The only one of its kind in the U.S., the Italian summer intensive program for college credit was successfully offered for the third year in a row on the Montclair State campus in July 2019. Geared towards high school students from the Tri-State area, this Summer Sessions three-week program continues to represent a concrete example of the active synergies between university (Inserra Chair and Italian Program in the MLL Dept.) and high school systems to create a continuum in students’ learning path across levels.
The summer program combines dynamic AP-style in-class instruction, engaging guest speakers and special off-campus tours (Tenement Museum as well as Eataly and Magazzino Italian Art depicted in the photos below) to provide students with an immersive experience that strengthens their relationship with Italian language and Italian culture in a transnational perspective spanning from the history of the diaspora to environmental sustainability, Slow Food, contemporary art, education and the Made in Italy business. A collaborative effort at all levels, the program relies on an ever-expanding network of high schools (twenty-one in past three years, 1/3 of which was added just in 2019), the steady infrastructural support of the Italian government via IACE in New York, and donations from the Italian American community, especially a generous one of $10,000 this year from NJIHC, which have allowed over half of the students to receive a scholarship.
As Dr. Teresa Fiore, Professor of Italian and Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, pointed out, “The Montclair campus has proven to be an ideal site for such a learning experience due to its recognized history of language teaching, targeted resources earmarked for Italian Studies such as the Inserra funds, an active local network in the educational field and a unique location in a profoundly Italian geographical area. From its very inception, the hope for the organizers has been to have Italian Studies pave the way for a summer institute on campus that would embrace other languages and reach out to the NJ’s high schools it serves, the source of 97% of its student body. Every year, students from the summer program have chosen MSU for their university studies, including with a major in Italian.”
Born out of the need to provide students with a summer bridge experience to prepare them for advanced classes in high school, including the AP, this award-winning course has grown into a multi-faceted program that continues to expand and improve every year. A new development in the 2019 edition was the residential option which made it possible for students from South Jersey and NY State to attend.
The residential option prompted the development of another new aspect in 2019, a program intern and activity leader position which was assigned to an exchange student, Sigrid Karner-Ruehl, from the University of Graz, Austria, a testament to how kaleidoscopic international experiences can be in the globalized world we operate in (read her story here). Equally innovative was the addition of a HS intern – Lara Funderburk, a previous summer program attendee in 2017 (read her story here) – who worked as research assistant to collect data about the program’s impact on language study, which continues to be presented at conferences around the country.
Finally, the program is a unique example of collaboration across units (including Admissions at MSU), governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, and last but not least two MSU faculty members (Dr. Teresa Fiore and Dr. Marisa Trubiano), a HS teacher (Patti Grunther) and an MSU adjunct instructor (Roberta Scortechini). As Fiore and Grunther noted: “Our specific collaborative work starts in September and ends in August, and at some point the report of the previous edition overlaps with the design of the following one. But reading the students’ feedback and their use of words such as ‘loved’, ‘truly enjoyed’, ‘liked every moment of it’ continues to drive our efforts towards new horizons, such as that of hosting a group of high school students from Italy or taking the local high school students to Italy in the near future, as well as advancing our research project.”