Page 12 - Marist Magazine Fall 2012

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dents to engage with Italians and Italian
culture and learn about Italy on Italy’s terms.”
Second, faculty at the branch campus are
highly qualified academics with significant
experience in their fields. As such, the branch
campus specializes in experiential learning,
as students are challenged to explore what
Peters calls “the theory/practice dynamic.”
A prime example is Professor Lorenzo
Casamenti. “We have a world-renowned art
restorer who is on the faculty of LdM, and
he is sought after worldwide,” says Alfaro.
The Marist-LdM restoration department
has relationships with many of the top muse-
ums and churches in Florence, which send
their treasures to Marist-LdM for restora-
tion. “Students involved with this particular
faculty member in the classroom are actually
restoring ancient work,” says Peters. “So you
see a 20-year-old Marist student working on
a painting that might be 200 years old. And
the professor will stand behind her or to the
side and give direction on how to restore it.”
After restoration, artwork is returned to its
church or museum of origin.
The faculty, says Alfaro, “are really amaz-
ing people who are so incredibly passion-
ate about the things they do, and Lorenzo
in particular. Because his credentials and
his expertise are so sought after, he often
is able to give these students an internship
type of experience that goes beyond a résumé
builder.”
Enhancing student engagement in the
classroom through reflection on real-world
experiences is a defining characteristic of
international programming at Marist, says
Peters. “It’s not enough for students to be in
the classroom, nor is it enough for them to
be getting their hands dirty—figuratively, or
in some cases, literally,” he says. “They have
to combine the two.”
Third, Marist is one of only a handful of
schools that offer a degree in conservation
studies, and the only one in which students
work directly on original artwork from the
14th to 19th centuries. Marist also offers
a master’s degree in museum studies in
Florence. The program began in 2010 with
five students. This fall the program had 30
and a waiting list.
The FFE program is another aspect
that sets Marist apart. While FFE students
must complete the same requirements as
their Poughkeepsie counterparts, they have
Florence with all its cultural riches to inform
their learning.
The La Mela twins were ready to make
the most of the city that was now at their
fingertips. Their 2011 sojourn to Italy was
their third; prior to visiting Florence in 2007,
their family had visited relatives in Sicily
when the twins were 5. And in high school,
they had gone on a school tour of France,
the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and
Belgium.
The first week, an orientation in Tuscania,
was a good bonding experience, John says.
Then they moved into Marist quarters,
shared with four other FFE students, on the
Via del Corso. Walking to class every day
past the Duomo was a “dream come true,”
says John.
Much of the twins’ time was occupied
with core courses plus courses in their
majors. Nick is a business major with a minor
in psychology. John is a communications
major focusing on PR with a minor in global
business. While the classes, mainly made up
of Marist students studying abroad, were
taught in English, the twins also took classes
in Italian and practiced the language daily
in conversations outside of class. All Marist
students studying in Italy are required to
study Italian language and culture.
Both young men are hard pressed to
come up with any downside to studying in
Florence for a year. On the other hand, there
was plenty to enjoy.
“The most amazing thing to me was that
every weekend, you could go somewhere,”
says Nick. “In regular college, you could go to
this bar or that club. In Florence, it’s ‘Let’s go
“The crazy part is, things
that were exciting ended
up being everyday life.”
Marist students have the opportunity to restore ancient art
under the tutelage of Lorenzo Casamenti, a renowned art
restorer and professor at the branch campus in Florence.
Above, the professor guides a group through “Michelangelo’s
Hideout,” a small chamber under the Medici Chapels where
Michelangelo drew on the walls during two months he spent
in hiding there.
UNFORGETTABLE FLORENCE
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