Another Fulbright for the Class of 2019
June 5, 2019—Liana Frasca, a 2019 Marist graduate from Bethel, Connecticut, will spend the coming year in Italy thanks to the Fulbright US Student Program. She joins fellow Class of 2019 students Teresa Cimino and Daniel Knoll, who also received prestigious Fulbright fellowships this spring. In recent years, Marist has had tremendous success with this award, with 27 students and recent alumni receiving Fulbrights in the last 15 years; recipients are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as a record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields. Frasca will spend her Fulbright year in Biancavilla, Sicily, where she plans to make a documentary film about the Pennisi family.
Interest in other cultures has always been a driving force in Frasca’s life. She has been a student of Italian since the sixth grade, and she had the opportunity to practice her language skills on a daily basis during her semester abroad in Florence. She notes, “My mom, in particular, taught me the importance of intercultural friendships from a young age; right now, she’s working on a project that will bring women of different cultures closer together through food – so the passion runs in the family. I attended and later worked at a summer camp full of international staff from places like South Africa, New Zealand, the UK, Poland, and Australia, and it was there that I formed some of my strongest friendships.”
Liana Frasca as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!
A communication major with a concentration in journalism, Frasca minored in both theatre and women’s studies. She was the recipient of a theatre scholarship and served on the executive board of the Marist College Club of Theatre Arts, working on both the performance and technical aspects of student theatre productions. During her time at Marist, Frasca played the roles of Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! and Frau Schneider in Cabaret (“So many of my favorite moments at Marist happened on the Nelly Golletti stage!”). She was also a member of the College’s Honors Program. James Snyder, Honors Program Director, described Frasca as “a stellar student, both analytical and creative. She is someone whose interests are broad and rooted in a desire to understand herself and others better.” Frasca’s senior thesis, “Muted Group Theory: Application to Blended Family Communication Methods,” fell outside of her major but was consistent with her deep interest in personal relationships.
Frasca’s Fulbright project stems from a high school visit to Sicily, where she spent time after winning a Teen Travel Writing Scholarship. She stayed in Vino di Cana, a vineyard in Biancavilla belonging to the Pennisi family, who fosters children, international refugees, and travel groups. Frasca formed a strong connection with the family, who treated her as one of their own. “Their vineyard is very special to me,” she recalls. “The unique customs and way of life changed my perspective about the word ‘family’: If the Pennisi family can manage a household of anywhere between 15-25 inhabitants from different countries, cultures, religions, and ethnicities – if they can feed, clothe, house, educate, and care deeply for every member in the family – then what are the rest of us doing wrong? I think we can all learn a great deal from them.”
As Frasca explained in her Fulbright application, the Pennisi home is located at a crossroads of the migrant trail for refugee trafficking, raising a number of questions that she’d like to explore further: “What are the implications within Sicily's homogeneous socio-political landscape? How does the household function amidst its cultural differences? I want to broadcast their multicultural acceptance as a model for others worldwide.” In support of her documentary film project, Liana will have the guidance of Professor Teresa Consoli, Professor of Sociology in the Department of Political and Social Studies at the University of Catania.
Liana Frasca (bottom left) with friends
Graduate School and Fellowship Advisor Pat Taylor helped Frasca prepare her Fulbright application and expressed deep admiration for both her and her project: “Liana has a knack for storytelling and an uncanny ability to tap into locally and regionally salient stories that need to be told. For her Fulbright grant project, she brings an enduring commitment to both the Pennisi family and their community, along with a genuine love of Italian culture. Liana’s skills in telling a tale are multifaceted, drawing on both her formal training in journalism and her versatility on the stage.” Adds Snyder, “I am not surprised that Liana has earned this amazing academic and cultural experience. She has pursued an education that is broader, deeper, and more complex in every way possible. I know she’ll be a great success in Italy.”
Originally designated as an alternate for the Fulbright, news of her award was an extremely pleasant surprise for Frasca, so she hasn’t had much time to take it all in, let alone imagine life after Fulbright. “I imagine I’ll have to figure out the best platform to share my documentary. I’m hoping a network will want to pick it up as a series, so I intend to work very, very hard! Hopefully, my career after the Fulbright will allow me to continue telling great stories from behind the camera.” For now, Frasca is focused on the opportunity she’s been given to represent the United States abroad. As she puts it, “One of my favorite aspects of the Fulbright Program is that it aims to cultivate intercultural ambassadors. I will strive to live up to this ideal in the months to come.”