Harvard in Nafplio: Building bridges

Something positive is happening in the Peloponnesian seaside city of Nafplio. To begin with, an educational center with ties to one of the world?s leading educational institutions is developing programs with an emphasis on its collaboration with the local community. Furthermore, this peripheral Greek city is set on putting the existence of the educational center to good use, in the hope of generating even more interest in the broader area.

Three years ago, Harvard University?s Center for Hellenic Studies (CHS) inaugurated its first overseas branch, situated in Nafplio?s elegant neoclassical Iatrou Mansion. Since then, the Nafplio center has been constantly developing new activities and programs, turning into an integral part of the city?s — and its environs? — academic and cultural life, as well as a point of reference for foreign educational institutions.

During a recent visit, Kathimerini witnessed the dynamic collaboration between the educational center and other local institutions and observed a twofold generosity which is bearing fruit.

?Besides Nafplio?s historical importance, its practical size, safety and beauty, the city is what what we abroad call ?Greece.? This is one of the reasons why we decided to establish the center here,? said Professor Kenneth Morrell, director of fellowships and curricular development at the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard.

Then there are Harvard?s summer courses in Greece. Both programs, which are aimed at American and Greek students alike, have been operating for a number of years now, long before the center?s establishment in Nafplio. Nowadays, the courses are planned and organized around the activities of local society and its institutions: the Archaeological Museum, the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, the Nafplio Annex of the Greek National Gallery, the General State Archives, the Fougaro Cultural Foundation and the Foundation of the Hellenic World.

Also in the works is the development of a summer program for high school students. The program, which is being created in collaboration with local authorities, will act as a foundation course for university admittance as well as an introduction to the Greek and US educational systems — and finding out about opportunities in the latter.

This is not the first time the Center for Hellenic Studies is catering to the young. More than 70 school groups have participated in a program centered around digital education and the CHS digital library, for instance.

?Free access to this huge volume of scientific data is the best expression of the center?s mission, well described in the motto ?Free knowledge for all,?? noted Professor Ioannis Petropoulos, the Nafplio center?s director.

This also applies to the Theater Studies Department of the University of the Peloponnese. The two institutions already have an established collaboration and are in the process of examining further joint projects, such as the development of a series of teleconferences with professors based in the United States.

?We like to host a variety of people, irrespective of their status and hierarchy. We are sending out a sense of optimism. Culture and education are the solutions to the current crisis,? said Petropoulos.

Professor Dimitris Kostouros, deputy mayor of Nafplio, seems to agree: ?You can imagine how beneficial it is for children, not to mention teachers, when schools situated in the broader Nafplio area come into contact with the highest educational level that exists. Beyond that, whoever wants to benefit from this contact may do so. The existence of the center is very important as far as the city of Nafplio is concerned. The fact that our community is taking advantage of its establishment justifies the choice of its location. What we need to do now is develop the kind of infrastructure that will enable us to benefit from the center even more.?

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