UCLA will create a new center to support the study of Hellenic culture and engage the Greek community in Los Angeles.
The UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture, which the university announced the establishment of earlier this month, is funded by a $5 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, a philanthropic organization. The grant is part of the $4.2 billion UCLA Centennial Campaign. The opening date of the center is still unknown.
The center will promote multidisciplinary approaches to the study and research of Greek culture and history and serve as cultural center for Greek-Americans in the greater Los Angeles area, said Sharon Gerstel, a professor in the department of art history and acting director of the center.
Gerstel said the center will collaborate with Greek organizations in Los Angeles such as the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, the American Hellenic Council and the Greek Heritage Society of Southern California to hold events.
The center will raise an additional $3 million before officially launching, according to a university press release. Gerstel said the center plans to raise the additional funds by partnering with nonprofit organizations and foundations and looking to Greek-Americans for fundraising. She added the center may offer to name scholarships and lectures after donors.
Funds will go toward supporting academic and cultural activities, visiting faculty and students, and modern Greek language and literature classes.
Gerstel said she hopes the center will officially launch within two years and added it has already begun planning activities for this year. For example, the center is supporting various conferences and is hosting a New Years celebration on campus.
Shelly Papadopoulos, a member of the Greek Heritage Society of Southern California, said she thinks the center will be helpful to the Greek community because it will give them opportunities to participate in cultural activities and connect with their heritage. She added she thinks its creation is long overdue.
“It’s sorely lacking here,” she said. “We do not have anything here in the greater LA area that engages the (Greek) community.”
Papadopoulos said she thinks the center will give students exposure to Greek culture and history.
“It will be a first-hand approach,” she said. “They’ll be living it, … seeing it, … experiencing it rather than reading about it in a book.”
She added the Greek Heritage Society has hosted events with the UCLA department of classics in the past and plans to continue partnering with the new center.
Marianne Simpson, a third-year classics student, said she thinks the center will provide more resources for students interested in learning about and conducting research on ancient and modern Greece. She added she thinks it will help connect faculty and students with each other.
“A lot of people think it’s a dying field and not a lot of people study it anymore,” Simpson said. “It seems like a way to improve both the idea that people have about (those) who study classics and to open up more opportunities for people to study and learn more about it.”
Simpson, a member of Eta Sigma Phi, an honor society for classical studies, said the organization would be interested in participating in the center’s events and collaborating with the center.
Gerstel said she has worked with the Greek community in Los Angeles for many years and said she thinks members of the community are excited about the center.
“I feel there is genuine enthusiasm about this center,” she said. “(The Greek) community has always wished to have an intellectual center in the city.”