Dr. Teresa Fiore, Professor of Italian and Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, contributed to a meeting with Italy’s Minister of Education, Patrizio Bianchi, organized by the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in NY, Fabio Finotti, with the Consul General Fabrizio Di Michele. The goal of the meeting was for the Minister to learn about the state of affairs in the field of Italian Language and Culture Studies in the Tri-State area, and to identify areas of focus for future interventions involving his Ministry.
Held at the Italian Cultural Institute in NY, the meeting included colleagues from Fordham University, NYU, the CUNY system, NY Institute of Technology, the Art student League of NY, and Università per stranieri di Perugia, as well as representatives of non-profit organizations and associations (IACE, InItaliano, NOIAW), the media, and cultural institutes (Calandra). They all shared experiences in their specific professional realms: they registered advancements but also reported on challenges and offered suggestions to work towards the growth of Italian language and cultural studies via concerted efforts coordinated by the Ministry of Education in contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
She also underscored the importance of supporting these local efforts, which are part of a broader endeavor to innovate in Italian Studies across the Tri-State area and the U.S., within a concerted plan involving the Italian institutions in NY as well as the offices in Rome to foster exchanges between Italy and the U.S. She identified the need for structured exchange programs with targeted scholarships for both high school students interested in studying Italian in college and students with a BA in Italian who are looking for an internship in Italy. Such endeavors require long-term planning, synergies across stakeholders and dedicated institutional staff on site in a continuative manner to define specific offerings that are sustainable over time and thus more easily promoted across the pool of potential beneficiaries.
As the Minister concluded, while the question “What can students do with their Italian major or minor once they enter the workforce?” is important, we need to continue to leverage the element of “affect” that attracts students towards Italian language and culture at large from the humanities to the arts and sciences. And we have to do it overcoming administrative hurdles, and with an awareness that the field of education has been revolutionized by technology and mobility, and will have to respond to pressing issues such as the environment and social justice. As teachers and administrators we are called on to remain flexible, but also to find a balance between tradition and innovation, a relevant lesson that Italy continues to provide us with.