Q&A with Hellenic American University Provost Triant Flouris
Triant Flouris is provost and a professor at Hellenic American University, a New Hampshire-chartered institution that has dual campuses – one in Manchester, NH, and the other in Athens, Greece.
The school, which was the brainchild of Manchester businessman and political figure Chris Spirou, was founded in 2004. Right now, most of its courses and programs are offered in Athens, but it offers a master’s of business administration program in Manchester, with plans to expand in the future.
Q. Tell me about Hellenic American University.
A. It is a New Hampshire university that was started in 2004 after being approved the state Legislature. We are uniquely a NH institution with a presence in downtown Manchester and a big presence in downtown Athens, Greece.
Since 2004 it has developed into a very international institution, very focused on high-quality education. Academic rigor is very important for us. Diversity and multiculturalism are also very important to us.
We are now accredited by NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) and are basically regulated like any other university in the state.
In terms of our major uniqueness is the global nature of the institution. I believe we have created a very effective academic bridge between New Hampshire and Greece.
Q. How did the university get started?
A. It was an idea that some people had to create a uniquely American and strongly academic institution in Greece. The initiative was spearheaded by Chris Spirou, who was the university’s first president. The other person who was very important in the founding of the university was the current president, Leonidas Phoebus Koskos.
Q. Right now, in Manchester, you only offer an MBA program.
A. The university does not offer any undergraduate programs in Manchester currently. Our MBA program is between a year and half and two years. It’s fairly rigorous and requires more credits than most other programs. It also requires a practical capstone that most programs don’t have.
It offers a rolling cohort – a format that favors flexibility and those that are working professionals to be able to have good support at school and flexible schedules to be successful in their studies.
Classes are offered in downtown Manchester, at 52 Concord St. at the former Franco-American Center. It’s a very nice building for academic purposes because it has character and a lot of space that’s conducive to running an academic program. Some of it is classroom, some of it is common, where students can congregate. The academic program delivered by local faculty here in New Hampshire.
Q. How many students do you have in Greece?
A. It is a university of 500 students. The undergraduate and graduate business programs account for 25 percent of the student population.
By the way, the classes in Greece are all conducted in English. The language of the school is English. It’s in our American charter – it has to be done that way.
Q. If I were to enroll in the university in New Hampshire, would I take classes in Greece as well?
A. Yes – it’s an integral part of the educational experience. Globalization is a very important trend right now, and what we see is that hiring trends in the U.S. and all over the world favor those students, those graduates, with international experience one way or the other.
Q. What kind of student are you looking for?
A. Some students have some characteristics that everybody wants – somebody who’s motivated, purposeful. In our case, there are a couple of things that would attract unique people to us. One is that we are very practically focused in the way we educate our students. Students have to do a capstone, and the capstone has to be a real venture – not just lead to something in theory. That highlights the practical nature of our education. People who want to learn how to practically create things.
The second characteristic is those who have an interest in the world as a whole – understanding the trends, the interdisciplinary nature of business, because business is not just about business. It’s about politics, societal movements, it’s about the core elements of business in terms of finance and management, but it’s interdisciplinary.
Q. How are you doing your marketing?
A. Right now it is based on very low-key, personal relationships, word-of-mouth, using electronic media as much as we can. We really just want to basically put out our product, which is our academic programs and the rigor and high quality, their uniqueness and based on that developing a reputation for being really good at what we do.
Q. What kind of relationship do you have with other colleges and universities in New Hampshire?
A. There are a lot of excellent universities in the state, and we don’t think we’re competing with any of them because everybody does something great in a different way. And quite frankly, in our case, we are partners with more or less every single university in the state in terms of study abroad because we provide facilitation for their study abroad programs.
Q. I understand you have a relationship with Tulane University as well.
A. We do a cross-cultural management course with Tulane University. The program an intensive week of study with Tulane students from their New Orleans campus and their Houston campus, and it’s our students from Greece, our students from here, and students from a couple of other institutions, typically an institution from South America and one in the Middle East.
In the program, everybody spends one week together. The students are formed into four multicultural, interdisciplinary teams. Business is really all about interdisciplinary and internationalism. Then, wherever they work, in whatever context they work, being able to work with people from other cultures and backgrounds is something that is second nature to them.
Q. Has the economic situation in Greece affected your enrollment?
A. It has and it has not. Our enrollment has been growing steadily since the beginning of the university. What we don’t really know is that if the economic downturn had not happened, if the crisis was not as protracted and as deep as it is right now, I assume the numbers would have been even better. We don’t see the phenomenon that we see in the U.S., where you are in a recession and universities do great because people go back to school to get more credentials. There, the whole idea is, “I need to get a job, and if I go to school I may jeopardize my job because I may not be as productive as I could.”
Q. What is your background?
A. I’m an aviation person. I worked at several universities in the U.S. as well as in Canada before going back to Greece five years ago. I have taught primarily aviation management. I wrote books on project management and strategy and risk management. I’m just an academic.
Q. How did you end up on administrative side of things?
A. It seemed like a good idea a very long time ago when I was asked to take over the administration of the international aviation MBA program at Concordia University in Canada. I then had a chance to work in New York at the City University of New York where I started the Aviation Institute there. I then became a dean at Daniel Webster College in Nashua.