Evelyn Ferraro Advances in Italian Studies Dept.
New assistant prof seeks to make her students “global citizens”
By Riley O’Connell ’19
After five years as an adjunct lecturer in Santa Clara University’s Department of Modern Languages, Evelyn Ferraro has just finished her first year as an assistant professor of Italian Studies.
Growing up in a family “immersed in endless discussions about school and education,” Ferraro was drawn most heavily to being a professor while receiving her M.A. in Italian Language and Literature at the University of Pittsburgh, when she realized the role would allow her to “both teach and do research” while receiving “rigorous training...both as a scholar and a teacher.” Ferraro also holds an M.A. in Translation and Comparative Studies from the University of Essex and a Ph.D. in Italian Studies from Brown University.
Not new to Santa Clara University, Ferraro has, over the years, built a strong relationship with students and colleagues both within and beyond the Italian Studies Program and the Department of Modern Languages. Most famously, she collaborates with the Vari Italian Studies Initiative, a program which “promotes the Italian language and the rich and diverse legacy of Italian culture,” according to Ferraro. Named after long-time former SCU professor of Italian Studies, Dr. Victor Vari, the Initiative includes “public lectures, symposia and workshops, online learning and social media, theatre, music, and art, engagement with a residential learning community, and Study Abroad.” Most recently in January, the Vari Symposium welcomed Francis Ford Coppola, giant of American film and director of such films as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, in an “unforgettable” event co-hosted by Ferraro and Communication professor and department chair Michael Whelan.
“The Vari Italian Studies Initiative is a wonderful resource,” says Ferraro, “and I hope to bring new vitality to it, through fruitful collaborations and interdisciplinary work.”
Alongside the Vari Italian Studies Initiative, Ferraro has had great success in her first year, publishing her research in the journals Quaderni d’italianistica and California Italian Studies; participating in the Faculty Success Program offered through the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity; and presenting her work in Washington, D.C., and Rome, Italy. She has been active on campus, overseeing the first Ethics of Food Annual Speaker Series, as well as the Italian and Italian American Speaker Series with Arrangiarsi...Pizza and the Art of Living director Matteo Troncone. She was accepted to the 2019 Italian Diaspora Studies Summer Seminar, and will spend three weeks in June at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre in Rome, Italy.
“You never study a second language in a cultural vacuum,” she says. “Learning happens in context. As you learn to speak, listen to, read, and write in another language, you are also learning to behave according to the norms and practices of another culture.”
Ferraro teaches lower and upper-division courses in Italian language and culture, advanced courses in Italian literature and cinema, and Core-required courses in Diversity, Cultures and Ideas, and Civic Engagement.
“In my classes this year, I experimented with new assignments, from collaborative Google sites to creative writing projects in Italian,” she says. “I really like experimenting with new technologies and designing assignments that encourage critical thinking as well as creativity. I don’t hesitate to make my students participate in the design of new projects.”
Looking into the future in her role as assistant professor, Ferraro also hopes to create more study abroad opportunities for students in the Italian Studies Program and work more closely on her research, while shaping “responsible, well-informed, compassionate, and engaged students” with access to “a broader sense of social awareness and personal responsibility” through second language studies.
Today we often talk of ‘critical thinking,’ ‘interpersonal,’ ‘presentational,’ and ‘interpretive’ skills in a variety of contexts. These are skills that you’ll learn learn by studying a second language. [Whether] you are applying for a job or graduate school, traveling for leisure, or preparing for a study abroad experience, studying a second language will provide a very fulfilling journey.