Photo of the red hawk statue with Kasser Theater in the background.
News and Announcements

Summer Italian Intensive Course for College Credit (July 10-27, 2023)

Posted in: CHSS News, Inserra, Italian News and Events, World Languages and Cultures

Group photo at Segal statues

Quante cose in così poco tempo (so many things in such a short time)! As in previous editions, the 2023 Summer Italian Intensive Course for College Credit for high school students (a one-of-a-kind program in the US) was packed with learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom…. all in Italian! The cohort of 17 students this year (of which 14 were residential students living on campus for a full-immersion experience) was involved in a variety of activities coordinated by Patti Grunther, original developer of the program, with the support of 2023 intern Frankie Irvin. Morning classes taught by Teresa Fiore, program director, were devoted to the Italian K-16 education system, inclusive/eco-sustainable fashion in Italy and the USA, immigration and citizenship in Italy, the history of Aztec-derived Sicilian chocolate, the notion of wellbeing from an Italian perspective, the connection between sport and national identity, and Made in Italy product certifications.


Lunch speakers usually shared their personal stories linked to Italy and their professions, often focusing on select works (songs, films, food products, magazine articles). Interestingly, this year many speakers emphasized the importance of giving ourselves second and third chances in life, “because one’s passion may become clear at a later time and not as early as the end of high school and the beginning of college, which does not decide our course forever,” as late bloomer chocolatier Federica Heiman remarked. Whatever we choose is part of a much longer path that gets transformed by new circumstances and transforms us in the process, several of them seemed to suggest.


The first week, lunch speakers included Brazilian-Italian blogger and journalist Giulia Baldini (recently published in Vogue Italy!) who addressed her family story of inclusion versus incidents of racism in Italy, and in the afternoon, a brief history of fashion from the antiquity to the present, with an emphasis on “sprezzatura” (nonchalant style). Award-winning directors Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno presented their in-progress film “Our Return to Italy” about Italian descendants relocating to Italy, and later guided students through the technicalities of making a video on the topic, as part of their final project.

The second week, lunch speakers brought their personal experiences to the class to explain how they intersected with their profession: rapper and writer Amir Issaa discussed his trajectory from rapper to rap educator; Rossana Dell’Armellina her move from teaching Italian to mastering yoga; and Federica Heiman her switch from hospitality agent to chocolate expert.

In the afternoon workshops, students wrote a few lines for an in-progress rap song about mixed identity with Amir, while learning about a whole array of contemporary rappers in Italy; they tried yoga poses during a workshop with Megan Biondi, and learned how to make chocolate bonbons at Federica Heiman’s house off campus, her business headquarters when she is not in Costa Rica learning about cocoa plantations!

The third week, lunch speakers took students to two very different yet both culturally rich worlds – soccer and cheese: Julian Mossuto, a field marketing specialist for Adidas soccer, talked about the fascinating history of Italian soccer to show the interconnections between national sports, domestic and international politics, and society; Emilia D’Albero shared her itinerary from Montclair State student of Italian and French to award-winning cheese monger and educator.

During the afternoon workshops, students played soccer with the specialized equipment that Julian Mossuto kindly brought in from Adidas, and tasted a variety of Italian cheeses, from pecorino sardo to taleggio, to discover the inner workings of cheese production, including the specifics of the terroir, the mixing of ingredients, aging techniques, and the legal regulations in and outside of Italy for production and distribution. And they learned how to savor a piece of cheese and recognize a palette of flavors.

For their weekly visits off campus, students toured Eataly NY Downtown, where they learned about Italian foods and prepared tiramisu; under the expert guidance of Roberta Minnucci, the students explored Greek and Roman antiquities as the matrix of Renaissance and Neoclassical Art, with a focus on sculpture and architecture; and they also tried their hand at making pasta and cannoli at Healthy Italia, la buona cucina in Madison, NJ.

As Dr. Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, WLC Dept.) stated: “I have been part of this unique and rewarding program since its inception as director, along with coordinator Patti Grunther, but this year I decided to also teach the class, which allowed me to see how students from many different socio-ethnic backgrounds come together and, within days, form a learning community, eager to hone language skills, deepen their cultural knowledge, and… have fun.” (see map below for the different cultural and linguistic associations of these students). Patti Grunther added: “At a time in which young people are rediscovering the value of sharing experiences in person, the residential option proved to be particularly successful: students used the sports facilities, the library, and the hang-out spots in the dorms where they spent time with visiting students from Italy, in a serendipitous coincidence that further enhanced our students’ communicative skills.”

In the evaluations, students remarked how the Italian Summer Program “smoothly wove classroom content, speakers’ talks, afternoon activities, and off-campus tours.” The program also gave them “a feel for what college/university life is like,” as they navigated different aspects of the campus and produced a final project that can be part of their college application portfolio. After six editions, the program continues to provide a unique bridge for these students, as they plan to transition from high school to college… in Italian.

The program is offered as part of the World Languages and Cultures Department, in collaboration with Summer Sessions and Early College Programs, and with major support from the Inserra Endowment and the Inserra Scholarship Fund.

For more information about the program, see webpage.
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Map of students' family geography