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Spotlight on...

Dr. Areti Mizara (UCL Geography 1993) & Dr. Ioannis Papanikolaou (UCL Earth Sciences 2003)

The UCL alumni community benefits from the dedication of active volunteers who, in their free time organise events with the support of the alumni relations team. One such group, with an impressive 3000+ members, is the Hellenic Alumni Group with Dr Areti Mizara (UCL Geography 1993) and Dr Ioannis Panikolaou (UCL Geology 2003) at the helm. On 25th April 2012, UCL’s President and Provost, Professor Malcolm Grant, hosted an alumni reception at the British Embassy in Athens. More than 300 Greek alumni were welcomed by the British Ambassador Dr David Landsman and Professor Grant. 

Athens Event
Ioannis (back left) and Areti (centre) at the recent alumni event in Athens

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself

Areti: I have studied geology, remote sensing (at UCL), environmental management, GIS and desertification. I am a Senior Researcher at the Centre for the Assessment of Natural Hazards at the National Technical University of Athens and an expert consultant for two public institutions and a national museum.

Ioannis: I’m a geologist, did my PhD on Natural Hazards at UCL (Earth Sciences 2003) and currently I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Mineralogy-Geology Laboratory of the Agricultural University of Athens in Greece.

Q. What did you enjoy most about UCL?

Areti: My MSc was an intercollegiate course, very intense and challenging and study time was divided between UCL, Imperial and SOAS. So in one academic year I had a compact experience of three “student lives”. UCL clearly stood out, as nothing could beat its overall atmosphere, the friendly and relaxed environment, the vibrant social life, the magnificent campus.

Ioannis: My department and the Aon Benfield-UCL Hazard Research Centre, where I did my PhD, was a miniature of UCL, a place of cutting-edge research, multicultural, friendly and informal, where I really enjoyed research. Social networking and scientific interaction with other cultures and disciplines is also something that UCL offers and is valuable. Moreover, living in London is undoubtedly an experience worth living.

Q.  In what way have you stayed involved with UCL in recent years?

Areti: My involvement with UCL begun with the creation of the UCL Hellenic Alumni group, 12 years ago and still goes on.

Ioannis: I’m still a member of the Hazard Research Centre and since 2006 I’m an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences, so I maintain strong links with my department and still doing research with my former supervisors.

Q. Why do you think it is important to remain connected to UCL?

Areti: UCL is one of the World’s Best Universities. Yet, it offers so much more than top-class academic education, much more than knowledge and skills. It offers a stimulating environment, enormous charm and appeal, encourages openness and mental flexibility. Maintaining links with UCL is vital for me, because it is a constant reminder of positive choices I have made in my life.

Ioannis: There are many reasons, but I would concentrate on two. Firstly because I’m proud of its reputation both as a world leader and as a liberal University. Secondly, for personal reasons, that is nostalgia for my past with lots of nice memories.

Q.  Tell us a bit about the recent UCL Greek Alumni Event

Areti: After the success of past events at the British Ambassador’s Residence, this event was long overdue and very much anticipated. The response was overwhelming, the event was marvellous and the feedback was fantastic, encouraging us to continue with even more enthusiasm. The 300 alumni were warmly embraced by the hosts, British Ambassador Dr David Landsman and Mrs Catherine Landsman, and for this special event we were particularly honoured by the presence of the UCL’s Provost and President Prof. Malcolm Grant.  I hope that everybody enjoyed the evening as much as I did.

Ioannis: It was a long awaited event and impressive in all aspects. All members really enjoyed the venue, the hospitality of the British Ambassador and the Provost’s welcome. All these signify the importance that UCL places on the Greek UCL alumni group and we are indeed grateful for this.

Q. What advice would you give to others who are considering becoming involved as an alumni volunteer?

Areti: Volunteering is a gratifying experience on its own merit. Becoming an alumni volunteer is an opportunity to be a member of a dynamic task force of dedicated UCL alumni. Representing our university entails an increased level of responsibility and involvement. It also requires good organizational skills, interpersonal capabilities, excellent manners, patience and sometimes… good sense of humour.  And the fun part? Meeting new people, bringing people together and sharing memories.

Ioannis: Engaging as an alumnus volunteer requires a willingness to communicate with a diverse set of people. On your way you will definitely meet interesting people, you will share memories of your past at UCL and London and be part of a great institution whose founding values make it unique among all other world’s top universities. UCL graduates need to strengthen the alumni UCL network and communicate the UCL spirit and values all around the world.

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