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European Alumnae Symposium

Logo for event features an owl and an olive branch with the word Athens in Greek

Changing Minds and Lives at the 2019 Mount Holyoke European Alumnae Symposium

The 15th Mount Holyoke European Alumnae Symposium welcomed alums and students from the classes of 1948 to 2021 and 21 countries along with MHC faculty and staff to the city of Athens, Greece, from October 4–6, 2019.

The gathering featured a rich and detailed program of learning and engagement, and kicked off on Friday with a discussion moderated by Joann Ryding Beltes ’76 between MHC President Sonya Stephens and Alumnae Association President Maria Mossaides ’73.  Dinner followed — with a magnificent view of the Acropolis and the temple of Zeus — and the sounds of the Alma Mater carried the evening to a close.

Saturday morning brought the group to Fougaro, a historic industrial space located in the Peloponnese, which has been transformed into a vibrant cultural center by Florica Kyriacopoulos ’76.

Attendee Anne Gabrielle Boucher ’13 sets the scene: “Fougaro is truly an oasis for all the senses: [the] smell of rosemary, delicious food, children playing and water fountains bubbling, beautiful art and aesthetic architecture, conversations and heart-to-hearts connecting over this beautiful space.”

The day at Fougaro included several panels, starting with a dynamic discussion about migration, ideological extremism, climate change and political polarization, “Is The World Changing?” Moderated by Erica Lutes ‘02 and featuring Kavita Khory ’84, Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics and newly appointed Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, the discussion set the global political stage for the symposium theme, Changing Minds and Lives.”

A panel about the migrant crisis in Greece and in Turkey included:

  • Dia Anagnostou ’91, associate professor of politics at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences and senior research fellow at ELIAMEP, who provided an overview of the trends of refugee and migration flows in the Mediterranean.
  • Anya Jette Christiansen ’01, who shared her personal experience of having been on the Greek islands for months and offered staged solutions, from the practical level to the global level, of addressing the root causes.
“No government or NGO would ever be prepared for the amount of people (that arrived in Turkey and Greece from Syria, and that is a fact we have to live with.”Zeynep Kurmuş Hürbaş ’96, head of communications, The Koç School & Civic Initiative

Ioli Christopoulou ’01, co-founder and policy director of The Green Tank and one of the organizers of the event, moderated a panel on climate change and the environmental degradation that affects us all — a reminder that communities, countries and the environment are interconnected on many levels.

Panelists included Professor Emeritus Jens Christiansen, who spoke about the links between environmental degradation and our current economic system, as well as the need for a Global Green Marshall Plan.

Saturday evening concluded with a wine tasting at the Semeli Estate during the sunset — and Greek dancing!

“Mount Holyoke taught me how to be on my own, responsible for myself.”Claude de Renty du Granrut MHGS’48

On Sunday, three alums shared their personal stories about wisdom, vulnerabilities and strengths in the face of change. And with the singing of “Bread and Roses,” the Symposium drew to a close.

—Contributors include Anne Gabrielle Boucher ’13, Ioli Christopoulou ’01, Silvia Maulini ’80, and Jessica Riel


2019 Mount Holyoke European Alumnae Symposium

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View the entire photo collection here.

Meet the Organizing Committee

Dimitra China ’16 Hello, my name is Dimitra, and I am part of the European Symposium Organizing Committee team that is working hard to make sure that you have a great time “meeting” Greece and fellow MHC alumnae! This year’s theme aims to explore the complexity of change in one’s life while also challenge existing mindsets and inspiring growth. So get your hearts (and your sun hats) ready for October!

Ioli Christopoulou ’01, Delegate of Greece, European Alumnae Council I have now attended three European Alumnae Symposia, in Warsaw, Poland; Leuven, Belgium; and Riga, Latvia. Each offered the opportunity to broaden my knowledge on topics that are not on my daily agenda, to explore places that I would not have otherwise visited and most importantly to connect with fellow alums of all ages and from varied paths. After each Symposium, I returned home inspired and motivated, with my Mount Holyoke spirit rekindled. The idea of hosting a Symposium back home grew stronger. I felt this was a way to give back to Mount Holyoke, which formulated in such a substantial part who I have become. I wanted to offer to fellow alums the same opportunity to relive the Mount Holyoke experience, this time in my own home country. Luckily, my fellow Mount Holyoke European Alumnae Council delegates encouraged me, and the local Mount Holyoke group in Greece enthusiastically supported the idea of hosting a symposium. For the past few months, we have worked together to get everything ready! We hope you will join us. In fact, we cannot wait to welcome you to Greece!

Maddy Hewitt ’84 In May, I returned to Greece from a weekend at Mount Holyoke where I attended my 35th reunion. In full bloom, the college was as beautiful as ever and full of life! We paraded, sang “Bread and Roses” and laughed and reminisced while retelling stories in the Buckland dorm living room. We also listened to fellow alumnae share stories, among which were the catcher and pitcher from the undefeated softball team of 1944! The Mount Holyoke College legacy lives on in us. With great delight, we welcome fellow alumnae to Athens, Greece — a magical city, perfect for our Symposium celebrating change. Together we will consider how we can be adaptive in a disruptive time where old systems are folding but enduring values remain. Καλώς ΗΡΘΑΤΕ! Welcome!

Georgia Koumantaris-Tzouros ’82 I have lived in Athens for over 30 years. As I wander in the city, I cannot help but notice every day that Athens is a crossroads of ancient and modern. As one walks along the city, following the steps of philosophers of the past, the nuances of contemporary Athenian life are revealed. The city’s ability to look to the future while preserving the traditions and values of the past is a delightful surprise. Changes bridging the new and the old mingle throughout this Europeancapital. Join us in Athens to reconnect with the “old” and embrace and connect with the “new” in our ever changing lives! In the true spirit of MHC, we will once again have the opportunity to inspire, empower and connect with one another!

Florica Kyriacopoulos ’76 I think of Mount Holyoke as a place that lit up my life and changed it forever. I was a city girl who had always lived in the noisy center of Athens and attended a well-known Greek-American high school, during the 7 years of military dictatorship. I had lost the largest part of my intellectual drive during those years, finding no inspiration in either the curriculum or the archaic and stale learning process consisting mostly of reciting by heart textbook chapters. The only enjoyable courses for me in high school were those of English literature, taught by American teachers… When I came to Mount Holyoke I entered a different world. I had never been in such an intellectually stimulating environment before, nor one of such beauty. Everything was so different that it was at first intimidating. The tranquility and beauty of nature and all the campus, the caliber and intelligence of everyone, the respect and concern shown to students by both faculty and administration. The honors system! Liberal Arts education and the Humanities… The countless possibilities of exploring so many avenues of learning! Read more….

Anne Moses Bennett ’72 My first experience in Greece came in the summer of 1967, just a year before I entered Mount Holyoke. I returned to Greece in the summers that followed and there is no doubt these visits led me along the path of creative writing, art history and studio art, which became my major. After Mount Holyoke I spent eight years studying and working in Switzerland, followed by twelve years back in Boston. More change was afoot when I met and married an officer in the Royal Navy whose career saw us living for years both in the UK and Naples, Italy. Now, and for the past twelve years – some fifty-two years after my first visit to this country – we live full time in Greece. Proof that, even in a life characterized by constant change, some things abide. Designing the logo for Mount Holyoke’s European Alumnae Symposium in Greece was an interesting affair. Read more….

Dia Anagnostou ’91

Jette Christiansen ’01

Anastasia Dimitropoulou ’97

Martha Murray FP’91

Joann Ryding ’76

View the full 2019 European Alumnae Symposium program.