Mentor Pairs Collaborate at Fifteenth International Graduate Student Conference in Modern Greek Studies
By Catherine Curan
Mentoring was a central theme at the Seeger Center’s fifteenth International Graduate Student Conference in Modern Greek Studies.
From April 30 to May 7, the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies at Princeton hosted students from six universities, including the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and the European University Institute, based in Florence, Italy. Seeger Center Director Dimitri Gondicas launched a new program this year, matching each graduate student with two mentors from the center’s 2022-23 cohort of postdoctoral research fellows.
Throughout the week, the students worked closely with their mentors. Both sides found the experience enriching.
Alexander Strecker, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art, History and Visual Studies at Duke University, was mentored by Seeger Center Postdoctoral Research Fellows Andrew Griebeler and Eleni Stavroulaki.
“Too often, criticism in academia is either anonymous or too personal. The postdoctoral mentors provided a perfect balance of support and encouragement with clear-eyed advice for how to improve my writing and thinking,” said Strecker.
Graduate student Elisavet Papalexopoulou worked with Seeger Center Postdoctoral Research Fellows Anastasios Panoutsopoulos and Pavlo Smytsnyuk. This partnership brought together scholars whose research interests reflected the depth and breadth of Hellenic Studies. Papalexopoulou's dissertation is titled “Tracing the ‘political’ in women’s work: Women of Letters in the Greek cultural space 1800-1832,” and she is a doctoral candidate at the European University Institute. Panoutsopoulos earned his doctorate in 2022 and researches contemporary Greek history. Smytsnyuk is working on a book called “The Category of Religion as an Instrument of Liberation from Colonialism: Greece and India,” and received his doctorate from Oxford in 2019.
“The mentors had very lucid insights on my topic even if they were not experts in it – or maybe exactly because they were not too close to it,” said Papalexopoulou. “It was really helpful to talk with people who are close to the thesis writing procedure but have survived it."
Panoutsopoulos added: "As a mentor, I gained invaluable insights by engaging with diverse disciplines, broadening my understanding of different perspectives, and strengthening my ability to offer nuanced feedback beyond my area of expertise”.
Seeger Center postdoctoral fellow Rachel Patt, an art historian, immediately connected with her mentee, Angeliki Tsiotinou, through their shared interest in museology. Tsiotinou is a doctoral candidate in Museology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Architecture. Patt found Tsiotinou’s focus on local community museums refreshing.
“The conversations in the field can be dominated by fine arts museums. Angeliki’s passion for integrating smaller institutions such as the Hellenic Cultural Museum in Salt Lake City (the subject of her paper) into the dialogue was a key reminder to me that these spaces also merit consideration,” said Patt.
The conference culminated in presentations of the students’ research. Mentors served as respondents to the students’ papers, capping their week of scholarly collaboration.
Reflecting on the conference, Patt noted: “The key takeaway for me was that the sphere of modern Hellenic Studies is robust and dynamic, producing varied, exciting scholarship, and that there is much to learn from engaging with colleagues working across multiple disciplines.”
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Brad Boswell said he valued the opportunity to help plan the conference and serve as a mentor to doctoral candidate Panagiota Vogiatzi from the University of Birmingham.
“It’s not easy to create an atmosphere that is interdisciplinary and intellectually rigorous, and simultaneously hospitable and constructive for young scholars,” said Boswell. “But working with the other postdocs and Seeger Center staff on this conference gave me an inside perspective on how that can be accomplished. It’s an experience I’ll be reflecting on and building from in the future.”
The conference was supported by the Michael George Mazarakis Modern Greek Studies Fund. The Princeton University Humanities Council and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies were cosponsors.