Elda, Elisa, and Joseph Coccia

About Us


The Coccia Institute explores and advances Italian and Italian American culture.  Through programming that foregrounds the achievements of Americans of Italian descent in such areas as literature, business, politics, journalism, music, and food, the Coccia Institute fosters cultural conversations that span academia and the general public.  The study of Italian American culture serves as a springboard to the studies of so many other immigrant cultures.


The Coccia Institute will be recognized as the premiere entity supporting the growth of “emerging adults” as they learn to appreciate and contribute to the Italian American culture. We will also be known as a national and international Center of Excellence and a “go to” resource for current information and programming on a host of Italian and Italian American issues and interests.

The Institute will become a self-supporting entity that stimulates interest in and encourages preservation of Italian and Italian American culture and heritage. We aim to measure our progress and achieve this vision within five years. We will focus on three strategic areas as we work towards completing the following major goals:

  1. Education
  2. Research
  3. Outreach


Alone or in partnership with other universities, organizations and individuals, the Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America organizes and conducts educational programs for people of all ages and interest levels. Among these educational initiatives are lectures, conferences, seminars and symposia for groups ranging from school age children to the general public and scholarly audiences.

In pursuit of its educational mission, the Coccia Institute sponsors two annual signature programs of note:

  • In the fall, a regional professional development conference for teachers of Italian at all levels, entitled “Teaching Italian Symposium-Workshops,” developed in conjunction with Montclair State’s Department of Spanish and Italian, featuring distinguished foreign language specialists from across the country; and
  • In the spring, “Italian Language and Culture Day,” a unique competition among students of Italian – in Italian – from middle schools and high schools across New Jersey, in collaboration with the Italian Teachers Association of New Jersey (ITANJ)—an opportunity for students to showcase their learning and creativity via performances of original skits, musical numbers and dance routines developed around a common theme.


Significant aspects of Italian and Italian American culture and experience continue to await exploration and interpretation. There are many ways in which the Coccia Institute may lend assistance to scholars who are adding to that body of knowledge. Support may be extended, for example, through research grants or by providing space for art exhibits, artifact displays and new collections.


The work of the Coccia Institute extends beyond the Montclair State University campus. The Institute, for example, stays in touch with a national network of scholars in the field of Italian and Italian American Studies and serves as a conduit for sharing information and resources. The Institute maintains a list of speakers who can address organizations and school groups. Chosen for their expertise on topics related to Italian and Italian American culture, they come from the worlds of academia, business, arts, sciences, and beyond. Building on the foundation of Montclair State’s successful partnerships with New Jersey school districts, the Coccia Institute reaches out to teachers to help them enrich their own classroom and school-based activities. Annual contests and competitions are designed to draw student entries from throughout New Jersey and beyond. The institute also welcomes opportunities to act as a resource for Italian American organizations and to explore mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations.

Cultural Programming

The Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America offers cultural programming for the general public that educates as it entertains. Film festivals, art shows, musical and theatrical performances feature the work of Italian and Italian American artists and are designed to expose the larger community to Italian and Italian American culture.