[MGSA-L] News about the C. P. Cavafy Professorship at UM

Artemis Leontis aleontis at umich.edu
Tue Dec 18 06:01:30 PST 2018

Dear friends and colleagues,

I have been named the new C. P. Cavafy Professor of Modern Greek Studies
and Comparative Literature, LSA at the University of Michigan, effective
Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2022. You can see the Regent's announcement
here in the December 6 issue of the University Record
<https://record.umich.edu/articles/regents-roundup-december-2018> (scroll
down to "Regents' Roundup."

Because the MGSA list is attentive to how positions are announced and
filled, I want to give the backstory of this position, so that you can
understand the steps taken and know where the UM Modern Greek has been and
where it is going. The C. P.Cavafy Professorship was endowed in 1999
a gift from the Foundation forModern Greek Studies, a grass roots
organization in SE Michigan
<https://lsa.umich.edu/modgreek/endowments-gifts/annual-support.html> that
worked tirelessly to raise the money through many small donations.
hired that year and inaugurated in the position. From 1999 to June 1, 2018,
he worked to build the Modern Greek program, creating a curriculum and a
major and minor in Modern Greek, advising undergraduates, teaching in
Classics and Modern Greek, advising many graduate students in Comparative
Literature, Anthropology, Linguistics, and other department, working with
donors, and organizing hundreds of events. In 1999 I was hired as a
part-time adjunct, and in 2007 the department, college, and regents voted
to hire me as associate professor of Modern Greek. Additionally, our
brilliant colleague Dr. Despina Margomenou
<https://lsa.umich.edu/modgreek/people/program-faculty/margomen.html>, an
anthropologist, in has worked tirelessly as Lecturer III-IV of Modern Greek
(and previously as a GSI and Lecturer I), teaching hundreds of students
Greek, advising graduate students in Anthropology and Classical
Archaeology, developing courses, taking students to Greece, working on
collaborative projects with faculty across campus, including Johannes
Foufopoulos, Associate Professor of Natural Resources, and shaping our
curriculum in inspiring, innovative ways. Dr. Panagiotis Pafilis was
Lecturer I of Modern Greek from 2007 to 2010 and is now Professor of
Biology at the University of Athens, often helping us with student studies
and internships in Greece. Thus Vassilis did not work alone.

When Vassilis announced his retirement, I was asked to take this position
but chose not to because I wanted to be sure that the Classics and Comp Lit
would hire a new faculty to be present and trained and active after i
retire. It wasn't clear then that both were possible. The associate dean in
fact said this would not be the case. I took on the role of the Chair of
the Department of Classical Studies in part to be sure that there will be
an able successor in the Modern Greek position when I retire.

The search for the chair last year was a senior position for which I did
not apply. We identified a very strong candidate. The person handled
themselves very professionally, was sincere throughout the process, and
finally determined that they were not in a suitable position to take the
job. One of the reasons was that the Cavafy Chair, which is not just an
honorary position but has administrative, program building duties, felt
quite daunting. In July, the dean of LSA and associate dean asked me to
take the position and promised to reopen the search for a second joint,
tenure track position in Modern Greek next year. They pointed to my
research, teaching, and service record, my record as Editor of the JMGS, my
work on the MGSA, my knowledge of the university and the field. They are
very excited about my new book
<https://press.princeton.edu/titles/13287.html>, which will be published in
March. It seemed like the right thing for me to accept the offer,
especially because it will put me in the position to keep building the
Modern Greek Program and to oversee the hiring and mentoring the next
faculty and, eventually, the next C. P. Cavafy Chair.

It is an honor and an immense challenge to build on the work of Vassilis
Lambropoulos. One of the challenges is thinking about how language and area
studies, particularly Greek studies, should develop in a large public
American research university over the next 10 years.

Fortunately there are structures in place for the fundamental work. I have
the great pleasure of working with Despina Margomenou, a brilliant
colleague. I also have marvelous colleagues also in Classics and in
Comparative literature and across campus: YopiePrins
<https://lsa.umich.edu/classics/people/adjunct-faculty/yprins.html> in
Comparative Literature, Tatjana Aleksic
<https://lsa.umich.edu/modgreek/people/affiliated-faculty/atatjana.html> in
Comparative Literature and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Johannes
<https://lsa.umich.edu/modgreek/people/affiliated-faculty/jfoufop.html> in
the School of Natural Resources, George Tsebellis
<https://lsa.umich.edu/modgreek/people/affiliated-faculty/tsebelis.html> in
Political Science, Jeremy Chamberlin in Creative Writing (and previously
Natalie Bakopoulos), Jim Cogswell in Art and Design, and many others. We
have wonderful students and alumni. Last year we had 7 students graduated
with a major (4) or minor (7). They included Akshay Neellesh Chhajed (BBA,
Minor in Modern Greek and in International Studies), a student from Mumbai,
who, in the summer of 2017, Akshay volunteered as a medical translator and
cultural mediator at the Moria Refugee Camp, Lesbos,  Greece through the
Emergency Response Centre International, an NGO, using his considerable
language skills in Greek, Urdu/Hindi, French, and English. Additionally 12
graduate students in classics and two professors with knowledge of ancient
Greek took an intensive 1-semester beginning class with me to learn to
communicate in Greek on a basic level and (in several cases) prepare
themselves for research in Greece. We also worked hard to place students in
internships and study abroad. Last year 7 students worked with marvelous
partners in Greece (from the Press Project to Anatolia College, the Center
for Asia Minor Studies, and Solidarity Now) and/or studied in Greece, and
we offered fellowships to support them. We are planning a busy winter
series of events, which we will announce shortly, and a newsletter will be
in the mail early in January.

Classical Studies and Comparative Literature will search for someone to
fill a joint tenure track position in Modern Greek and Comparative
Literature next year. The position will be open rank and include people who
would be hired at the assistant level. Searches at UM happen in a pretty
transparent way. There is no inside candidate.

If you feel inspired, please send me your thoughts about Modern Greek
Studies in the US in the 21st century.


Artemis Leontis
Artemis Leontis
Professor of Modern Greek and Chair, Department of Classical Studies
University of Michigan
Arts & Humanities Editor, *Journal of Modern Greek Studies*
email:  aleontis at umich.edu
telephone: (734) 647-2313
office address:  2156 Angell Hall, 435 S. State Street Ann Arbor MI 48109
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