek crisis, Greece’s geopolitical position in the Mediterranean, and foreign relations with the EU, Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel.
“You can’t become an expert on just knowing what everybody else knows, you have to know more,” Zemenides said. “And that’s what we endeavored to do, to give the students a leg up in knowledge, and I think they saw that during the panel,” he said.
During that morning’s presentations, University of Chicago Linguistics Professor Anastasia Giannakidou discussed the evolution of the Greek language and the benefits of being bilingual across different spectrums. Also presenting at the conference was Field Museum Curator Dr. William Parkinson who introduced “The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great,” the Museum’s latest exhibit set to open this November.
One of many NHSA conferences held over the years, the Chicago event once again united students, friends, and local leaders in the Greek-American community, something that is becoming of more and more value nowadays.
“Building your networks and reaching out to mentors in our community is very important,” Efthymiadou told the students, encouraging them to stay involved with the Greek community both on a local and national level.
“It is extremely important that we, the future Hellene leaders, recognize issues that we will need to address and help solve them,” said Loyola University student Dimitri Polymenakos of challenges faced growing up Greek-American.
On the success of this year’s convention, current NHSA President Konstantina Panagiotopoulos noted the valuable connections made between attendees.
“The bonds and relationships formed throughout the weekend, both on a professional and personal level truly reflect the overall mission of NHSA,” Panagiotopoulos said. “We grew in many ways, and while we have much work to do, we united Greeks from the local and national standpoint, and that is what defines our success,” she added.
Just as the fall 2015 convention came to an end, this spring will bring yet another gathering, and planning has already begun.
“We look forward to organizing the spring convention, and continuing the legacy of the NHSA,” said Konstantine Ouranitsas, NHSA immediate past president.
The NHSA of America is the network of the Hellenic Student Associations across the United States. By linking Greek, Greek-American and Cypriot students of the American educational institutions, the organization aims to promote ideas and projects that enrich the Hellenic spirit on campuses nationwide.
“The student’s efforts were phenomenal. It’s not an easy thing to be a student and in your spare time put together something like this,” Zemenides said. “Given the logistical challenges bringing people in from around the country and giving them quite a diverse program, [the students] should be commended for their initiative and for pulling it off in the end,” he added.
Vasiliki Mitrakos contributed to this report.
NHSA attendees pose for a photo in Chicago’s famous Millennium Park.