The National Hellenic Student Association (NHSA) of North America held its first virtual convention, aptly themed Embracing Change and Innovation, on November 14, reaching over 150 participants from across the globe via Zoom. Virtual attendees tuned in for talks with various guest speakers including Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, Earth Friendly Products CEO Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, and Netronix CEO Dr. Vasileios Nasis. The 2020 Ariston-NHSA Scholarship winners were also announced during the event.
Journalist and editor of Portes Magazine, Anthe Mitrakos, and Boston University alumnus served as Emcees, NHSA’s President Petros Besieris and Chairman Konstantine Ouranitsas kicked off the event with opening remarks.
“Even in today’s ‘new-normal’, we have risen to the occasion to overcome the challenges and create positive experiences for ourselves and those around us,” Besieris said.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America encouraged the audience to connect with their shared heritage and continue supporting each other and their community at large through a video message. Ambassador of Cyprus to the U.S., Marios Lyssiotis, then provided opening remarks, touching on the current political and military situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The event’s 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 Harry Theoharis, Minister of Tourism; Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development & Investment; and Kostas Bakoyannis, Mayor of Athens. The panel included a discussion about the challenges the Greek tourism industry faced in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, but also touched on several positive notes, including the increasing digitalization and accessibility of resources for business and civil needs in Greece.
“It’s about getting to real solutions to real problems. It’s about getting things done,” Bakoyannis said. “This is indeed an unprecedented crisis that in many ways we could not have expected. Especially now, it’s very important for all of us to remain grounded, not waive our finger left and right, but to be as persuasive as we can to make sure that we all together get out of this crisis safe and sound,” he said.
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 PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University, and Kostapanos Miliaresis and Yanni Metaxas, pursuing his MBA at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. Each student received a merit-based scholarship of $1,000. Additionally, the ten 2020 Ariston Honor Society inductees were acknowledged for their high academic and leadership achievements among the scholarship applicants.
The next discussion titled Transforming the Business Landscape featured CEO of Earth Friendly Products Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, moderated by NHSA Chairman Konstantinos Ouranitsas. This discussion focused on success as a sustainable brand and manufacturer.
''It’s about looking at long term value versus short term value,” Vlahakis-Hanks said. “If you look at recycling, up until last year we were getting paid for all of our recyclables, so it was actually generating money for the company … we were able to reduce significant cost over time from our bottom-line, and that’s why I’m really passionate that you can do the right thing for business. You can 100 percent be pro-business and be pro-planet. And we should all be focused around both. There is no reason not to be.”
Subsequently, Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, shared with the audience key insights on current Eastern Mediterranean issues, and advised attendees on how they can become active members in promoting Hellenic issues in their communities. The conference concluded with a discussion on technological innovation featuring the CEO of Netronix Group Dr. Vasileios Nasis, moderated by NHSA President Petros Besieris.
“One of the most important things for me was the fact that the education that I received allowed me to see ten years ahead,” Nasis said. “Starting a platform of the future ... you are way ahead of your time so that gives you a lot of time to become better ... on the other hand, if you’re trying to start a company and raise capital ten years before society is ready, you’re going to see a lot of closed doors ... I always suggest if you are going to become an entrepreneur, start young, because it will take a while,” he said.
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, NHSA serves as the umbrella organization for a network of collegiate Hellenic associations throughout North America. NHSA is committed to uniting students and young professionals of the diaspora by incorporating education, professionalism, and community.