California State University, Fresno and the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, Greece, have entered into a partnership for an exchange of students, faculty and research work that will begin with agriculture and is expected to expand into other academic disciplines.
Fresno State President John D. Welty, President Panos Kanellis of the American Farm School’s Perrotis College of Agricultural Studies and Dr. Charles Boyer, dean of Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, signed a memo of understanding on Tuesday, March 8. The partnership was arranged by Dr. Berta Gonzalez, associate vice president of Continuing and Global Education at Fresno State.
During their three days in Fresno, Kanellis and his wife, Eva Varellas Kanellis, toured Fresno State and visited with members of the Greek community, including Dr. Peter Mehas, an alumnus and California State University trustee.
Mehas and his wife, Demi, hosted a reception for the Kanellises with community members who shared experiences about Perrotis College and the American Farm School dating back to the 1920s. Parents and relatives of some of Fresno’s Greek community members graduated from the American Farm School.
Welty and the Kanellises met first in 2006 at Anatolia College during a time when Panos Kanellis served as provost and vice president for academic affairs. In 2010, Kanellis became president of the Perrotis College in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city and capital of Macedonia in the northeastern part of the country.
The American Farm College, founded in 1904 to serve Greece and the southern Balkans, includes Perrotis College and a high school, just one of several similarities between the Jordan and Perrotis colleges, although there are differences, too.
The Perrotis College campus is considerably smaller than Fresno State – a 50-acre academic campus (vs. 388), 200-acre farm (vs. just over 1,000 acres) and 137 students (vs. more than 20,000 at Fresno State and 1,500 enrolled in the Jordan College).
But both have a high school on campus and both aim to prepare students to quickly step into careers and professions linked to agriculture.
At the signing ceremony, Panos Kanellis said his college “has had a similar philosophy — since its founding — of learn by doing.” Agriculture students must work two hours a day on the farm and other students also work on the campus, he said, and scholarship students must work 10 hours a week in addition to the academic requirement expected for other students.
Eva Varellas Kanellis, who has developed several programs for the college as an unpaid consultant, added that working makes “our students feel more like it’s their campus.”
Fresno State’s Jordan College has established a reputation for providing the practical application of up-to-date techniques, academic preparation and university-industry research necessary for students go from campus to careers seamlessly.
President Kanellis said one attraction of working with Fresno State’s agriculture program is that “we have many similarities” in crops and the production processes.
Kanellis said 70 percent of Perrotis College students are Greek, with the remainder from the Balkans, Africa, Kazakhstan and elsewhere.
Gonzalez said the agreement “holds great potential in building our summer study abroad program for Fresno State student to engage in short-term studies as well as semester exchange programs. We hope to start with agriculture and expand to other disciplines in the future.”
In addition to the partnership with the university, Kanellis also met with designees of Fresno’s Sister Cities program to explore the possibilities of linking Fresno with Thessaloniki.