“Italian culture is an important building block to North American culture,” explains Luca Pocci, Assistant Professor in the Modern Languages department. “It is omnipresent in day-to-day life.” The plan was made official in January after faculty spent a year and a half tailoring the revamped Italian major to best suit student needs.
The courses, which will be offered at the beginning of fall 2013, were designed to attract students from a variety of academic backgrounds and include topics on the Italian-Canadian community, Rome, women in Italian culture, and Italian opera, among a host of others.
One particular course that has always sparked interest from students is The Introduction to Italian Culture: a combination of Italian history topics that has shaped and continues to influence art, theatre, politics, immigration, and more. The class delves into Italy’s history, from the Renaissance in Florence to contemporary Italian cinema. “Our role as a department is trying to expand on other programs,” says Yuri Sangalli, Assistant Professor in the department. “We want students to look at us as sending them from one subject to another.”
As a way of extending lessons outside of the classroom, the department offers year-round exchanges and summer abroad programs in Italy. Students can immerse themselves in Italy’s language and culture in Verona, Siena, Florence, or Urbino.
“Once you learn a language, it’s not just a question about words, but it’s the way you think about things,” says Cristina Caracchini, Assistant Professor in the department. “It’s not just to better understand Italian culture, but their own culture.” And students who are not enrolled in this program still have an opportunity to get a sense of Italian culture on campus with the Canadian-Italian Awareness Organization (CIAO) Western. The Italian student association, which was established in 2009, has grown exponentially in members over the past four years.
“We’re about bringing together the Italian community through awareness, events, and socials,” says Alyssa DeAngelis, co-president of CIAO Western. “CIAO gives students a chance to unite with others who share a love for their culture and to remind students that there is a strong Canadian-Italian community here at Western.” From an intramural soccer team and briscola games to monthly Italian dinners and socials, CIAO strives to best represent Italian-Canadians at Western and welcomes anyone who is interested in Italy to join.
Dedication to teaching and sharing the many facets of Italy is the root of Western University’s active Italian community. “There is an internal perspective about any culture, but there are also clichés and biases,” says Caracchini. “We try to teach the Italian language and culture from both sides, having students thinking about things they have never thought about before.”