COMMUNITY

Flame of knowledge burns bright in Olympia

By Apostolos Lakasas

Every summer since 2001, Ancient Olympia -- that cradle of symbolism for ancient Greek ideals -- has been hosting a summer school on political science and international relations, drawing students and academics from around the world.

This year, the summer school will run from July 5 to 16 at the International Olympic Academy at the foot of Cronus Hill, and will be hosting 100 students and 15 professors at its premises, which includes accommodation, a conference center, a library and state-of-the-art sports facilities.

Now entering its second decade, the Olympia Summer School has earned international plaudits and prestige, with applications coming in every year from all corners of the Earth from postgraduate and PhD students from the world?s finest universities. So far, the school has welcomed 500 students from 38 countries. Almost 95 percent of the students are from abroad, with half coming from the United States and Europe.

Along with the research, education and networking opportunities provided by the summer school, it is also a powerful cultural networking tool that attracts funding from overseas and propagates Greek history and culture in other parts of the world. The academy has also forged ties with numerous institutions abroad, such as the universities of Yale and St Andrews, offering scholarships to students wanting to study at the International Olympic Academy.

?The academy has a dual role,? Dimitris Keridis, an associate professor at Panteion University in Athens and director of the project, told Kathimerini.

?The first is to develop a high-quality academic forum to acquaint students and analysts with modern research methodology and a review of recent works.

?The academy?s second aim is to create an international academic network centered on Greece and its academic potential, as well as promoting educational exchanges between countries.?

Much of the success of the International Olympic Academy is due to the vision and cooperation of Greek academics with an international background.

?Our academy is among the best of its kind worldwide, as is testified by the high and constantly increasing level of participation of postgraduate students from some of the best universities in the world,? Yale University political science professor Stathis Kalyvas said. ?The school is, on a very small scale, an example of Greece?s potential if its educational system worked differently. Because the combination of human capital, represented by Greek educators, and the country?s natural beauty could create an environment that would allow education to become a Greek export.?

In today?s Greece, where the crisis is apparent in every facet of life and very profoundly in education, initiatives such as the Olympia Summer School are a shining light on the path to quality, innovation, excellence and extrovertedness, qualities that help institutions and countries stand out on an international level.

Patrons and sponsors

Among the Olympia Summer School?s steady supporters are the universities of Yale and Tufts in the USA, St Andrews in Scotland and Panteion in Athens, while its biggest sponsor is the Cyprus-based A.G. Leventis Foundation, which also established the program.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also funds a one-day conference on international terrorism during the summer school.

Since 2009 the summer school has been organized by the Navarino Network, a nonprofit policy lab based in Thessaloniki and founded by Dimitris Keridis with the support of the Northern Greece Entrepreneurs Cultural Society.

When the school first went into operation in 2002 it was funded by the Kokkalis Foundation and run by the Municipality of Ancient Olympia and the University of Patra, before the universities of Macedonia and Panteion became involved in the project.

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