Communications, crew, The Exorcist, and Greece may seem like an odd combination, but for Dimitrios Stasinos it's just another academic venture to round out his education.
Stasinos, hailing from Greece, is a mechanical engineering 4+1 student and a member of Temple's crew team. It was at a Temple crew race where he first met Dr. Scott Gratson.
Gratson is Professor of Instruction in Communication and Social Influence at Klein College of Media and Communication and serves as Director of Temple's Communication Studies Program and Klein College Undergraduate Studies. He is an avid crew fan, attending as many crew races as possible, and over the years has developed a strong relationship with the members of the crew team.
Stasinos and Gratson got to talking; specifically, about Homer's Greek Epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey. In Greece, Homer's work was implemented into Stasinos' middle and high school curriculum, and given that Greek is his native language, he offered his assistance in translating to Gratson. However, it was during a separate research project that Gratson turned to Stasinos for help.
With its 50th anniversary in late 2023, and it being one of Gratson's favorite films, he decided to begin a personal research project examining the relationship between the characters, Father Damien Karras and his mother, a Greek immigrant, in The Exorcist. He found himself stuck on a scene of an advertisement playing in the background in a foreign language, which Gratson assumed to be Spanish. However, he, and several Spanish-speaking students he sent the scene to, couldn't place the English translation. Gratson suddenly wondered if the language being spoken in the background of the scene wasn't even Spanish at all; which would explain why he and his students were unable to translate. Gratson then reached out to Stasinos.
"He sent me a clip of The Exorcist that he thought was Greek, and it was," recounts Stasinos. He then translated the ad, which was revealed to be discussing the notion of family, a point of contention between the two characters.
Stasinos then became an integral part of Gratson's research as he analyzed how Greek culture impacted the relationship between the characters.
Outside of purely translating, Stasinos shared his insight into Greek familial culture, food, and history, putting the film into a greater context. He also provided notes on the mother's non-verbal reactions, and the differences between Catholicism and Greek Orthodox (given that Karras is a Catholic priest), and how the differences between the two affected the mother and son relationship. Overall, Stasinos brought to light the Greek cultural aspects of the film that Americans likely wouldn't recognize as significant
Additionally, Stasinos had never seen The Exorcist prior to his work with Gratson. This allowed him to provide his analysis unburdened by any previous thoughts of the film.
Stasinos completed this research for Gratson while simultaneously balancing crew, a rigorous 4+1 curriculum, participating in several student organizations, and this past summer took 5th in the crew World Championships with the Greece National Team.
While he admits the schedule can be tough to balance at times, Stasinos takes measures to ensure he's always one step ahead of his work. This includes taking advantage of class time to participate and ask questions, taking advantage of office hours, and utilizing his time management skills honed through 11 years of balancing academics and crew.
The Exorcist is certainly several degrees removed from mechanical engineering, but Stasinos finds any academic venture beneficial to his overall education. While he loves engineering, Stasinos explains "...it's so much more pleasant to combine a lot of things [during] undergrad."
In his experience, he's found that having dedicated his time to activities outside of engineering gives him more perspective in the classroom and makes him a more well-rounded individual.
For similar reasons, Gratson shares that he thoroughly enjoys working with student athletes, explaining, "when you see someone as dedicated to the sport as Dimitrios and as dedicated to academics, you have a chance to work with someone like that, it's just wonderful."
After completing his masters, Stasinos plans to stay in the U.S. and exercise his well-rounded education and time management skills to gain experience in either the machine combustion or renewable energy sectors.