October 19, 2007

Grant Allows Ithacans to Travel to Greece

Print More

Zeus must be looking kindly upon Ithaca, because the Delegation of the European Union Commission provided a grant for a group of Ithacans to travel all expenses paid to the Greek island of Kefalonia from Oct. 3 -11.
The grant for the trip was part of the “Getting to Know Europe Grant,” organized by Prof. Sydney Van Morgan, sociology, associate director of the institute for European studies. The grant, which expires in December, provides funds for lectures, film series, cultural events and the formation of “Twin Cities” between Ithaca and Elios Pronnoi, a city in Kefalonia.
“We held a competition [to choose who went on the trip to Greece] and solicited applications,” said Van Morgan. “We wanted a group that represented different areas of interest.”
Van Morgan also said that the trip was a part of the multi-pronged project meant to stimulate outreach between Ithaca and Elios Pronnoi in the areas of education, business and government. The concrete goals of the trip include: providing more outreach programs with Greece, new teaching materials for Ithaca schoolteachers and even linkages and internship opportunities for the Hotel School in Elios Pronnoi.
“We want to share our resources with the outer community,” Van Morgan said.
The group of travelers included David Romm, director of Ithaca and Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sarah How, Olin Library librarian, as well as two teachers, several people working in business and an Ithaca clerk and public information officer.
“Part of the requirement for getting to go on the tour was to have some sort of project,” Van Morgan said.
How says that her main interest was the vast collection of Greek works in the Kefalonian libraries.
“There is a vast library of books from everyone who lived on the island … dating back to the 16th century,” How said.
Not only was this a trip of cultural immersion for How, but she also had the opportunity to share Cornell’s famous library digitization system with the library at Elios Pronnoi.
“I took a training C.D. that the [library] department prepared that runs through the basic elements of preservation [and gave it to the librarian at Elios Pronnoi],” How said.
How has also been inspired to bring part of her experience back to Ithaca.
“I hope to pursue … building collections on contemporary Greece,” How said.
“I would really like to understand the collections on Ionian Islands and work with them more,” she said.
Romm also has a project in the works. His main interest was how Elios Pronnoi handled its tourism. He explained that tourism in Ithaca is treated as a collaborative effort between businesses, which helps stimulate the local economy.
“I was interested in learning about how the island uses tourism to support small businesses,” Romm said. “My biggest takeaway was that tourism is much more segmented [in Elios Pronnoi than in Ithaca].”
Romm was also interested in how the story of the Odyssey was used to influence tourism, since the island of Kefalonia is very close to Ithaca’s Greek namesake, Ithaka. Romm plans to use the idea of the Greek epic to stimulate our own Ithaca tourist economy.
“We’ll be putting a page up on visitithaca.com to tell the story of why we are called Ithaca,” Romm said. “There is a story that can be created and pitched to the media about the origin of Ithaca’s name.”