Interview by Lily Yiyu Zhao. Photos by Victor Alvarez.
Grigorios Siourounis is the Steven Rattner Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics. He has studied, worked, and lived in various places around the world including Athens, Barcelona, Nicosia, Ames, London, and now Providence. This semester at Brown, Professor Siourounis, or “Greg”, as he is known by many of his students, is teaching the courses Intermediate Microeconomics and Industrial Organization. In Spring 2017, he will be teaching Intermediate Macroeconomics and International Finance. He has studied and taught economics across different countries and is interesting in looking at the world from an international perspective. When he is not teaching or thinking about economics, he enjoys traveling, sports, tending to his vineyards back home with his wife, and making and tasting his own wine!
Where are you from? Where do you consider home(s)?
My name is Grigorios Siourounis. I was born in Greece, and I consider Greece my home, my family is back there. I moved to the US for the past 3 months. I’m going to be here until May 2017 teaching Economics at Brown University as the Steven Rattner Visiting Assistant Professor.
What do you teach/specialize/research? Why did you choose this field?
Back home I am also a professor there, I have tenure at Panteion University. I do research—my main research fields are international political economy, so I studied for example how democracy, switching to democracy, affects the growth of countries. I’ve also spent time studying how capital flows affect exchange rates. I chose to study Economics because I thought I would be able to assimilate the knowledge better, and also contribute to Economics progress and research something new, you know, innovate something. From a very young age, I wanted to go up to the PhD level, actually to do research, so it’s an interest I had from a very young age, being able to contribute to economic science.
Where have you taught/worked in the past?
I started out my undergraduate studies in Greece. I graduated first there, then I moved on to the U.S. I did a masters at Iowa State University, then I worked also as a TA, a teaching assistant, there. Then I moved back to Europe, I went to Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain, in Barcelona, where I also worked as a research assistant. Finally, I got my PhD from London Business School, where in parallel I was teaching at the London School of Economics and City University as well as some classes at the London Business School. Then when I graduated, I worked for 6 months in Cyprus, in Nicosia, on the economics of aging in the European Union. I worked for almost two years at Barclays Capital, and then I moved back to Greece. I became a lecturer in international economics at the University of Peloponnese. Then I moved and became an assistant professor of economics at Panteion University. I am now at Brown.
What are some classes you teach?
This semester I’m teaching Intermediate Macroeconomics. I’m also teaching the same course in the spring. I’m also teaching now Industrial Organization, and in the spring semester I’m going to teach also International Finance.
What languages do you speak?
Well my mother language is Greek, of course. English is a language I speak better because of studies and experience. I started actually learning English from the 4th grade in elementary school and the other two languages I kind of understand and can speak basically are Italian and Spanish.
What are some of your interests outside of teaching?
That’s a good question. I like sports, I used to be in a running team but now with age this becomes difficult to keep up, and I gained some weight so I can’t actually go to competitions as I used to do. I also like a lot agriculture. Back in Greece, I have my own vineyards. Together with my wife, we bought some land and we have planted vineyards and I love being there taking care of that, and also afterwards making wine and of course tasting it.
Why did you decide to teach in the US and Brown?
Brown, first of all, is a very good school. It’s one of the best schools in the U.S. and it’s a very diverse and liberal school so having a lot of diverse experiences from abroad I thought that by coming here I would be able to add to the learning experience of the students, and also enhance my experience in academia, because the quality of the program here and the quality of the Economics department is really high. It has very good economists working here and the environment is excellent to both progress on a personal level and also be able to contribute to the university. It’s a nice place to work.
How did living in the US differ from expectations you had? What did you find most difficult/easiest to get used to?
Well, having been in the U.S. before I knew what to expect in terms of ways of doing things. So here in the U.S. there are many things that you can do quite a bit easier than in Europe, and especially in Greece. So it’s easy to move into a house, and out of a house, find a car, or find a way of shopping. Everyday life is quite well organized, and the U.S. is very organized, it’s very well structured so everything has an order and there’s a very big support also. There are a lot of resources that help you actually do your work and progress a lot. In terms of difficulties it’s my own difficulty that my family is back home. That’s my main concern, but that has nothing to do with Brown, it is a personal thing. It makes things difficult if your kids and wife are not here, it’s tough on a personal basis.
What do you find different about teaching in the US versus where you’ve taught before?
You do have so many resources that can utilize and enhance the teaching experience that makes your work not only more effective but also enjoyable.
How do you define good teaching?
A process where students understand what you’re saying, obtain skills to analyze and intuition to explain the complex real world environment but most importantly to develop critical thinking that will make them cut their own paths ahead.
What is a food or dish you miss from home?
Everything. Food in Greece is one of the things that’s very, very good, both in terms of quality and quantity. The food here is quite good, but in Greece all the ingredients are of quite good quality and that makes lots of difference.
What’s an Americanism you’ve picked up, if any?
Well, the main difference here is that because everything is so organized yourself have to be very organized so you keep up with everything in a very structured way, and that helps me as a person also. That I think is the most important thing that is different than back home where things are a bit more loose, so you find yourself being loose as well. I think that’s the main one.
Has living in the US changed your relationship to/perspective of your home country/culture?
Not really. I mean, the U.S. is very nice place to work and live and you have the freedom to keep on exercising your own lifestyle in some sense, or at least the lifestyle that I used to live in Greece, without any compromising, so for me it’s really easy to keep up doing things that I was doing back home. There’s not much of a difference in that respect.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Any big plans?
I would love to stay at Brown but I don’t know if this is going to be feasible. Other than that, I would just return back home and I’ll bring my experiences from Brown there…and contribute to the development of the students and the country.
In the long term, do you think you would like to stay in Greece or travel more?
Although by nature and by my past experience I’ve travelled a lot, and I would love to do that, now with the kids there are sudden restrictions that I have which is that since the kids start going to school I also have to keep in mind that there are certain places that I can afford. The U.S. is one of them if you have a good job and you can actually be in a good place like Brown, but Greece is also a good place to raise your kids and actually with not that much of a cost you can send them to a good school. So in the long term, if I won’t be able to stay in such a good place here, I will stay back home.
So if you stay here, will your family come join you?
Yes, exactly, that’s the plan.
How old are your kids?
My oldest son is 10 years old, so he goes to the 5th grade. My youngest son is very young, he’s 4 years old only, so he hasn’t started proper school yet. He’s in kindergarten.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Well, I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about myself and my experience here in the U.S. and I wish that all students have interests beyond the university and courses because it’s important to have a global view of the world, so I would urge all students to be open, to travel, and to have experiences from the rest of the world, to become like a world citizen. Thank you very much.