June 01, 2011
When Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans region in 2005, many
residents had to put their plans on hold as businesses, educational
institutions and entire communities struggled first to survive and
then to recover.
For Ermioni Michailakis-Kambouris ‘11D.A., a secondary-school
teacher in New Orleans at the time, the hurricane was a
double-blow: not only did the storm ravage the home she shared with
her husband, but it also seemed to threaten her hope of entering a
doctoral program in history.
Ermioni achieved her dream at St. John’s University. At
campus on May 15, she received her Doctor of Arts degree in
Modern World History during the University’s 141st Commencement
Exercises. The interdisciplinary course of study allowed Ermioni to
combine independent research with a focus on teaching.
“I was looking for a doctoral program that would complement my
earlier degrees and areas of interest,” said Ermioni, who had
earned a master’s degree in International and Transcultural Studies
at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “The program at St.
John’s was the right fit.”
Along with quality, Ermioni noted, the program embodies St.
John’s dedication to supporting every student. “The wonderful thing
about St. John’s,” she said, “is the way the professors offer an
outstanding academic program and a genuine commitment to helping
their students reach our full potential.”
Ermioni reflects the “impressive range and talents of the
students who are attracted to our Doctor of Arts degree program in
Modern World History,” said
Konrad Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and
Ermioni’s advisor. “Her achievements are all the more impressive
considering the challenges she’s had to contend with.”
Those challenges were the direct result of Hurricane Katrina,
which descended on the Gulf Coast on the morning of August 29,
2005. Generating floods, high winds and a tornado, Katrina ravaged
communities from Florida to Texas. The heaviest damage, however,
was in the New Orleans area.
At the time, Ermioni was teaching at Mount Carmel Academy, a
girls’ secondary school in New Orleans. Having earned her master’s
degree at Columbia, she and her husband were living in Metairie,
Ermioni’s hometown, just outside New Orleans.
“Our home was devastated,” said Ermioni. The house had to be
rebuilt, so Ermioni and her husband stayed in a state-provided
trailer or with relatives. Meanwhile, Ermioni searched for a local
doctoral program in history that would match her wide-ranging
“After Katrina,” she said, “many of the programs at local
universities were still closed. Resources were so limited that the
few programs available simply weren’t accepting many students.”
Ermioni and her husband, who also planned to continue his
education, waited for programs to re-open, but “we soon realized it
was going to take a while.”
Ermioni recalled an earlier visit she made to St. John’s
University while in New York. “I remembered how impressed I was
with the campus and the programs,” she said. “I’d also met with
some of the professors, and they seemed very helpful, very
She was accepted to the Doctor of Arts program in Modern World
History. An established alternative to the Ph.D. degree, the Doctor
of Arts prepares students for careers as “master teachers” with an
in-depth knowledge of a specific specialization. Meanwhile,
Ermioni’s husband was accepted to the doctoral program in Physical
Therapy at the New York Institute of Technology.
Today, Ermioni and her husband live in Queens, NY, not far from
St. John’s main campus. She teaches at the nearby William
Spyropoulos Greek-American School of St. Nicholas; her husband is a
physical therapist. Though they plan to stay in New York for now,
Ermioni and her husband visit New Orleans as often as possible. “We
want to help the city any way we can,” she said.