Benvenuti a Marist!

Elisabeth Tavarez

June 12, 2019—Marist recently played host to the 2019 American Association of Teachers of Italian (AATI) Conference, an annual gathering for university faculty, undergraduate students, and high school teachers of Italian.  This is the first time in almost a decade the conference has taken place outside of Europe, and the topics covered included everything from Italian language to cinema to interdisciplinary approaches to instruction.  The AATI is a professional organization of scholars worldwide who contribute to the multi-disciplinary field of Italian studies through teaching, research, and service.  Its mission is to promote, advance, and preserve the study of Italian language, literature, and culture.  AATI also publishes a quarterly journal, Italica, that is considered the foremost peer-reviewed journal in the field of Italian studies.

The AATI Conference, which attracted more than 100 attendees, was organized by Marina Melita, Coordinator of Italian Studies and Lecturer of Italian at Marist.  Said Melita, “We chose Marist as a venue in order to boost attendance and increase exposure for the College among this distinguished group of teachers and scholars.”  Italian is both a major and a minor at Marist, where ties to Italy run deep.  For many years, the College has had a campus in the heart of Florence’s old city, offering an array of academic opportunities, including freshman year abroad, semester study abroad, an MA in Museum Studies, and the only four-year US bachelor’s degree program in Florence.  More than half of Marist’s undergraduates study abroad at some point during their college careers, and Florence is the most popular destination.

Marist students serving as conference ambassadors (L-R) Gino Cassese ’19, Tierney Riccitelli ’19, and Nicole Morrissey ’22.

Marist students serving as conference ambassadors (L-R) Gino Cassese ’19, Tierney Riccitelli ’19, and Nicole Morrissey ’22.

The two-day conference included a wide variety of sessions, workshops, film screenings, and presentations.  The keynote speech was delivered by Rachel Cunning, a Latin teacher at Loveland Classical Schools in Colorado.  Her talk, “Be the One: Cultivating an Inclusive Classroom,” examined the issue of gendered language instruction and the potential impact on transgender and non-binary youth.  Another highlight was the screening of a short documentary film, Amici del Mare, by Marist student Tara Guaimano ’20 and recent graduate Anthony Vitale ’19.  Their short film examines surf culture and lifestyle in the small beach town of Castiglioncello on the Tuscan coast.  Some of the conference’s other panels included “Gender and Language Politics,” “Documenting the Italian Diaspora,” “Innovative Tools for Teaching Italian Language, Literature, and Culture,” and “New Critical Approaches to Pier Paolo Pasolini.”

If one of the conference’s goals was to introduce Marist to a wider audience, then it can be considered a great success.  Since the conclusion of the conference, Melita reports that she has received numerous positive emails: “The attendees were so impressed with the beauty of the campus and its river views, as well as the resources and technology we have at our disposal.  However, they were most impressed by the maturity and professionalism of my students [Gino Cassese ’19, Tierney Riccitelli ’19, Alessandro Pirovano ’20, Steven Jacobs ’20, Rebecca Cole ’20, and Nicole Morrissey ’22], who served as conference ambassadors.  They spoke Italian the entire time, assisting attendees as needed and representing the College in the best possible way.”  Missione compiuta!

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