Griffin Shoemaker (Class of 2023), a Musical Theater major, joined the education team at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in March 2022. A huge baseball fan, Griffin discovered the museum in the course of a GenEd class, “Italian Americans in Film” (ITAL262) taught by Prof. Teresa Fiore. During an on-site visit, not only did he learn about an incredible resource on campus with a focus on his beloved sport, baseball, but he soon realized that it represented a job opportunity as well.
“The semester I took this class I was going through the toughest period of my life with a very invasive surgery in the midst of the pandemic. This class had such a positive impact on me: it allowed me to connect my field, music theater, and film. The field trip we took to the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center was a highlight for me in a different way. I grew up in love with baseball, and I played with the number 8 because I was a catcher and Yogi Berra was my biggest inspiration. Somehow everything fell into place for me that day, and I owe it all to these two incredible women: Professor Teresa Fiore and my wonderful boss Jenny Pollack.”
The course “Italian Americans in Film” (ITAL262) has traditionally included intra- and extra-curricular activities aimed at offering the students the opportunity to enrich their knowledge of Italian American history and culture: for instance, the actor Vincenzo Amato gave a talk to the students more than once to share stories linked to Crialese’s classic film about immigration from Italy to the U.S. For the first time, in Fall 2022, the course embraced a guided tour of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at the end of the semester. The visit was an opportunity to expand the analysis of the role of sports in the history of Italian Americans which the course syllabus addresses in various forms, from the role of boxing (Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese) to the mention of Joe Di Maggio whose family was affected by the WWII restrictions on enemy aliens.
“I strongly value opportunities to explore our campus with the students in order to deepen their knowledge of the subject we address in class, but I never realized that they could constitute an entry point into a job,” Dr. Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair and ITAL 262 instructor) remarked. “The museum has also been a partner for alumni tours and high school student visits during the early college summer program, and I am delighted to see yet another form of collaboration with them in place.”
Students enjoyed the visit thanks to the targeted tour offered by Jenny Pollack (Education Director) and a student educator, as well as the screening of a special video on Yogi Berra, which included many references to the content of the course (anecdotes about Moonstruck, as well as mentions of interactions between Italian Americans and African Americans, and their exclusion from the mainstream).
“The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center typically hires “educators” from the great pool of MSU undergraduate students and I have the pleasure of training them in such program content as STEM, Poetry & Spoken Word, History, Social Justice, Race, Immigration and more,” Jenny Pollack explained. “The Museum was thrilled to hire musical theater major Griffin Shoemaker (class of 2023) — not only for his passion for baseball but also for his talent for teaching, public speaking and working with school-age kids.”
Griffin will continue to work for the museum in the summer by offering virtual tours, while finishing up watching The Sopranos, another discovery he owes to the ITAL 262 course.