Linking high school, university and pre-professional experiences through Italian has increasingly become a central goal of the Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies‘ initiatives, in collaboration with the Italian Program (MLL). The latest instantiation of this agenda is an internship for a Montclair High School student as part of the MHS internship program for the senior year. Interestingly, the linkage this first round has also been connected to another activity – the Summer Italian intensive Course for College Credit – designed to bring together different education levels to open new learning and long-term professional opportunities to students in the field of Italian, and thus world languages in general.
Indeed, Lara Funderburk, a Montclair High School student of Italian, completed an internship with the Inserra Chair in Spring 2019 after attending the Summer Italian Intensive Course in 2018. Lara’s internship project was aimed at collecting information about the first two editions of the summer course (2017 and 2018) and, in particular, about the impact of the course on the students’ subsequent choice of studying Italian in the last year of HS or after their HS diploma.
Working under the supervision of Dr. Teresa Fiore (Inserra Endowed Chair), and alongside a HS teacher who serves as summer course coordinator, Patti Grunther, Lara Funderburk reached out to students to learn about their post-course paths. The information she gathered helped improve the entry and exit surveys of the 2019 edition of the course, in order to better represent the course as a platform for future commitment to studying the language via the AP Italian class and exam, as well as the choice of a minor or major in Italian after graduation.
“Lara’s example speaks of a virtuous circle in which students – even those who are temporarily on our campus – can become active participants in the analysis of pedagogical processes, and help produce reflections on them. We plan on making this internship into a regular opportunity: we see in it a first step into a series of activities able to strengthen the ties between Montclair State University and Montclair High School, especially in the field of world languages,” Dr. Teresa Fiore, Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies states.
Lara participated in the Summer Italian Intensive Course in 2018, after completing 3 years of Honors Italian at Montclair High School. “As a participant of the summer 2018 course I am grateful for the opportunity to provide support for this year’s program, including data collection and assistance in the planning process,” Lara Funderburk stated.
“The goal of the project Lara worked on was to identify the level of impact of a bridge course that offers college credit, and thus assess more at large the importance of incentive programs like these ones in the promotion of world languages, where Italian is a case study,” Patti Grunther explained. The data gathered by Lara Funderburk will constitute the basis for further research on the summer course in view of conference presentations and a possible article on the role of bridge initiatives in emphasizing the key role of languages in education in the 21st century.
The summer course in Italian is a one-of-a-kind course designed for high school students on a university campus, available at Montclair State in an intensive format. The course has been offered for two years in a row: its third edition in 2019 includes for the first time a residential option to better serve the high school population of New Jersey and the Tri-State Area at large.